Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 2:08 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Schools tackle bullying

I would like to congratulate the principals in our school district who have tackled the difficult issue of bullying in their schools. This issue has made national headlines in the last year and has inspired congressional legislation in order to make bullying a federal offense. We know from reams of scientific research (and probably from personal observation and experience) that bullying can create a hostile learning environment. It also doubles a child's chances of committing suicide.

Let me say that again: A child who is bullied is twice as likely to die.

Bullying is looked on by anthropologists as a form of "social norming," a way for a group of people to regulate the behaviors of its members. People who do not fit the "norm" often find themselves the target of varying degrees of hostility ranging from "the silent treatment" to outright verbal and physical violence. Happily, we live in a time and place where that sort of self-regulating, "Lord of the Flies" behavior is not necessary or conducive to a smoothly running education system. Instead of promoting a culture of conformity we promote a culture of tolerance.

"Tolerance" is becoming a politically charged word these days and many may be tired of hearing about it.I've heard some rhetoric claiming that "tolerance" is actually code for "indoctrination." I would suggest that if our public schools do nothing else for our students besides "indoctrinate" them to be "tolerant" towards the differences they perceive in others, then they will have been successful

Once again, thank you school administrators and staff, for promoting a culture of tolerance in our schools so that our students can feel safe and learn what they need to in order to become happy, healthy, productive members of our society. I would encourage all community members to explore www.stopbullying.gov to find ways they can participate in keeping kids safe.

Billeen Carlson