ACSI Vol 17.3 : Page 11

collect irrefutable evidence. And this wouldn’t begin to make an impact on cyberbullying, a growing culprit. A school’s real culture is defined by what happens when teachers’ backs are turned. Students, far more than faculty, define this culture where unkindness, mean-ness, and cruelty can be currency. Students, more than teachers, have the most power to change this false and unbiblical economy, and parents, more than teachers, are the guiding hand upon such students. So explain how all students—not just targets—are harmed by bullying. Studies show that bystanders avoid school and suffer psychologically as well, especially with feelings of shame, regret, and self-recrimination. Enlisting bullies and their parents can be tricky but beneficial. Though studies show that many serial bullies (and their parents) do not heed pleas of peace, love, and understanding, they do listen to power, and they want to hear “What’s in it for me to change?” This is their “love language,” so speak it. Explain how “approximately 60 percent of boys who were characterized as bullies in grades 6–9 had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24.” Even worse, “as much as 35–40 percent of the former bullies had three or more convictions by this age” (Olweus 1993, 36). Finally, tell parents that just as police need citizens to report crime, you need them and their children to break a sinful code of silence in youth culture and report (not “tattle”) bullying. than 20 percent of the time (Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig 2001; O’Connell, Pepler, and Craig 1999; Pepler and Craig 2000), and the vast majority are female (O’Connell, Pepler, and Craig 1999). My fellow boys coaches, what does this say about us as well as them? When we know and feel something is wrong and it’s within our power to act but don’t, it’s usually because of a lack of courage. Though not all acts of passivity are wrong or harmful, some are, so much so that the Bible actually lists cowardice as a sin (Revelation 21:8). To transform passive, conflicted, and sometimes sin-ful bystanders into righteous and heroic “alongside standers”—students who assertively but nonviolently intervene—grow your student body’s capacity for moral courage, the virtue that many like C. S. Lewis argued underpins all others. God’s will is for justice, fairness, and compassion to reign, especially within institutions that bear His name. Schools are experts at grooming physical courage through sports. It’s well past time to muster the same passion (and budget) for moral courage, which is supe-rior. Which of these brings God more glory and ourselves greater spiritual growth: pointing toward heaven after a big play or defending the weak and poor in spirit? Strength and moral courage are tethered throughout the Bible and across cultures. Sign language for courage is two clenched fists, a symbol nearly synonymous with strength. Jesus told us that fulfilling the greatest of all commandments includes our capacity for courageous strength as well: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength .’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Mark 12:30–31, NIV, emphasis mine). Here, we find our triune-God-made human capacities: think, feel, and act rightly. Christian schools, much like Christian churches, have hyperfocused on the first two but hardly the third. Your school’s antibullying efforts (as well as spiritual and character development) will falter until we handle this third capacity with greater respect and skill. Bolster Positive Peer Pressure and Moral Courage The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) “identified 10 strategies that represent ‘best prac-tices’ in bullying prevention and intervention” (Kowalski, Limber, and Agatston 2008, 36). At the top of this land-mark list is changing the school’s environment. “It must become ‘uncool’ to bully, ‘cool’ to help out students who are bullied, and normative for staff and students to notice when a child is bullied or left out” (Health Resources and Services Administration 2006). It’s a challenge to change the school’s environment, but it is doable since studies show that school-aged children are bystanders of about 85 percent of bullying incidents (Atlas and Pepler 1998; Craig and Pepler 1997; Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig 2001; Pepler and Craig 2000); they feel empathy for targets, but they don’t act on what they know and feel (Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig 2001; O’Connell, Pepler, and Craig 1999; Pepler and Craig 2000; Pepler et al. 1997). Bystanders help the target in need less Combatting the Great Taboo: Bullying . cse Volume 17 Number 3 . 2013/2014 11

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