Two Low-Cost Solutions to Bullying
by Monica Calzolari
A local teacher and an advanced nurse practitioner shared their first-hand experiences with a packed auditorium of 300 Hartwick students, faculty, staff, and community members. Their talk entitled “The Landscape of Bullying in Rural America” offered practical solutions to this worldwide epidemic.
Noelle Granger has been a special education teacher for 19 years in two, local rural schools in Franklin and Walton. She currently works at Walton Central School. Her passion since 2010 is running a student-led program called “Alternatives to Violence.” Granger lost her best friend to suicide at a young age and Granger has devoted her life to sparing other children the pain and trauma she experienced as a freshman in college. She recommends that kids confide in a “trusted adult” and not try to shoulder the burden yourself when helping a friend in need.
Jean Van Kingsley, RN, MS, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, is an advanced nurse practitioner with more than 25 years of practice. She specializes in treating children and adolescents hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Van Kingsley witnesses the psychological scars associated with bullying every day. Being able to recognize the symptoms of bullying is a first step in helping young people get the help they need before the problem becomes even more serious.
The impact of bullying is “far reaching” according to Van Kingsley. Here are eight serious side effects:
- Academic decline
- School absenteeism
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that “Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, and results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.”
How Do We Keep Kids Safe at School?
Solution #1 “The most effective strategy for mitigating bullying is whole school programming,” said Van Kingsley. She has data that points to a solution that can be implemented immediately at little to no additional cost. “The best way to keep kids safe is having adults greet and assess each student on their way into school every day and again at the end of every day on their way home.” School administrators trained to notice signs of stress can detect students who are struggling and at risk.
Van Kingsley shared an African proverb that says, “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” She said part of the solution is recognizing that bullies have needs too. “Often a bully has been bullied themselves.” The bully needs to learn alternative way to resolve conflicts.
Isolation is a common problem in rural areas. So are a lack of resources like access to mental health care and primary care. A program that Noelle Granger has found to be very effective to combatting bullying is a peer-to-peer program called “Alternatives to Violence” (AVP).
The AVP project began in 1975 when inmates at Green Haven Prison in New York State asked local Quakers to help them teach incarcerated youth how to resolve conflicts nonviolently. The results were so effective that schools and other organizations adopted these ideas.
Granger has been running AVP programs since 2010 and has witnessed a tremendously positive impact on students. Being a voluntary program and student-led are two reasons for its success. Granger said “Students are much more receptive to learning from each other, experientially, than hearing lectures from adults.”
Research shows that AVP peer leaders often become Resident Advisors when they enroll in college. Not only is the program a deterrent to bullying behavior, but it is also a leadership training opportunity and a resume builder.