Global Responsibility for Children (IF Discussion Guide)

The 20-page discussion guide, Global Responsibility for Children, was published by Interactivity Foundation in 2015 and edited by Mark Notturno. For this discussion guide, IF brought together [in video conference] panelists from 14 different countries to explore what is means to take responsibility for children and what would policies can be put in place that would uphold this task. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From the introduction…

Children are, almost by definition, the most vulnerable social group in our global society. They are often among the first victims of social crises: be they humanitarian crises arising from natural disasters, military crises arising from wars and other international conflicts, political crises arising from revolutions, human rights crises arising from abusive political regimes, psychological and physiological crises arising from sexual molestation and child abuse, or family crises arising from the divorces, breakups, and crimes of their parents. Children have been neglected, abandoned, and even killed by their parents and caretaker, both in myth and real life, and infanticide has a long history in Europe, China, and India. Indeed, the history of mankind has recorded wide scale abuses against children arising from the poverty, ignorance, and hatred of adults, caretakers, and other children – and from the unintended consequences of well-intended public policies designed to protect them.

Dickens chronicled the abuse of children in orphanages. Marx described the exploitation of children in the workplace. And Freud explained how the mind of a child could abuse itself. But children are not only vulnerable to being abused. They are also vulnerable to abusing others. They are notorious for bullying smaller children. They sexually molest and rape other children, sometimes brutally, and they frequently give birth outside of marriage. They use drugs, sell them on the street, and entice other children into addictions. They steal. They organize gangs that terrorize their neighborhoods. And, with seemingly increasing frequency, they kill other children, adults, and even their parents.

Churches, labor groups, teachers, and other reformers have long lobbied for child labor laws. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, a series of laws in Britain and the United States gradually shortened the hours, improved the conditions, and raised the age at which children can work. The United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, was the first legally binding international instrument to expand the full range of human rights to children. The Convention says that children everywhere have the right to survive; the right to develop their potential to the fullest; the right to protection from harmful influences, including abuse and exploitation; and the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. It also sets standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. All of the nations of the world, with the exception of the United States and Somalia, have ratified it. And they have, by doing so, committed themselves to develop and undertake all of their policies and actions in light of the best interests of the child or, simply put, to assume responsibility for our children.

But what, exactly, is a child? What are the different dimensions of childhood? Should we regard everyone under a certain age as a vulnerable child? Or everyone over that age as a responsible adult? And what, in any event, constitutes an abusive practice toward children? What are children vulnerable to? What does it mean to assume responsibility for a child? What are the different dimensions of such responsibility? How can a political convention, or a state, protect children when the world around them has been torn by war, natural disasters, or the breakup of their families? How can a political convention, or a state, protect the human rights of children if and when they are in conflict with the beliefs, values, and traditions of their families, societies, and cultures? How can we know what is in the best interest of a child? What concerns might parents, family members, and societies have about states assuming responsibility for their children? And what concerns might they have when states hold them responsible for the actions of their children?

This international online project brought together panelists from fourteen different countries in video-conferences to explore the different concerns that people might have about global responsibility for children, and develop different conceptual policy possibilities for addressing them.

If you are interested in further information about the process used to develop IF reports or IF’s work in general, we invited you to consult our website at interactivityfoundation.org

The PDF version of this report is available for download here

About the Interactivity Foundation
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.

Follow on Twitter: @IFTalks

Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/discussions/global-responsibility-for-children/

Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 28-page issue guide, Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence?, written by Tony Wharton was published on National Issues Forums Institute site on January 2017. This issue guide provides three options for deliberation around how communities should address the violence within their communities. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

After falling steadily for decades, the rate of violent crime in the United States rose again in 2015 and 2016. Interactions between citizens and police too often end in violence. People are increasingly worried about safety in their communities.

Many Americans are concerned that something is going on with violence in communities, law enforcement, and race that is undermining the national ideals of safety and justice for all.

It is unclear what is driving the recent rise in violence, but bias and distrust on all sides appear to be making the problem worse. Citizens and police need goodwill and cooperation in order to ensure safety and justice. For many people of color, the sense that they are being treated unfairly by law enforcement—and even being targeted by police—is palpable. Others say police departments are being blamed for the actions of a few individuals and that the dangers, stress, and violence law enforcement officers face in their work is underestimated. Still others hold that if we cannot find ways to defuse potentially violent interactions between citizens and police, we will never be able to create safe communities in which all people can thrive and feel welcomed and comfortable.

