A Commitment to Learning: Russell Dickerson's Advice to Educators

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After enduring years of harassment in school, Russell Dickerson III offers his perspective on how educators can tackle harassment and bullying head-on. Represented by the ACLU-WA, Dickerson recently gained a major settlement from Aberdeen School District over its failure to take action to end the harassment.  He reconfirms that schools have a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for all students. Dickerson gives some insight into how on the Journal of Educational Controversy Blog:


"What can be done about bullying? I always get asked that question, and unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers, and it's utopia to think that bullying can be eliminated. I am not an expert on behavior, and it all depends on the kind of culture the school has, and even then, you will be dealing with different kinds of students who come from different cultures, beliefs, values and other factors. 
"There are good preventative measures that educators can take, though, such as: 

• Taking on a “zero-tolerance” stance. No matter what, no matter who, don't tolerate bully behavior. Stay firm with consequences. Stay consistent. When you speak with a student who bullies, try some strategies to help him or her reconsider their actions. For example, ask, “How would you feel if the tables were turned and this happened to you?” Almost always, they'll rethink their behavior.

• Maintaining vigilance. Watch for behavior changes. Has a student who has participated very well in class discussions suddenly become quiet, or a student who normally does stellar work now starts to struggle? While there may be other circumstances (and it's equally important to see the root of the problem for problems not relating to bullying), there's a chance that student may be bullied and harassed. Vigilance doesn't stop there—watch for bullies as well. Even something as subtle as saying something mildly negative (such as “Your shirt looks funny”) may grow and fester to more aggressive behavior. Watch and act accordingly.
• Speaking up. You all know it's necessary to report serious or constant harassment issues to administration, right? Not only do you tell the heads of the school, the parents of the bully need to know. There's always the assumption that the bully's parents are already aware and won't do anything to correct their child's behavior, but that isn't always true. Unfortunately, there are parents who are indifferent, and although rare, actually find no fault in bully behavior. Be candid. Openly admit that their child has a problem. Offer to be an ally and help to come to a resolution that everyone can agree on."

Read the full article here.