In response, I hear you, but I don’t completely agree with you. Yes. The goal is for TRUST to be built after so many years of it being broken. And smaller steps must be taken in order to rebuild it. Coming in and promising to completely solve something as complex as bullying, only to find that it still exists, would cause trust to be broken again.
Through my education and experience working with teens and families over the past 15 years (in Azusa and beyond) I’ve come to recognize the best way to build trust is through collaboration and empowerment vs. coming in and trying to be the hero.
I’ve trained these concepts through workshops in various parts of the country as an Advisory Board Member and Trainer for Urban Youth Workers Institute. There are two community development models in tension here. Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) vs. Needs-Based Community Development (NBCD). Traditional community problem solving is built upon NBCD, but is less effective and sustainable. It fails to deliver the tools necessary for a particular community to create its own success. It’s a band-aide.
ABCD, however, addresses the root cause and empowers a particular community to examine the issue and develop long-lasting tools to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the problem. What’s more, there is ownership and buy-in as it relates to the agreed-upon solutions.
Let’s go ahead and use bullying as the example:
FIRST LET ME BE CLEAR: All our kids have an ABSOLUTE right to safety and security at school and I agree if a particular student is unable or unwilling to respect that right, then he/she is the one who should be relocated and not the victim.
With that said, it’s extremely important to remember that bullying is not a root cause, it’s a symptom. The root cause of it is almost always socio-emotional (home life, history of being abused, mental health, etc.). Addressing these issues is what I do for a living.
A board member slapping a zero-tolerance policy is “Needs Based” and is only a band-aide. It does not address the root cause. That doesn’t mean an enforceable policy shouldn’t be in place, but it’s important to remember it’s only a small part of an actual solution.
What needs to happen is an inside-out culture shift. (I mean organizational/operational, not ethnic.) This takes time, and students, parents, staff, and more must all be part of it. TRUST is build THROUGH this process, not after the problem is solved. Some parents may, unfortunately, still choose to remove students from AUSD while the long-term solution is being developed.
What would end bullying is an informed and empowered student body who discovers and concludes this to be an unacceptable norm for the group. Kids bully kids because it’s “cool,” “fun,” and “acceptable” among their peers. Change this and you will change its appeal.
An “Asset-Based” example would be to first bring the kids in on it. For younger kids, exposure, awareness, sharing stories, creatively describing protocol through nursery rhymes, acronyms, and songs. You could also have them role play or act in school plays about the issue. Make it “not cool” from the start.
For older kids, I’ve seen experiential assemblies and relevant video content prove very effective. It’s all about giving teens a voice to express themselves and others the opportunity to experience it. Most times, those who bully have been bullied themselves. It’s learned behavior. Sending a kid away doesn’t solve the problem for the bully or the victim.
Another great idea I’ve seen is to use “Teen Court,” where a bully goes through a process of being tried by his or her peers and they issue a recommended punishment to administration. Of course this happens under the direction of adults… This is FAR more effective and the kids are FAR more just than you might imagine.
If we need to pick a side, let’s take the side of the victim here. But we don’t always need to take a side. We can be for both. It’s better to be proactive than reactive. There are steps we can actually take to remedy bullying behavior. (Coming from a former Azusa kid who was bullied, bullied others, and is now running for School Board.)
My point is: Yes. There are issues that need to be addressed. And bullying is one of them. HOW you address these issues is one of the greatest tools through which trust can be built. I trust the ideas, perspectives, suggestions, and experiences of our students, parents, staff, etc. My plan is to bring them in on the process for any number of issues and lead them through proven exercises to address the root cause and not merely patch it.
Before you build TRUST as a whole, you need to address issues one at a time & show you can solve them and build trust one step at a time, I.E. Bullying, how do you solve this to build trust in parents who want to pull their kids out of Azusa schools? This issue is not being addressed and solutions & policies not being adopted to enforce a ZERO TOLERANCE to bullying.