How should we ensure that Americans of every race and background are treated with respect and fairness? What should we do to ensure that the police have the support they need to fairly enforce the law? To what degree do racial and other forms of bias distort the justice system? What should we do as citizens to help reduce violence of all kinds in our communities and the nation as a whole? How should communities increase safety while at the same time ensuring justice? This issue guide is a framework for citizens to work through these important questions together. It offers three different options for deliberation, each rooted in different, widely shared concerns and different ways of looking at the problem. The resulting conversation may be difficult, as it will necessarily involve tensions between things people hold deeply valuable, such as a collective sense of security, fair treatment for everyone, and personal freedom. No one option is the “correct” one; each includes drawbacks and trade-offs that we will have to face if we are to make progress on this issue. They are not the only options available. They are presented as a starting point for deliberation.This issue guide presents three options for deliberation:

Option One: “Enforce the Law Together”
Expand policing while strengthening community-police partnerships. According to this option, residents and police officers in every community should focus on working together in ways that ensure that everyone feels safe. Americans should be able to expect that they can go about their daily lives, taking reasonable precautions, without becoming the victims of violence.

Option Two: “Apply the Law Fairly”
Remove injustices, reform inequities, and improve accountability. This option says that all Americans should be treated equitably, but that too often, some people are treated unfairly due to systemic bias throughout the criminal justice system and, in many cases, the way police go about their work.

Option Three: “De-escalate and prevent violence”
Address the causes of violence and take direct actions to disrupt conflict. BY ANY MEASURE, the United States is far more violent than other large developed nations. While violent crime has declined over the past decades, there is still far too much day-to-day violence, and the threat of it, in many communities. Many US cities have more murders than much larger countries. 

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/catalog/product/free-safety-and-justice-issue-guide-downloadable-pdf

Not in Our Town Quick Start Guide

The Not in Our Town Quick Start Guide: Working together for safe, inclusive communities, was created by Not in Our Town (NIOT) and updated March 2013. The guide gives five steps to begin a campaign in your town or school to stop hate, address bullying, and build safer communities together

Below is an excerpt from the guide, which can be downloaded from NIOT’s site here or at the link at the bottom of the page.

From the guide…

You may be someone who is concerned about divisions in your neighborhood or school, or you may live in a community that has experienced hate-based threats or violence. Even just one individual or a small group can start a movement to stand up to hate.

Not In Our Town is a program for people and communities working together to stop hate, address school bullying and build safe, inclusive environments for all.

This quick guide provides steps for starting a Not In Our Town campaign that fits your local needs.

The ideas in this guide came from people in communities like yours who wanted to do something about hate and intolerance. Their successful efforts have been a shining light for the Not In Our Town movement.

Guiding Principles:
The steps that follow align with these core ideas…

– Silence is acceptance.
– Visible inclusion sends a positive message.
– Change happens when we work together.

Steps for Starting a Not in Our Town Campaign:

Step 1: Map out your allies
Think big, but don’t be afraid to start small. Change can start with a handful of people. But creating broad-based support will not only help your campaign, it will pave the way for deeper connections throughout your town or city.

Whether you have an existing group or are creating a new one, do an inventory of the people and organizations who support diversity, want to foster inclusion, and who may share your concerns about hate activity. Be sure to reach out to community groups that represent the targets of hate.

Step 2: Convene a meeting to launch efforts
Arrange an initial meeting with the above groups and individuals. Develop an agenda that allows time for introductions and getting to know each other. Acknowledge that standing up to hate and fostering inclusion is a long-term problem that takes time, but there may be some issues that need swift action. Discuss how to build and maintain an ongoing group that suits local needs, keeps everyone informed, and allows for meaningful participation for everyone.

Then, get busy.

Step 3: Identify issue(s) of highest concern
Every Not In Our Town campaign takes on the characteristics of the community and responds to local issues and needs. Hate and intolerance take on many forms, and your first meeting is likely to surface one or more issues of concern. Is it racism, religious intolerance, sexual orientation bias, bullying in schools? What group is most affected by these acts of hate? What can the group do about it together? Who are the key leaders of the affected groups? How can they be included in the group planning?

