When Dr. Michael Roth was hired as principal at Meadow Valley Middle School (MVMS), he was excited to be working with the youth of the community. After a few months of working with the kids and speaking to faculty, he began to identify a problem that unfortunately is a common complaint in schools throughout the nation: bullying. Roth has dealt with issues like this before and knew a change was needed in order for students to feel safe.
One of the first parts of this change was contacting “shareholders,” or those in the community who needed to be made aware of this situation. This included students, parents, the school district’s main office and law enforcement in the area.
In a statement that will be going out to both the students as MVMS and their parents, Roth addressed three groups of kids: the bullies, the bullied and the bystanders.
To the bullies, Roth made a simple offer: stop making wounds. He invited them to change and to find ways to stop putting others down. He noted, “The alternative for those students who think that kind of culture is acceptable is not a happy one.” Roth is willing to involve parents, law enforcement and even take away certain positions so that those who wish to continue bullying are no longer in charge of their possible victims. Roth said to these students, “My office will be set up to protect the school from you.
“We are done looking the other way. We are done letting things go. We are not going to tolerate treating people with disrespect…That behavior is not welcome here. No more. Right here, right now, everything changes.”
The next group that Roth spoke to was the kids “who have gone home with tears in your eyes because of the cold words people used to hurt you. Those who feel they are always made fun of. Those who are hurting…who don’t want to come to school because of mean kids that won’t stop.”
He expressed his support for those students, acknowledged that they have a right to be happy at school and made it clear that those students are not alone.
Roth laid out a four-step plan that kids can follow if they are being bullied:
Walk away. Perhaps that person is playing and does not realize that they are not funny.
Use an “I message.” Look the person strongly in the eye and say, “I feel uncomfortable with the way you are talking to me. Please stop.” Then walk away. It gives them time to think. With good kids who are just immature, this usually works. But for some it won’t.
The warning phase. No one wants to be called a snitch, tattle tale or stuff like that. It is the oldest way in the books to keep bad things from being found out. So Roth invented this way to eliminate the snitch label. It comes down to the choice the other person makes. You offer them two choices…and this is how you phrase it: “Hey, I have to let you know I don’t like the way you are treating me. It looks like you may need some help in changing this behavior. If you can stop on your own, we are cool, but I need to come to school and feel good. So if you can’t stop yourself, I will get help for you. My next action will be to talk to someone about what you continue to do…up to you. Can you stop? OR do you need help?”
Get help by talking to a trusted adult.
He finished by inviting the kids who are being bullied to work on the 4 A’s: academic, artistic, athletic, and altruistic. Roth said as kids accomplish goals in one of those four categories, they “won’t have time to give those kids who show ignorance. You will be too busy investing in yourself.”
Finally, he spoke to kids who are aware of bullying and choose to do nothing about it. He shared a phrase that he hopes every kid in the school can learn to use when they see someone else being treated poorly; “We don’t act like that here.” Roth said he expects these students to stand between bullies and their victims, and with enough people standing up for what they believe in, the problem won’t survive. He used the analogy of a single flamingo probably not being able to stop a lion, but 100 flamingos are more than enough to make the predator reconsider his actions.
Lastly, he offered the school’s Be an Inspiration plan, which consists of:
- A monthly student survey
- The sheriff’s office visiting each class to talk about bullying
- Reaching out to parents
- Supporting kids who are seeking help to change and progressive discipline for those kids who won’t change