Mr. Dad: Fight bullies with ‘restorative justice’
Sep 25, 2012
....The biggest surprise for me was that zero-tolerance policies (like the one at your son’s school and many others around the country) don’t work either. According to Goldman, studies indicate that rather than reducing bad behavior, being suspended or expelled increases the likelihood that a student will misbehave — and get suspended — again.
So what does work? A pretty new idea called “restorative justice.” If, for example, a bully breaks another kid’s lunchbox and ruins his lunch, an appropriate response might be to make the bully buy a new lunch box, find out the victim’s favorite foods and make him lunch the next day. And when it comes to cyber-bullying, a bully who has posted nasty things on someone’s Facebook timeline or has spread lies or rumors might be required to send out a follow-up email or text to the same list admitting that the original message was a lie and apologizing for having done it.
As far as how to respond, first, thank your son for being honest with you. Then, be sure he knows that you take this seriously. Ask him to report the incidents to his teacher. If the teacher doesn’t do something, talk to the school principal. If she doesn’t take action, call the school board.
Don’t encourage your son to respond physically to the bully. By all means, teach him how to protect himself defensively, but hitting or pushing the bully will most likely just make him mad and put your son at risk.
Finally, do not confront the bully’s parents. In most cases, bullies are learning their behavior at home, so chances are they’ll either blow you off, tell you it’s no big deal or possibly even threaten you.