Step 4: Make your values visible develop an inclusive community-based action plan

Create a plan to respond to the issues of highest concern in your community. You may adapt one or more ideas for your group:

– Public Events
– Pledges and Petitions
– School Engagement
– Film Screenings and Dialogue
– Public Displays of Support
– Proclamations and Welcome Signs

For examples from the Not In Our Town movement, including videos, how-tos and sample materials, see accompanying guide, “Ten Ideas for Sparking Action in Your Town.”

Step 5: Analyze success, connect, and learn from others

Talk to each other and your community about what’s working and what isn’t, what to do next time, and how to resolve any conflicts that arose between group members. Change is hard, and disagreements are inevitable, but they can be worked out if people commit to long-term, agreed upon goals.

Don’t forget to publicize and document your efforts so the ideas can spread and help recruit new community members. Take photos, film interviews, write articles and collect materials to share with the Not In Our Town community around the world. Email items to web@niot.org for inclusion on www.niot.org.

Map your story here: www.niot.org/map. On NIOT.org, you can share your successes, challenges and your town’s story, and connect and learn from others.

About Not in Our Townniot_logo
Not In Our Town is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all. Not In Our Town films, new media, and organizing tools help local leaders build vibrant, diverse cities and towns, where everyone can participate.

Our unique approach is based on the premise that real change takes place at the local level. We focus on solutions to inspire and empower communities to create a world where:

  • All residents stand together to stop hate and promote safety and inclusion for all
  • Students and school leaders work to prevent bullying and intolerance, and promote kindness
  • Law enforcement and communities join forces to prevent hate crimes and violence

Follow on Twitter: @notinourtown

Resource Link: www.niot.org/guide/quickstart

Dialogue on Sexual Assault

The article, Dialogue on Sexual Assault, by Natasha Dobrott was published April 2016 on Public Conversations Project‘s blog. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Dobrott discusses how college campus are talking about sexual assault. Many universities and colleges have come under scrutiny for both their Title IX violations and prevalence of sexual assault. The article uplifts some of the different ways that the conversations are taking place around addressing sexual assault on college campuses and the opportunity for more conversation around “healthy relationships, masculinity, and social norms”.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the original in full on Public Conversations Project blog here.

PCP_VigilFrom Public Conversations Project…

Engaging in Dialogue
The good news is that, at least in part due to the conversations that added scrutiny has inspired, students and administrators are talking about this issue on campus through formal and informal means more than ever. According to one Title IX administrator from the Boston area, sexual assault prevention is most successful when it is a “collaborative and iterative process” that involve the partnership of different stakeholders on campus. This includes raising awareness, teaching students how to keep themselves and their friends safe, and having adequate response teams in administration, law enforcement, and health services in the event that sexual assault does occur. One university embodied this idea of a collaborative and iterative process when it involved representatives from students, faculty, and administrative groups in revising its Title IX policies. This kind of opportunity allowed students to feel as though “they had agency and ownership in the process” and that their ideas were heard and taken into account. The schools that are most successful in sexual assault prevention have created multiple avenues such as this through which students, faculty, administrators, and law enforcement can discuss the issue, build trust, and maintain accountability.

Where is conversation about sexual assault happening?
Conversations about sexual assault take many forms on college campuses. Bystander Intervention is the most widespread avenue for conversation on this is issue. Teaching students to intervene in questionable situations they see that could result in sexual assault, programs like these focus largely on providing students with skills to recognize potentially risky situations and to safely intervene or diffuse the situation. Students can also participate in self-defense classes or student awareness and activism groups that focus on bringing attention to the problem with the intent of starting a conversation. Although programs like bystander intervention don’t address the problem from all angles, such discussing underlying gender norms, it does serve as a good way to encourage proactive conversation amongst students.

Where do we need more conversation?
A conversation lacking at many schools is the opportunity for discussions about healthy relationships, masculinity, and social norms. Sexual assault prevention is an “intrapersonal as well as an interpersonal problem,” said a women’s center program coordinator, meaning that students need to be able to explore their own internal influences and motivations. Conversations that help students explore the pressure to conform to gender norms or learn what healthy relationships actually look like are important in helping students to understand one another and “build a strong culture for each other,” as one Title IX administrator in New Hampshire pointed out. I have seen these on my own campus through student discussion groups about masculinity, sporadic events about gender norms, and even just this past week, a panel on healthy relationships. Creating more opportunities for students to learn and discuss these underlying problems helps students to connect with others, building that culture for others. Genuine curiosity and caring about other people’s experiences and how other people experience things can enhance the feeling of community and address sexual assault as not just an interpersonal problem, but also as an intrapersonal one.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/dialogue-sexual-assault

Building a Neighborhood of Economic Opportunity in Atlanta

This four-page case study (2014) from The Intersector Project outlines how cross-sector collaboration was used to transform the East Lake Meadows community in Atlanta, Georgia.

