Alabama Poverty Project/Children’s Policy Council Bullying Forum
On October 11, 2012, the Alabama Poverty Project and the Children’s Policy Council of Jefferson County convened an Alabama Issues Forum (AIF) on bullying at Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. In a room of about 20 participants, David Matthews Center Executive Director Chris McCauley led the deliberation. Participants included college students, young professionals, and retirees. The diverse group provided a broad range of perspectives and suggestions to answer the questions laid out in the 2012-2013 issue book: “Bullying: What is it? How do we prevent it?”
Common ground was quickly identified during deliberation on approach one, “Get Tough on Bullying.” A number of participants stated that zero-tolerance mentalities have generally not worked in the past and that action against bullying needs to help the bully get to the root of his or her problem. While deliberating on approach one, the group actively considered other perspectives. When asked who might find this approach attractive, the group was able to identify that people who had been bullied might like to see immediate action. This led to further discussion and consideration of approach one.
Approach two, “Equip Students to Address Bullying,” was generally much more attractive to the group. Discussion revolved around the importance of adults being good role models, while also emphasizing the need to teach students how to address bullying when it happens. One participant simply stated, “This has to happen.” One of the challenges associated with this approach is how media portrays bullying. Also, many of the possible solutions that involved more training for teachers and students would involve monetary costs. The group also discussed the importance of raising awareness and developing a common definition for bullying. As one participant stated, “Raising awareness is important. If you don’t know, you don’t do it.”
The third approach, “Engage the Community and the Parents in Bullying Solutions,” was also very attractive to the group. While all participants agreed that “it starts with the home,” there were many challenges associated with involving parents. Many children follow the examples their parents set, so the parents will have to change as well. Another problem is the increasing number of uninterested parents. Getting information out to them and increasing involvement can be extremely difficult. Other solutions included using technology to engage parents, using libraries and churches as resources, and even presenting bullying as a health issue to give it more attention.
At the end of the forum, the group was asked to identify their common ground, which was not a very difficult task. They continued discussing ideas of action; specifically focusing on areas such as raising awareness with the media, using technology, educating both parents and students, and pushing for an anti-bullying pledge at schools.
As a Jean O’Connor-Snyder intern, I learned so much during this bullying forum—about the issues at hand as well as how community members come together for a common cause. I am looking forward to attending many more forums in this series!
- Hannah Gentry (Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern – University of Montevallo)