Scroll to the bottom of this page for SOLUTIONS for TEACHERS
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO!!!
Encourage your school and state to adopt and implement the
Necessary Components to create safe schools for ALL students.
SEEING it all together
Visual Aide for how the Necessary Components work together
to "CATCH" students when they are falling or struggling.
You can help reduce adolescent suicide and bullying through spreading awareness in many ways. Begin with your personal life, by reflecting on your own behavior and beliefs, by talking to your children, friends, family, colleagues, employers, and through social media. Wake people up to what is happening and the distressing rise in children taking their lives. This is a cultural problem and begins with each one of us.
Another critical way you can help is by working with your local school district. Find out what their policies are and if they have the Necessary Components in place. If they do not, ask them to do so. Work with a community group or coalition, or form one to demonstrate community support and pressure to support and encourage this change. While people who work with children want the best for them, policies and practices can become complacent, or issues ignored because of their intensity and/or controversy. Discrimination is often deeply enculturated and institutionalized... it becomes "The Norm". School climate and culture are created by those within it. Local school leaders must be willing to talk about the issues and not sweep them under the rug. Schools are one of the most important and critical places we can advocate for change. We can create an environment which ensures safety and non-discrimination for all students as well as one that promotes/teaches kindness, respect and how to be simply a good human being. Or we can allow the 'norm' to continue to be a place where LGBTQIA students do not feel safe, where they expect NOT to be protected and a culture of bullying is ignored or taken lightly... a place where children are swallowed by hopelessness. We have the right to demand that ALL of our students be safe, protected and valued.
The Necessary Components are the areas I discovered were weaknesses in our school district; they were either not or in place, were not being enforced and/or were not being done in an effective way. I do believe that had these been in place, my daughter would be alive today. While all students can experience bullying, schools must embrace the difficult conversations around this issue and recognize how much more at risk LGBTQIA youth are than their peers. Through the advocacy pages, you will find the step by step process as well as the information needed to creating change in your schools.
Due to the nature of the difficult issues which arise around discussions of gender identity, sexual orientation, bullying and adolescent suicide, many schools refuse to address it. Especially now (. 2022) states like Florida have destroyed so much progress made toward protecting LGBTQ+ youth. This poison they are pushing, cloaked in "parents rights" will have the effect poison does - it will take lives. It is the right of ALL parents to have their child be protected, safe, valued and uplifted. Laws like the one in Florida are being promoted in many states. This is why advocating on the state level is imperative. Your voice matters. Add your voice to the fight to ensure that ALL students can feel safe at school. Links for effective advocacy groups to help keep you informed and help you take action, can be found on the Advocacy pages. Some districts will need change to be mandated by the state. If you find your district reluctant, it’s likely yours is not the only one in your area struggling. Through the state advocacy page, we offer steps to follow with representatives in your area. Find those who care about this issue and want to help.
In all of these conversations, the focus must be on keeping all students safe, healthy and thriving. It is about kindness and basic human well being.
Solutions for TEACHERS
Advocate for and support your schools in adoption of the Necessary Components for SAFE schools. Your participation in promoting these in your school will make a huge difference. Embracing these changes is critical for teachers if they are to be appropriately and successfully implemented.
The MOST important part of that which MUST be in place is school climate surveys. Your school WILL NOT be a place where ALL students feel safe, feel valued nor where they can thrive. Without this step and the schools using this information to make adjustments, they are putting the lives of marginalized students at significant risk.
Start or participate in a GSA in your school.
Post SAFE ZONE or SAFE SPACE stickers on your door and posters in your room.
The two campaigns below can be incorporated in some form into classes across the curriculum. They are only two simple examples of many ways to imbed compassion, empathy and kindness into your classroom.
At the bottom are links for understanding the crucial role teachers play in an effective Restorative Justice Program. If your school cannot implement a program like this successfully (like in Utah - where they will not require the therapy portion which is critical to effectiveness), encourage your school to bring mindfulness into the curriculum and do it in your own classroom. This will at least to begin to teach greater self awareness and can have a substantial impact on bullying and mental health issues.
Although your days are overloaded and you rarely get a moment to even go to the bathroom, the short minutes between classes are a primary time that students bully one another. It isn't big punches or physical encounters that are hard to spot. Rather, it is the hallway times that students engage in verbal bullying. These brief moments can be devastating for a student who is the victim, and sadly can be life threatening. Do all that you can to be a presence in the hallways. Listen and watch closely. Even ask parents who care to come be a presence during those times. You know your students well and if you notice they are off or something seems wrong - TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT!! Just this action, showing you care, can make a difference.