From the Intersector Project

In 1995, in the East Lake Meadows public housing complex located four miles from downtown Atlanta, only four percent of residents earned incomes above the poverty line. The unemployment rate was 86.5 percent, and the neighborhood was home to a multi-million dollar drug trade with a crime rate 18 times higher than the national average. Less than 10 percent of children attending the neighborhood elementary school met basic proficiency standards in math by fifth grade. In 1993, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) a $35 million grant to renovate the crumbling housing stock of East Lake Meadows. Renee Glover, who had recently joined AHA as President, realized that merely renovating housing would not create a safer, more prosperous community. Concurrently, Tom Cousins, Founder of Cousins Properties, Inc., formed the East Lake Foundation to support and lead an integrated and holistic community approach which would provide mixed income housing, cradle-to-college education, and community wellness resources through public and private partnerships. Along with Carol Naughton, a real estate attorney for AHA, and Greg Giornelli, the Executive Director of the East Lake Foundation, and neighborhood residents, Tom and Renee catalyzed a collaborative effort to transform East Lake Meadows. This model and its success led to the development of Purpose Built Communities – a national network that redevelops distressed communities in cities throughout the United States.

IP_Atlanta

“Cross-sector collaboration isn’t merely an option but a necessity to create neighborhoods where everyone can thrive. The necessary skill sets, funding streams, and leadership aren’t found only in one sector, but live in all sectors; collaborations allows for better coordination, more efficient use of resources, and greater impact. The revitalization of East Lake in Atlanta is a strong example of the power of cross-sector collaboration. Purpose Built Communities is helping leaders around the country use the model developed in East Lake to build healthy, sustainable neighborhoods with pathways to prosperity for the lowest income families.”— Carol Naughton, Senior Vice President, Purpose Built Communities

This case study, authored by The Intersector Project, tells the story of this initiative.

More about The Intersector ProjectThe Intersector Project
The Intersector Project is a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to empower practitioners in the government, business, and non-profit sectors to collaborate to solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. We provide free, publicly available resources for practitioners from every sector to implement collaborative solutions to complex problems. We take forward several years of research in collaborative governance done at the Center for Business and Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School and expand on that research to create practical, accessible resources for practitioners.

Follow on Twitter @theintersector.

Resource Link: http://intersector.com/case/eastlake_georgia/ (Download the case study PDF here.)

This resource was submitted by Neil Britto, the Executive Director at The Intersector Project via the Add-a-Resource form.

Crime & Punishment: Imagining a Safer Future for All (IF Discussion Guide)

Crime & Punishment: Imagining a Safer Future for All  is the newest discussion guide published by the Interactivity Foundation (IF). This booklet describes five contrasting policy possibilities or frameworks for addressing concerns over the future of our criminal justice system. These concerns include both the racial inequity and the many costs of our policies of mass incarceration, the “War on Drugs”, and general get-tough-on-crime policies.

Crime & PunishmentThe five policy possibilities are:

  1. Get Smart[er] to Prevent and Better Deter More Crime
  2. Support Families, Strengthen Community, Reintegrate Society
  3. Less Prison and More and Better Treatment for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
  4. Fix our Prison System
  5. Do the Right Thing

The Crime & Punishment discussion guide also includes introductory sections on:

  • Why we should talk about crime & punishment
  • “You be the judge”: a real life fact pattern to spur discussion
  • “Just the facts, Ma’am”: some recent data about our criminal justice system, and
  • Some Key discussion questions and considerations for evaluating all crime and punishment policies

Copies of the Crime & Punishment discussion guide for individual or small group use may be obtained, free of charge, from the Interactivity Foundation’s website by either (a) downloading a pdf (42 pages, 1.5 MB) or (b) submitting a request for printed copies (via a form also on IF’s website).

The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.

Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/new-discussion-guidebook-crime-punishment-now-available

Mental Illness in America: How Can We Address a Growing Problem? (NIF Issue Advisory)

In October 2013, National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) released an Issue Advisory that contains materials that can be used in deliberating over the issue of the impact of mental illness in America. This “issue advisory” is not a full NIF issue guide, but a basic outline of the options, entitled Mental Illness in America: How Do We Address a Growing Problem? It can be downloaded here.

From the introduction…cover_mental_illness_advisory350

Many Americans share a sense that something is wrong with how we address mental health and mental illness. More and more of us are taking medications for depression, hyperactivity, and other disorders. Meanwhile, however, dangerous mental illnesses are going undetected and untreated.

According to some, recent violent incidents reflect the need to increase security and increase our ability to detect mental illness. Others point to increasing numbers of veterans returning from overseas with post-traumatic stress disorders as a major concern. One in five Americans will have mental health problems in any given year. Unaddressed mental illness hurts individuals and their families and results in lost productivity. In rare cases, it can result in violence.

This Issue Advisory presents a framework that asks: How can we reduce the impact of mental
illness in America?

This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks:

  • Option One: Put Safety First – more preventive action is necessary to deal with mentally ill individuals who are potentially dangerous to themselves or others.
  • Option Two: Ensure Mental Health Services are Available to All Who Need them – people
    should be encouraged to take control over their own mental health and be provided the tools to do so.
  • Option Three: Let People Plot their Own Course – we should not rely on so many medical approaches and allow people the freedom to plot their own course to healthy lives.

Resource Link: http://nifi.org/stream_document.aspx?rID=25092&catID=6&itemID=25088&typeID=8 (pdf)

Talking about Guns and Violence: Strategies for Facilitating Constructive Dialogues

This 11-page essay by Greg Keidan, a public engagement specialist and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area, was written for the University of AZ’s National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD).  After the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NICD called for essays to address the challenges of conducting constructive conversations about gun violence in the U.S. As part of their mission, NICD seeks to promote civil discourse on issues of public interest and does not take a policy position on gun violence or gun control but is committed to encouraging a civil discussion.

NICD_logoArticulation of the Question

Guns are viewed by many people as a sacred emblem of American independence. We own enough nonmilitary guns to arm every man, woman, and child, plus a few million of our pets. Gun related violence accounts for 30,000-40,000 deaths each year in the U.S., approximately 60% by suicide.

Recent tragedies in Newtown and other communities involving horrific mass shootings have brought widespread calls for new efforts to address and reduce gun related violence. Unfortunately, the highly partisan, adversarial nature of our two-party system and this issue has proven to be a giant obstacle to finding common ground and common sense solutions. In the spring of 2013, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a compromise piece of legislation in response to public and Presidential demands for tighter background checks for people purchasing firearms online and at gun shows. Despite polls showing that 90% of American adults supported this compromise deal, influential advocates were able to sink the bill in the Senate.

A new approach to addressing and reducing gun related violence is desperately needed. It has been almost 20 years since Congress has passed any legislation to address the issue. A growing number of local and national organizations are interested in engaging diverse Americans in civil dialogue and deliberation to find consensus on common-sense solutions and to hold our leaders accountable for implementing them.

However, traditional public meetings where a few advocates each take their two minutes at the microphone often result in acrimonious shouting matches, rather than identifying areas of consensus where collaborative efforts could improve safety. I spoke with seasoned facilitators and thought leaders from the dialogue and deliberation movement to answer the following question: what are the emerging best practices and strategies for facilitating civil and constructive dialogues aimed at reducing the number of Americans killed and injured by guns?

From the Conclusion:

It is our hope that using these strategies may help engage a greater number of Americans in more productive discussions about guns and violence so that this issue does not become a permanent dividing line in American society. People who have an opportunity to listen deeply to a variety of perspectives will be less apt to vilify those they disagree with and more able to work together to find better solutions and areas of agreement that could serve as a basis for effective public policy.

The more Americans experience taking part in constructive, civil dialogues that lead to tangible positive outcomes, the more you work against the notion that what happens in public life is decided only by policy makers. Empowered, active and networked citizens can effectively address very difficult societal problems, as evidenced by the environmental and civil rights movements.

