I was so touched by the coverage given to the Fort Collins Reads essay contest winners, focused on bullying in our local newspaper (the Coloradoan) on 11/18/13, that I decided to write an Soap Box Opinion response which was published on 12/13/13. Here is what I wrote, because I am excited to be witnessing results that I feel we as a society need to focus on.

Let’s focus on solutions rather than the age-old “Bullying” issue and move forward as a pro-active society.

The essays published in the Coloradoan touched many important factors addressed in a pro-active solution already being used in several Poudre schools. (Peacekeeper Circles (PKC) and Peace Circles(PC). Underlined are the focus, outcomes and language used in both.

Angelina (Fossile HS) wrote “We teach kids that they need to be strong, and to get help is week. Instead of building each other up and creating a safety net that students can fall on”.

Joan (Poudre HS) states: “needing to build a curriculum that is inclusive of all and that education is the key to tolerance and acceptance”. Emmry (O’Dea) Said “I am sorry that sometimes it’s hard for you, Let’s be friends”

Jessica (Poudre) “I understand that most Bullies come from hard home life or difficult background, But I just can’t see how making my life hell and destroying my self esteem helped them at all. Perhaps it is human nature that drives people to be so full of hate and so there is no solution

Hayden(Bennett) A solution to the madness is to have after school clubs where kids will figure out solutions . All we need is one school that is “bully –proof” and they can teach others in the city town and country”.

It’s frustrating to keep reading articles focused on problems rather than covering the amazing effects of solutions that are currently taking place right before our eyes in over 70 elementary classrooms using PKC and High schools using PC.

Hundreds of students are having effective and positive responses because they are given the safe place to speak and listen to peers about how behaviors are affecting others, speaking: gratitude-building each other up, hurts and full hearted apology. Once elementary classmates express how behaviors are affecting them with the support of the teacher and the rest of their classmates, many inappropriate behaviors have huge turnaround and even disappear. They are learning to resolve conflict with respectful language. Teaching empathy is known to relieve bullying.

Being a restorative justice practitioner, facilitator and trainer in Fort Collins,I train elementary teachers and students to use PKC model in classrooms. The emphasis is on building people up and encouraging positive interaction. This restorative practice teaches our children to speak and listen with compassion.

When we focus on the bully we give more attention to them and guess what? We are enabling and reinforcing their power. If we encourage empathetic communication in a safe and respectful atmosphere where eye contact and heart felt words are given voice, people realize they are dealing with other human beings with feelings much like their own and often realize that what everyone really wants is to be loved , cared about, have better relationships and feel a sense of belonging and self worth.

Students often speak to this in the reflection portion of PKC and PC.

To my knowledge, Rocky is the only High School still holding Peace circles . This model, allows students from various walks of life to gather in circle for a day with trained facilitators to speak and listen to others’ heart felt expression about their situations. The outcome for most fortunate attendees is that barriers, which often divide are broken down and new connections and insights are gained. The common explorations revealed in these circles are feelings of disconnection and loneliness.

Isn’t that what we hear from the research on bully prevention? Our society is suffering a serious sense of loss of eye contact and heart expression, loneliness!

Let’s break the cycle of a “broken mentality” and use the amazing tools already at our finger tips that do not cost tons of money and are proving to be quite effective.

Fort Collins, Colorado

KIRI SAFTLER

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