New book on bullying points finger at principals
Retired educator Greg Anderson’s book Bully Stop Now! also offers 13-point plan to prevent bullying
Photo Caption: Greg Anderson dealt with bullying for almost three decades as a principal and superintendent. He says principals should be highly visible in schools.
By: Kristin Rushowy Education Reporter, Published on Mon Sep 23 2013
Greg Anderson is a retired Ontario educator who recently published “Bully Stop Now! A School Superintendent Tells You How.” Anderson, who dealt with bullying for almost three decades as a principal and superintendent, says schools aren’t doing enough. Here’s what he believes needs to change:
In preventing or dealing with bulling, what are the strategies that don’t work?
Conflict resolution/peer mediation. Conflict is a disagreement between two individuals while bullying is about one person having power and control over the other. Trying to make the bully and the victim partially responsible through conflict resolution is wrong because it lets the bully “off the hook” while making the victim feel somewhat responsible for the bullying. Also, simple “one-off” events such as having a single school assembly or a one-time purchase of anti-bullying t-shirts is superficial and provides no solutions or help for those experiencing bullying.
You lay a lot of blame on principals. Why?
Today’s principals are extremely busy and are regularly called out of their schools by district school board or Ministry of Education personnel. Principals need to be in their schools because they are the first line of defence to prevent and reduce bullying. The principal is the person who has the legislative authority to provide consequences to bullies. Mind you, investigating bullying allegations is a time-consuming process and requires the principal to be highly visible within the school. Principals focused on paperwork in their office or sitting at a district school board office at a meeting cannot be dealing with bullying incidents at the same time!
What could they be doing better?
As a school superintendent my advice to principals each year was quite simple: be highly visible in your school. Walk the halls, the playground, the bus stop, the cafeteria and the classrooms every day. By doing this, both the school staff and students are more likely to confide in them about bullying and they can take direct action and deal with the bullying.
What are some of the excuses principals tell parents—and why should parents not accept them?
“I will look into it,” “I cannot tell you because of Freedom of Information rules,” “I will refer this to the school team,” “you are overprotective,” and “I will have ‘someone’ look into it.”
There is no personal ownership of the principal in investigating and getting back to the parent. You need to hear a clear action plan from the principal. The “freedom of information” comment is one that principals often hide behind because it sounds like they are privy to secret information that cannot be released. While it may be true that there are rules that limit the specific information that principals can provide parents, what parents are asking for is assistance from the principal and some empathy toward the plight of their child. Principals can often infuriate parents by seeming to withhold information that pertains to the health and well-being of their child. Principals are far better received when they clearly indicate what they will do and when they will get back to the parent.
What should schools be doing to prevent bullying?
My no cost 13-point bullying prevention plan includes: the principal leading a bullying prevention committee, a school climate survey, identifying bullying “hot spots,” teachers knowing what to do when bullying occurs, students knowing bullying prevention strategies, clear and consistent consequences for bullying behaviour, reporting cyberbullying incidents to the principal (and the principal acting on them), tracking bullying incidents and a confidential bullying reporting system.