Battling bullying in Tonganoxie
Longtime educator Joe Coles has worked with schools in anti-bullying initiatives for some 20 years.
He said it’s an ongoing battle, but the key is to form good habits.
Coles said it takes 21 days to form a habit and that communication is key in schools — among students, teachers and administrators, between children and their parents and between parents and faculty.
Students being bullied must be empowered, but the students doing the bullying, also must be addressed to change those habits of bullying behavior.
Coles, whose consulting firm is based out of Cimarron, spoke to a crowd of about just 15 parents and community members last week during a multi-day visit with Tonganoxie USD 464.
The former educator met with students and faculty during his consulting trip to Tonganoxie.
His appearance was a continued effort to work to squelch bullying — especially cyber bullying — in the district.
Coles spoke about actual bullying behavior and other situations that are normal peer conflicts.
He also used a bottle of water and bottle of pop to illustrate a point.
He shook the water bottle and spoke of someone involved in an incident not retaliating, but reporting it.
The shaken pop bottle represented retaliating with names or pushing back.
Coles stressed being positive. He admitted that it takes a great deal of effort, noting that he’s been working for some time helping a grandchild get through continued bullying behavior she’s endured.
Bystanders also can either be part of the solution or part of the problem. Coles said students who are being bullied should reach out to their teachers or administrators so that faculty can assess the situation and work toward solutions. He said it was key for the victim to remain anonymous when reporting incidents so, through an administrator’s interviews of the student with bullying behavior, there’s no retaliation.
As for cyber bullying, it can take place because of anger or revenge In some cases, it can be a form of entertainment.
Those with bullying behavior also respond in different ways. It can be corrected, but Coles said sometimes a suspension from school might not be the most effective.
The bottom line is that communication channels must stay open at all times and students must work on continuing to be positive. After all, in 21 days it can become a habit.