A message regarding bullying
Recent events in San Antonio have engendered many discussions about adolescent health and interactions through social media. Given this attention, we would like to convey some information and thoughts as these items relate to the Keystone community.
First and most importantly, we recognize that social interactions – whether in-person or on-line – are dynamic and provide many opportunities and pitfalls for our students. While we cannot control or manage all of the variables involved in these interactions, we work hard here at School to give guidance, skills, and information that will serve our students well as individuals and as members of various groups. We do this informally all the time in the way we model and expect our students to interact with each other, and formally through our Second Step program, through Advisory and Self and Community Programs, and through ongoing work with outside experts.
Learning how to interact productively with each other is a process that is never ending for any person. Nevertheless, our small community and our attention to social-emotional growth help us create a productive and safe environment for our students. It is not a sterile environment, however, and challenges will continue to surface as our students grow.
Second, when challenges do arise, we want to provide mechanisms for our students to address them constructively. In most situations, this means helping our students work out things by either giving them the space to do so, or by providing guidance during the process. As our students move through our program and into adolescence, issues can grow in both their complexity and potential impact. In an effort to give our students opportunities to address any behavioral concerns in as productive a manner as possible, we have a policy that allows for any student to seek the aid of our counselor without concern for any disciplinary consequence. This policy is written in our handbook as follows:
Intervention and counseling
Students who are found violating Keystone’s community standards will face disciplinary consequences. However, the School supports the efforts of students who seek out assistance in dealing with issues surrounding these standards before they become a disciplinary concern. Consequently, students who are concerned about their own behavior or the behavior of a friend or peer can approach the School’s counselor, who can work with the student to explore options. The counselor will work with students in a professional manner, and information discussed about prior events will not be considered within the School’s disciplinary framework.
Third, the prevalence of social media and our students’ access to communication technologies enable them to share much more of their lives with each other and to connect with each other more and more easily every day. In many ways, these are great things. In other aspects – particularly in cases of negative peer-to-peer interactions - social media and handheld devices conspire to create and/or exacerbate destructive interactions. While our programs aim to instill healthy habits and positive expectations of our digital citizens, the targets for these things are constantly moving. Our programs and policies attempt to keep abreast, but these are challenges we face as educators and parents.
Fourth, bullying between students has received a great deal of attention recently – both here in San Antonio and around the United States. Our policy on the matter is unequivocal and is stated in our handbook as follows:
Bullying occurs when one or more students repeatedly and intentionally harm, harass, intimidate, or exclude others. Bullying includes any gesture or written, verbal or physical act where the perpetrator demonstrates an intent to harm by engaging in conduct that physically harms or damages property of another; places another in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to property: or insults or demeans any student or group of students in such a way as to disrupt or interfere with the School’s mission or the education of any student.
You will note that there is no separation between events on and off jurisdiction in this policy. If students interact with each other in a manner that undermines the learning environment here, we address the situation, whether or not the interaction occurred during school or during free time, in-person or online. Of course, one challenge we face is that many interactions, including those in social media, happen without our knowledge. If any parent is aware of concerning interactions, we urge him or her to address the situation in the manner that seems most appropriate, and letting us know if it seems helpful to do so. When we are involved in matters involving interpersonal conflict, including ones that can be categorized as bullying, our mechanisms for addressing concerns range from discussion with teachers or counselors to disciplinary response.
Raising children is a wonderful thing, full of moments of wonder and growth. It is also challenging, and we appreciate the opportunity to be with you and your children on the journey as we navigate both the successes and setbacks of life.
Many thanks for your time,