School programs targeting bullying miss the mark

The news is full of stories of tragic teen suicides. Young people are taking their own lives because they are so scarred by bullying that they feel their lives are no longer worth living. But it seems that bullying is not addressed in an appropriate or effective way in  high schools. Many of the programs and methods are simply too juvenile for teenagers.
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At the high school, there are several recent anti-bullying efforts. In October the organization Rachel’s Challenge presented a program about the consequences of bullying and the power of small acts of kindness. Other anti-bullying initiatives at the high school are Green Dot, a bystander intervention program, and the annual healthy lifestyle assemblies.
This semester brings another attempt to counteract bullying at the high school. As a follow-up to Rachel’s Challenge, classes will be able to decorate a ceiling tile with the themes of kindness, respect, or acceptance. The tiles will be judged by a panel, and the winning class will be awarded a prize. The program is being headed by the district’s anti-bullying director, Cailin Taggart.
“This is a very visual way for students to represent what they think and feel. It is a lasting way to share the message of kindness, respect, and acceptance with students currently in the high school and also for years to come,” said Taggart.
The program can be applauded for its positive intentions, but it is unlikely to resonate with teens. Older students have a harder time expressing themselves on issues such as bullying because the topic is usually approached from an immature standpoint.
Students find themselves either being lectured or participating in programs equivalent to those implemented in middle schools. Painting a tile may promote positivity, but it fails to address real issues and to engage students in an authentic way.
While programs for anti bullying measures are promoted, there is no organization dedicated to this cause. Information on bullying is posted on the home page   of the school district’s website, and pamphlets are available upon request in the counseling department, but the school mainly approaches bullying in the form of these juvenile programs that don’t combat all of the issues associated with bullying.
Sometimes teens do not know whom to go to when they find themselves or a friend being bullied. The student handbook, which is distributed to all students every year and often ends up in the trash or buried beneath a stack of paper at home, has one page related to bullying. It provides a definition and delineates who is required to receive or report incidents of bullying.
“I think it should be made clear…that all teachers will listen to any report of bullying, making it easier for students to get help in a tough situation,” said sophomore Michael Lange. This further clarifies the idea that the entire building is a safe place and every faculty member is approachable and trained to help when there is a problem.
In the modern age of media, online bullying, or cyberbullying, makes the situation even worse for teens. However, a positive a media outlet has presented itself to counteract the cyberbullying trend. A Facebook page known as SPFHS Compliments, which appeared in December, allows students to  post compliments to one another anonymously.
The page’s founder, a student who wishes to remain anonymous, explained, “My intentions were to promote and create a positive environment in and outside of school. There is a lot of hate that goes on online from behind a computer screen, so I said, ‘Why not counter that with positivity?’”
Students’ reactions have been overwhelmingly positive judging from the comments that began circling on the Internet after the page went up.
The compliments pages began when four college students at Queen’s University in Ontario organized a profile where students  could anonymously send in compliments to be posted about their friends, peers, or people they admired in different grades.
“SPFHS Compliments is a community everyone should be exposed to,” said freshman Nadia Racanciello.
The school should attempt to learn from students’ reactions to the page and implement programs that address bullying in a mature way. Administrators should also make students aware of where anti-bullying resources are found and encourage access to them. Resources such as compliments pages can better reach high school students and make the message clear: bullying is unacceptable.