NORMAL — Every school has a bully. Every school will always have a bully. Every school can combat that bully.
That was part of the message delivered to about 100 area teachers and administrators Wednesday morning at Normal West High School by Rosalind Wiseman, a Washington D.C. author and expert on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice and ethical leadership.
“Bullying is using power or strength to make someone feel worthless,” Wiseman said. “The majority of bullying is connected with a fight for social status.”
During a three-hour workshop, Wiseman drew from real-life scenarios to demonstrate how cliques, bullying and social hierarchies among children and adults can create a culture of dignity – or lack of dignity – in schools.
The workshop was sponsored by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents and funded through a federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools Community Program grant.
“She has authored a couple of books on the topic and really understands the climate and culture in schools,” said Regional School Superintendent Mark Jontry. “We are looking for every available strategy, skill and tool to deal with it, especially when the issue originates, festers or is created outside of the school walls. Our teachers and administrators have to deal with bullying whether it is the kids interacting at school, or if it is through social media or just out on the street. Often times, these come to a head inside the school, but it is fueled outside of the school walls and we need to understand how to react to that.”
Wiseman is the author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” a bestselling book that was the basis for the movie, “Mean Girls.” She is a frequent guest on the Today Show, Anderson Cooper 360, and Dateline, as well as several other shows.
“We should be striving to create a climate of safety, respect and dignity in our schools,” Wiseman said. “Respect is earned. Respect isn’t something you get just because you are older. As teachers and administrators, it’s an important trait to have and it will go a long way in helping those who are being bullied.”
Several McLean County districts were among those in attendance, Jontry said.
“We want to find out some additional strategies with bullying and how we can better serve the kids so they can feel comfortable in the school and can learn without having to feel threatened by bullying,” said Mary Lanier, Dee-Mack assistant junior and senior high school principal. “We deal with it in some form at every grade level and it’s interesting to see what has worked elsewhere, and to talk with others and hear about their experiences.”