In studying the cyber bullying case of Amanda Todd, there are many things to be considered. One could easily list some of the basics such as, “Teach digital responsibility to students! Monitor your child’s internet usage! Never give out private information!” And so on. Last week in a haze through my cold and ample amounts of Benadryl, I wrote a post on Facebook and made a blog post about the “after-steps” regarding drug education in our schools. Specifically, I addressed that schools teach prevention, but never address how to deal with such complications after they had already occurred. I believe this idea applies to multiple cases and different subtopics regarding anti-oppressive education. For example, in an article by Glenda Aleman titled, “Constructing Gay Performances: Regulating Gay Youth in a ‘Gay Friendly’ High School,” she wrote, “Providing safe spaces for them within the school is important and commendable, it does not sufficiently change the homophobic and sexist culture of high schools” (Aleman 150). As educators, we can do more.
In the context of cyber-bullying and bullying in schools, the widespread message is, “Report bullying to the staff/teachers and we will take care of it.” In most cases, students do not trust the adults nor do they rely on them to fully protect them from the harassment they are facing. In most cases, after a student reports the incident, they are more likely to be the subject of revenge from the perpetrator for “tattling” on them. “Tattling” is treated (among adolescents) as a sign of weakness for the intention of keeping the bullied silent. Most students are trapped by subscribing to this unfortunate assumption. How do we, as educators/parents/role-models, address this in an authentic way that can provide students with the necessary tools and options to combat harassment and bullying?
In a response to the article by Glenda Aleman that I mentioned earlier, I argued that by creating “safe spaces,” teachers are actually avoiding dealing with the problem at its roots. Creating a safe space with the intention of merely addressing bullying only when it happens means that we are only creating a bomb shelter (and a rickety one at that). A bomb shelter does not make the bombs go away. It will not make the opposing field reconsider launching its attacks. If anything, the bombing will only get worse in an attempt to destroy the bomb shelter. What educators must do is teach in a responsive way so that the bombs are potentially never launched in the first place. Better yet, bombs won’t even be considered. Teach students how to identify harassment. Teach harassment policies. Teach students about their legal responsibilities as law abiding citizens. It cannot stop there, for these ideas only address prevention.
After addressing prevention, teachers must also address proper coping skills. Even if the perpetrator has been entirely removed from the situation by an involved adult, this does not teach our students how to independently address these situations in the future. If we educate our students with these interpersonal skills and effective communication skills, and if we teach students about what they can do within their spheres of influence, then we will be preparing them to handle these situations in the future. Teaching these concepts will address the problem at its roots, rather than waiting for somebody to get hurt before taking responsive action.
As educators, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for the future. I do not know if such actions would have prevented what unjustifiably happened to Amanda Todd, or any other victims of hate crimes and harassment. I do know, however, that teaching for the present and the future can, in the very least, reduce some of that stigma surrounding reaching out for help when involved with cases of harassment. Lets do our students justice.
Aleman, G. (2005). Constructing gay performances: regulating gay youth in a “gay friendly” high school. In B. Alexander, G. Anderson and B. Gallegos (Eds.), Performance theories in education: power, pedagogy and the politics of identity, pp. 149-171. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.