Techniques for Dealing with Student Harrassment at the High School Level

Article excerpt

Abstract

Various techniques for dealing with student harassment at the high school level are discussed in this article. These techniques provide a plan of action for administrators to follow when dealing with the inevitable conflict between students and the resultant negative actions that some students employ in getting even or continuing the conflict. The article suggests a course of action to follow if the techniques are unsuccessful in ending the harassment.

The Columbine shootings and other recent incidences of school violence have put students, parents, and school staff on edge concerning the tolerance level for bullying, teasing, and what used to be considered the normal rites of passage through the teenage years. Dealing with student harassment issues is potentially one of the most frustrating aspects of an administrators job. Harassment is difficult to define because what is considered horseplay and joking around by one student may be considered harassment by another student and/or parent. Arnette and Walsleben (1988) define bullying or harassment as repeated, negative acts committed by one or more children against another. These negative acts may be physical or verbal in nature, for example, hitting or kicking, teasing or taunting, or they may involve indirect actions such as manipulating friendships or purposely excluding other children from activities. Implicit in this definition is an imbalance in real or perceived power between the bully and victim. Natale (1993) in her article, "The Hidden Hurt," points out that harassment is not just pulling pigtails anymore; it is hurtful, illegal, and a growing problem in schools. In general, schools should have zero tolerance for harassment.

Dwyer, Osher, and Warger (1998) in their, " Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools," made the observation that wellfunctioning schools foster learning, safety, and socially appropriate behaviors. They have a strong academic focus and support students in achieving high standards, foster positive relationships between school staff and students, and promote meaningful parental and community involvement. Most prevention programs in effective schools address multiple factors and recognize that safety and order are related to children's social, emotional, and academic development.

Greeneview High School, a small rural school with an enrollment of four hundred twenty-five students in grades nine through twelve and thirty-two staff members, located in Jamestown, Ohio, is situated about midway between Columbus and Cincinnati. The administration at Greeneview developed specific procedures for dealing with student harassment issues.

A student who feels he is being harassed by another student can file a harassment report with the assistant principal. The first step is to meet with the person accused of the harassment incident and inform that person of the accusations and to ask him to stop if it is, in fact, happening. There are two ways for this meeting to occur. One option is to have the person filing the complaint meet with the accused, in the presence of a school administrator or counselor who acts as a mediator and witness, to inform him that his behavior is unacceptable and to ask him to stop. If the person filing the complaint feels uncomfortable meeting with the accused, he may delegate this meeting to the administrator or counselor. Generally, the formality of this meeting with a school administrator solves the immediate harassment problem. However, if the offense is of such a serious nature that the safety of one or both of the parties in the complaint is in question, local law enforcement personnel are notified. Parents are routinely informed of the complaint in order to include them in the resolution of the problem unless, of course, the parents are the source of the problem.

If the harassment continues, disciplinary resolution steps proceed to the next level in the following order depending on the seriousness of the harassment:

Issuance of detention and referral to the counselor

Assignment to mediation

Referral to anger management

Assignment to the Saturday Alternative program

Suspension from school

Transfer to the Alternative School

Expulsion

Filing legal charges

Sometimes reporting the harassment can be counterproductive. …