One day two giraffes were talking. One giraffe said to the other giraffe, “Why do we have such long necks?” The second giraffe replied, “So we can reach the leaves at the top of trees.” Still curious, the giraffe asked, “Why do we have such long legs?” His fellow giraffe friend answered; “so we can see far away if there are any areas of danger.” Since he was getting the answers, he decided to ask another question; “Why do we have spots on us?” “That is to camouflage us” the other giraffe replied. The first giraffe said “That’s good information, but why are we in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando Florida?” Jim Jordan
Who they are hasn’t changed, but their environment has.
Since change is inevitable, what is important is how we can get to work it in our favor. To do that, as a community, we need to understand clearly where we are right now and what we are doing. Unless we know our standing in life, we would not be able to quantify what we need to do to reach our destination, our goal, and if we stop moving forward, we will be left behind. If we stubbornly refuse to change ourselves as a community, it would not be possible to live in the world as the world itself would have moved ahead and changed beyond recognition.
It isn’t as if our decision to make that change will make this path of life free of all potholes. When we decide to bring about any change, we should also be ready to tackle new challenges that will come with the proposed change. We have to be ready to identify, accept, and handle these challenges; trying to be pro-active in our approach so that we can nip the problem in the bud and tackle the problems which have the potential to grow.
In the case of bullying, the first thing you need to know is what your community’s stand on the issue is. You can initiate a survey to find this out and the survey will help you to know the opinions and thoughts of every constituent of your community. You will be able to understand what they think and how they feel about bullying. (We offer online bullying surveys which can be purchased from our website www.reportbullying.com).
Now that you know the opinions of your community, how do you go about bringing a change to their mindsets?
If you really want to bring about a change, you need to remove the ignorance and the incorrect beliefs of the people in your community. Many parents don’t really understand the trauma the child may be going through because of the bullying happening to him/her. From our Reportbullying.com surveys, we learned that parents have the habit of thinking that it’s no big deal and usually think ”Bullying is just a small part of growing up normally. When I was a kid, I also had gone through some of this, but I am doing fine.” This kind of ignorance in a parent’s mind has a very negative impact on the child’s psyche and he/she tends to feel alone. Some children go to extremes; ending their lives when they are unable to take on the repeated bullying day after day. We need to make the change to make this stop NOW.
One of the best ways to change this mindset is by imparting education to all about the negative impacts of bullying. Educating your community about the effects this peer victimization (also known as bullying or peer harassment –researchers tend to use these terms interchangeably) has on the child can be very crucial. When everyone in the community is aware of the consequences of bullying, not only will the people be sensitive about the issue, they will also be more willing participants in the decisions that need to be taken to make the requisite changes to remove this scourge.
The most important and of course the wisest step you need to take is involve every member of the community in this initiative. Every single person, irrespective of their age or standing in the community, must be involved at every single step right from the beginning till the very end. When everyone from the community is involved and is a part of the change process, there will be very little resistance to the changes you propose.
When you begin your initiative to make everyone aware about the ill effects of bullying, you must make your intentions clear to everyone upfront. You must educate them that you intend to put forward changes and also tell them the reasons why. When people are aware and informed, not only will there be less opposition to the changes but the participation will be more assured thereby increasing the chances of success of your initiative. When organizing community meetings, you must explain the effects of bullying not only on the children, but also how it affects the schools and communities. They should understand that because of this very reason, the community as a whole needs to get involved in reducing the bullying. Ask them to give their input in suggesting solutions for reducing the bullying around them. When all the possible solutions are discussed on the same platform, the people will feel involved and irrespective of whatever is finally accepted; they will be more supportive of the changes required to make it work.
Another thing that you must always remember is that any changes that are introduced must not be rushed. Changes made gradually allow people to get used to them, which makes the acceptance that much easier. Moreover, gradual change also lets people adjust themselves even if the change is affecting them negatively.
As in the case of the community, you also need to involve everyone in the schooling system. The teachers, the support staff, the superintendents and the principal; all should be made aware of the plans and whatever is being proposed should be discussed in detail with them. They are equal, if not more important stakeholders in the whole initiative. It is the teachers who are the medium through which all the proposed changes are shared with the students and it is the responsibility of the principal to implement these changes in the system. Not only this, but the teachers and the principal are vital spokes in the wheel that connects everyone, including the children and their parents, the school bus drivers who transport the kids to and from, the school crossing guards who are responsible for the children’s security when they are off school property, and of course, the local police. If they are equal partners in the initiative, they will keep all the people involved well informed and make the process of implementing the changes that much easier.
One of the most important things that you must always remember is to keep the communication lines open. You must be pro-active in keeping every community member informed of what is actually happening or is going to happen. Not only will this kill all unfounded rumors; it will also reassure the community that positive efforts are being made and the benefits will start becoming visible to them and when this happens, everyone will become a willing participant of the change process that eventually aims at making the environment, both at the school and the society, safe for their children.
Instead of resisting the changes or getting demoralized and wondering what is in it for them, all of the school board members, parents and police will give you complete support in implementing the changes you propose. They’ll be motivated to want the change once they realize that it is for the betterment of every single member of their own community.
 Sandra Graham, Faculty Programs.org, Peer Victimization in School, http://facultyprograms.org/documents/SandraGraham-handout.pdf 2006 (June 25, 2012)