Communities, states and nations that learn how to effectively engage residents in dialogue on the issue of guns and violence will be better positioned to take collective action. They will be able to consider and implement policies in more informed, thoughtful, and effective ways that keep residents safer. If we can promote conversations about how to prioritize safety rather than conversations driven by fear, we have a better shot at creating policies that will effectively protect our children. Previous experiences have demonstrated that Americans who were locked in adversarial relationships can collaborate and achieve common goals when they take part in well facilitated, intelligently framed, sustained dialogues.

In the past, we have mostly heard the voices of people who express deeply held views representing the far ends of the spectrum of the gun rights vs. gun control debate. These vocal advocates don’t represent where most of us stand on the issue of guns and violence. If we can engage the majority of people who are not on one side or the other of the existing gun debate, make their voices heard and empower them to work with their neighbors to create change and communicate with decision-makers, we have a chance to make real progress towards preventing tragedies and making our country safer.

Resource Link: http://ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/Keiden-TalkingAbtGunsAndViolence.pdf

Bullying: What is it? How do we prevent it?

This issue guide was created by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in 2012 for Alabama Issues Forums that took place in 2012 and 2013. The issue guide provides a brief overview of the bullying issue and outlines three approaches to addressing this public issue.

Bullying-coverThe David Mathews Center—a non-profit, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization—does not advocate a particular solution to the bullying issue, but rather seeks to provide a framework for citizens to carefully examine multiple approaches, weigh costs and consequences, and work through tensions and tradeoffs among different courses of action.

The issue guide’s introductory essay, authored by Dr. Cynthia Reed of Auburn University’s Truman Pierce Institute, outlines the impact the bullying issue has on Alabama and the nation:

“Although bullying is often thought of as only a school-related problem, in reality it affects us all. Bullies can be students, parents, teachers, administrators, work colleagues, or others in the community. Likewise, bullying can occur at school, at work, at church, or at other community functions… Today, most states have legislation requiring schools to address bullying. Yet bullying remains prevalent in our schools, workplaces, and communities.”

The issue guide outlines three possible approaches to addressing the issue:

Approach One: “Get Tough on Bullying”
Reports of bullying incidents are reaching epidemic proportions. Bullying is unacceptable. It must be treated with zero tolerance. Increased reports of bullying in our schools demand that schools, principals, and school districts do more to help prevent and provide tougher consequences for bullying. We must ensure that district anti-harassment policies and student codes of conduct in Alabama are strictly enforced.

Approach Two: “Equip Students to Address Bullying”
Students need practical knowledge and skills to react to and report bullying. Not every young person understands what constitutes bullying and how to respond to it. Many feel powerless as victims and/or bystanders. Many bullies do not understand the effects of their actions. The lines between victims and bullies often become blurred when circumstances change and/or victims retaliate. The bullied may be charged as bullies if they retaliate. We should concentrate our efforts on educating students about bullying and how to respond to it. We should create supportive, enriching school cultures that equip young people to address the root causes of bullying.

Approach Three: “Engage the Community and Parents in Bullying Solutions”
Bullying is a widespread behavior. It is not limited to schools. Parents and the community should accept more responsibility for talking about and preventing bullying. The cost is too high for the community if bullying is not addressed. Bullies take up school time and police time. Bullies can end up convicted of crimes when they reach adulthood. Teachers and administrators do not have the time, personnel, and resources to eradicate all bullying. They cannot address its complex root causes outside the school environment. We, individually and through our community organizations, must communicate to young people that bullying is unacceptable. A great amount of bullying and violent behavior begins in the home. We must reach out to parents. We must reach out to young people. Some young people do not have supportive home environments and need community help.

More About DMC Issue Guides…

David Mathews Center issue guides are named and framed by Alabama citizens for Alabama Issues Forums (AIF) during a biennial “Citizens’ Congress” and follow-up workshops. Alabama Issues Forums is a David Mathews Center signature program designed to bring Alabama citizens together to deliberate and take community action on an issue of public concern. Digital copies of all AIF issue guides, and accompanying post-forum questionnaires, are available for free download at www.mathewscenter.org/resources.

For further information about the Mathews Center, Alabama Issues Forums, or this publication, visit www.mathewscenter.org.

Resource Link: www.mathewscenter.org//wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Bully-Brochure_press_PMS.pdf

This resource was submitted by Cristin Foster of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life via our Add-a-Resource form.