The values of empathy and kindness are essential to fostering a positive school climate. The International Bullying Prevention Association’s (IBPA) membership includes school social workers and psychologists, school counselors, teachers and school board members who are dedicated to making our schools places where every child feels welcomed and safe.
But the current political climate in the United States is adversely impacting how some students feel in and out of the classroom. Many children have witnessed bullying behavior and violent rhetoric coming from highly visible and publicized sources. The increasing hateful dialogue undermines the ability to find creative solutions to our common problems.
Recently, an IBPA member who is a social worker in a northern Illinois school fielded questions from Muslim and Latino elementary students who felt vulnerable and confused. Other students in the school were telling them that they must leave the country in November if a certain candidate became president. Without being able to assure them of what will happen in the future, the social worker helped the students sort through their feelings, identify bullying behavior and think about ways to respond.
In a statement released in July, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) noted how we, as citizens, must consider how our actions today impact future generations.
“As a country, we must address the long-term issues of poverty, inequity, prejudice, racism, divisiveness, and violence. As parents, caregivers, and educators, we have a critical responsibility to help children and youth…understand the challenges at hand within a problem-solving context, and see themselves as active participants in our collective national commitment to liberty and justice for all,” the statement read.
In a political climate where division is emphasized, IBPA hopes the resources available for best practices in bullying prevention can influence the nation.
Though tensions are high, now is the time to build relationships across lines of difference. We must show that other people’s perspectives matter and that our diversity potentially increases the amount of good ideas in the room.
Join us in New Orleans from November 6-8, 2016, for the International Bullying Prevention Conference. We will gather as a community of people committed to increasing empathy and kindness in bullying prevention.