Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Teaching Tolerance

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Teaching Tolerance

Article excerpt

Oakland Parks and Recreation's zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy takes a proactive approach to teaching youth and teens respect for one another

As recreational professionals, we are not strangers to the antics of chil- dren and youth, yet over time the level and variety of abuse in our recreational programs has escalated beyond the standard playground fights over a ball. Today's children and youth see a plethora of adults modeling unacceptable behaviors in media, the news and in person. What used to be an individual's internal thoughts are now blasted over social media platforms, often accompanied by disturbing language and attitudes, under a veil of ano- nymity. The City of Oakland and Oakland Parks and Recreation (OPR) pushed forward to create and implement a zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy as of 2010. This includes bullying behaviors as well as abusive or hateful language and actions in our programs and facilities.

The bullying situations that children experience in nearby schools often spill out into after-school recreation pro- grams. Instituting a mutually beneficial policy between agencies is key to train- ing young minds to be open and under- standing, and knowing the impact of their words and actions. Training fam- ily members in the "it takes a village" mentality often proves to be more of a challenge, but teaching adults how to deal with bullying behaviors in youth and teens is well worth the effort. The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has a strong anti-bullying policy, and OPR has adopted and mir- rored much of its expectations.

The OPR policy is a contract shared with parents and families so every- one involved understands the pro- gram's expectations. It is read with and signed by the child and his or her guardians, and is then kept on file for the year. We refer back to the contract when issues arise so we can remind the child of the rules to which he or she agreed. The contract lists expecta- tions and the consequences of falling short of those guidelines should they be needed. Each OPR site creates its contract to fit a specific program's needs using basic departmental ex- pectations. Centers with gyms often face a different set of bullying issues than sites that have public swimming pools or preschool programs.

OPR aims to use conflict-resolu- tion techniques to teach tolerance when a negative incident has oc- curred. We conduct large group activities early in the program to inform all participants of the rules. …

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