The Gratitude Campaign
Spreading our appreciation for others and the ways they impact our lives with kindness, helps us pay more attention to what we do and give to others and thus impact the world around us. Consider how you can instill and spread gratitude and kindness. There are many ways this can happen and opportunities to practice the way of kindness present themselves at all times. An important area for expanding this is in our schools, through: what is included in the curriculum; how schools deal with, address and prevent bullying; how schools create a culture of respect, value and non-discrimination - and the connection to how bullying is dealt with/perceived. Teachers and all persons working with children have the choice to include gratitude and kindness in their curriculum and in their classroom or group structure. Choosing to do so will have a much bigger impact than your might think - even if it appears subtle, planting notions and seeds of kindness and gratitude will change how your students relate to one another and to themselves.
The KINDNESS Campaign
Spreading kindness is not difficult. Start with something simple like fundraising by selling "Choose Kindness" lawn signs to the community. This is a positive to promote kindness at home, school and the community as a whole. They remind everyone driving by to be mindful of their choice to give kindness. Any money raised could be used donated to the GSA for activities or for suicide prevention and bullying prevention training for schools or the community.
Click the link below for a sample sign and pricing. If the link does not work just google cheap lawn signs. Keep it simple and clear - black text on white background.
Creating a culture of kindness in school in general can be more challenging. It truly depends on where you are, how much discrimination is occurring, the school and community tolerance for discrimination and bullying, as well as the if there is a commitment to well-being for all students. It will require great effort to change things if they are as they were in my daughter's school. See the School Advocacy page, the NECESSARY COMPONENTS page, and the Resources page for more information and help.
Choose books that raise issues of empathy and humanity.
If possible (depending on your community)include books that will generate empathy for those most marginalized. This can often be easy around race and gender but a struggle if discussing sexual orientation or gender identity - sadly this is especially true in many states because of the current climate which embraces discrimination through the guise of "parents rights" or "protecting children from indoctrination." Kindness is about indoctrinating love, compassion and respect for others.
Engaging in discussion about various types and experiences of discrimination while reading classics like Huck Finn.
Essay assignment/competition on what kindness means and examples of this in action -- especially when it isn't easy! ie: kindness to people who disagree with you, kindness and fighting discrimination, kindness as a reflection of humanity, how policies and laws reflect kindness.
Cover the historical significance of examples of kindness in movments ie: civil rights, women's rights, minority rights, LGBTQ rights --- it is all about HUMAN rights!
How laws and policies are kind or unkind - focused on human well-being or profit?
How does economic structure skew policies either in support of or against human well-being? What does it reveal about our values?
Historical Figures Project: Focus on those who sought to bring more kindness into the world and the significance of their voice, their work and their lives.
SCIENCE TEACHERS --
Focus on the BRAIN and the Brain/Body interaction
When studying the brain, cover how emotions impact the brain or what areas of the brain are active or inactive when feeling certain emotions and why.
Study the science of kindness and how positive emotions help the body as well as the mind. Include content about hormones and their connection to emotions and the impact they have on the body. In particular cover stress hormones and the damage they cause.
Study why the brain can't learn when experiencing trauma.
Through understanding themselves and their own brain, they can gain greater self control and understand their impact on others and vice versa.
Use and create math assignments which require students looking at numbers and percentages, measuring impacts of kindness. IE: disaster relief and impact, student success rates with mindfulness programs, calculating the difference in statistics around impacts kindness vs hate or discrimination.
Physical Education Teachers
Unfortunately a fair amount of bullying occurs in PE classes. This is a critical area where teachers and schools must make adjustments.
Expect and maintain a class where kindness in sports is taught, promoted and practiced.
This class offers many opportunities to engage students in decision making in their treatment of others.
Teach good sportsmanship and good citizenship. Teaching students that kindness and respect are part of this makes a difference.
DO NOT leave your classes unattended EVER!! This is one of the places where Lily complained about being hounded - in PE class where the teacher was often called away to help students with the other classes they taught. WITHOUT supervision you can EXPECT bullying to happen.
Offer Yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong as an alternative for students who suffer from many of the typical activities and the added pressures of physical ability and body issues. Teach students about how these types of activities can help calm your mind and your nervous system, which are very important areas of "health" because they impact every part of the body.
Teachers PLEASE read the following articles about the critical role you play in making a Restorative Justice Program effective and successful in your school.