Anti-bullying strategies addressed

MARSHALL – Bullying is something many have painful memories of from school if they were perceived as outsiders.

Representatives of the Safe Schools for All coalition and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays came to the Marshall Adult Community Center on Saturday to talk about identification and prevention of bullying in schools and the proposed Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act.

“I do this work because I had a pretty rough experience growing up,” said Justin Anderson, safe schools organizer with OutFront Minnesota. “But I found my voice. I didn’t just walk away after I graduated because I knew shat it’s like not to have a voice.”

The seminar wasn’t focused exclusively on bullying of gay students, but of any kids perceived as unattractive, unpopular, disabled or nonconformist in any way.

Katherine Plotz, a former seventh-grade language arts teacher in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, now coordinator for MN Safe Schools for All, described how she got involved after she found school district policies were inadequate to deal with the issue.

“In the district where I worked there were some significant problems with bullying and I think of them when I do my work,” Plotz said

The speakers talked about what bullying is, and how to deal with it, and just as importantly what it’s not, and what are ineffective strategies for educators in dealing with it.

Bullying in not conflict, a harmless rite of passage, nor inevitable, according to Plotz. Bullying can be physical social, verbal, or cyber, and is always aggressive and repeated.

For educators effective anti-bullying strategies revolve around:

Stop it, immediately,

Name it, call it what it is and clearly communicate it is unacceptable.

Claim it, remind students of our values and promote them.

These steps should be followed up with: Report it, and Revisit it.

Finally, Nicque Mabrey associate director of policy for Outfront Minnesota and a former legislative assistant for State Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL) gave a summary history of the drafting of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, introduced in the legislature in February.

According to Mabrey, the act defines bullying, enumerates protections, requires school policies include policies for handling prohibited conduct, requires training in prevention and intervention, and establishes a School Climate Center within the state Department of Education.