A Bullying Lesson from an Inspiring Teacher: Character Is Destiny

This article was originally published on October 30, 2017. In it, education leader Bill Jackson recounts a lesson about character he has never forgotten.

I don’t remember much of 6th grade other than the day Mr. Kastroll cancelled our regular classes and taught an impromptu lesson on character. No math that day. No art or PE. Just lecture, discussion, reflection, and writing on a choice we had made.  

Early that morning a 5th-grade girl had been physically bullied by another 5th grader. A 5th-grade matter, you might say, but the problem was that many of us in the 6th grade had seen the incident—and we had done nothing about it.  

The girl who had been bullied was injured and upset. Mr. Kastroll was livid.  

How could we possibly have seen this and done nothing, he wanted to know. He didn’t ask us this question just once or twice and then let the matter slide. As I recall it, he lectured us for more than an hour about our individual and collective failure.  

I also recall that it didn’t feel like a lecture in the traditional sense. The talk he gave us, along with the reflective writing and discussions we did, felt more like a punch in the gut.  

Mr. Kastroll wanted us to see that moment as a test of character that we had failed. He wanted us to know that failing to act in the face of injustice perpetrated by others is itself an injustice. We were to think of ourselves as defenders of justice and kindness and safety on our school campus, he told us. Inaction in the face of serious challenges to those norms was hardly better than direct violations of the norms.  

I’ve never forgotten this lesson, even if I haven’t always lived up to it.  

I think of character as “values made manifest” through human behavior. On the one hand, we hold in our hearts certain aspirations for our behavior. We may aim to be kind, just, and reverent. But how do we bring these aspirations to life through our actions? When other people aren’t watching or when there is a significant price to be paid, what are we really committed to doing?  

An old cliché teaches us that character is something more “caught” than taught. From a young age, children are watching their parents and peers for clues about how to behave. They’re absorbing the norms of the community—the virtues and values that that community prizes above all others. 

Another old cliché is also true: Character is destiny. There is no more important focus for teachers and parents than character formation.  

So ask yourself: what are the norms of my community? Are they what I and others want them to be? And how should the adults who care for students and children collaborate to help them internalize the norms to which we’re deeply committed? 

Bill Jackson founded GreatSchools.org, and now leads RaiseReadyKids.com to help parents of children before they reach school age.

Bullying, health issues inspire 6-year-old to spread kindness online

Illinois first-grader Ayden Cazares knows what it feels like to have a broken heart.

As a kindergartner at Ridge Elementary School in Plainfield, bullies targeted the boy by pulling down his pants, biting him and shoving him off a slide, his mother, Nelly Sainez, told the Plainfield Patch.

What the bullies likely did not know is Cazares was battling a congenital heart defect, for which he underwent surgery in August. The experience wasn’t easy, and while the now 6-year-old is recovering, he’s not sitting around sulking about his situation. Instead, he launched a Facebook page with his mother’s help to reach out to kids less fortunate than himself, to offer encouragement and help make their birthday wishes come true.

Sainez said the family came up with the idea last year when they decided to give away some of Ayden’s old toys to kids in need, and it’s since evolved into “adopting” a family for Christmas and daily video messages of support to kids who write in to the Facebook page, Aiden’s Fulfilling Your Birthday Wish.

“We found a single mom with two boys with autism and gave away toys and clothes,” Sainez said. “It just went from there.”

“He just loves making the videos,” she said.

Aiden said it’s rewarding to give presents to other kids on their birthdays, especially those who have similar stories of bullying.

“I want them to feel happy,” Cazares told CBS Chicago. “If they don’t feel happy, I don’t feel happy.”

The first-grader issued a challenge to his followers for Bullying Prevention Month in October to “be nice to someone and do something for them,” and his constant focus on others is gaining a lot of attention.

The New York-based See the Wish/Be-A-Friend Project highlighted the “6-year-old Upstander from Chicago” and collected encouraging letters from students across the country to offer support.

Through mid-October, the See the Wish campaign had collected nearly 1,000 personal letters from students commending Cazares for overcoming his life struggles and inspiring others to endure through kindness.

“You did so awesome with them, with the boys hurting you,” wrote Jaelen, a student from Texas. “You inspired me to ‘kill people with kindness.’ You are a good role model for people for all ages.”

Cazares’ experience highlights perhaps the most foundational concept of character education.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, wrote in his book “The Death of Character”:

Implicit in the word character is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.

Parents and educators looking to inspire similar selfless kindness can find a variety of resources from The Great Kindness Challenge, an annual event put on by the nonprofit Kids for Peace.

The one-week event can be tailored to schools or families, and uses a checklist to help show youngsters what kindness really means. In 2018, more than 10 million students in nearly 20,000 schools carried out over 500 million acts of kindness in 103 countries during the last week in January.

“The Great Kindness Challenge provided an opportunity for our students to care for each other in ways that went above and beyond their normal interactions,” California elementary school principal Chad Lund said. “As a result, we noticed a real impact on the school’s culture with a decrease in bullying and an increase in compassion, unity and respect.”


Justice Against Bullying at School uses slime to teach students how to handle bullies

Students in Kalamazoo, Michigan are fighting bullying, one batch of slime at a time.

About a dozen students from Kalamazoo area schools recently met at the Community Center of New Village Park to mix up their favorite concoction, a monthly reward for good behavior and regular attendance at weekly Justice Against Bullying in Schools (JABS) meetings.

The JABS Slime Club is one of four themed JABS clubs in the area that now draw about 60 students to discussions about how to handle and defuse bullying. The effort – which has expanded to include clubs focused on gardening, dancing and sewing, as well – bloomed from a single club of eight students in 2016 launched by Gwendolyn Hooker, whose granddaughter Justyce was forced to switch schools because of relentless torment.

The regular meetings give students a venue to discuss run-ins with bullies, a game plan for how to react, and an opportunity to bond with their classmates over a shared interest, Second Wave reports.

JABS’ anti-bullying message takes the form of the acronym D.T.T.E.

According to Second Wave:

D: Defend yourself, which might mean covering up or running. T: Tell an adult in charge, such as a teacher or administrator. T: Tell another teacher or administrator, or a parent, grandparent or trusted friend. And E: Express yourself to let your feelings out. D.T.T.E.

“Nobody should violate you personally,” Hooker tells students. “No one should touch you without your permission and make you feel bad. If they do, it’s up to adults to intervene.”

Much of the group’s work centers on restorative justice practices, which aims to bring bullies and their victims together to repair damage caused and to increase the likelihood that offenders will not reoffend. Many kids who bully others, Hooker explains, are often suffering through their own problems at home. Students at the October slime making session concocted blue glittery goo, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Hooker told the education site she founded JABS because she couldn’t find anti-bullying groups to connect with when her granddaughter was under attack, but the club has since halted the girl’s harassment and brought together numerous community groups to rally around the cause.

“Hooker says that in its two short years, JABS has accrued partnerships from across the city, including KYDNET, the Anti-Bully Squad Partners of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Interfaith Neighborhood Homes Network, Northside Recovery and Resource Center, the Youth Ministry of First Congregationalist Church, Lightning Kicks Martial Arts, Gurlz of Color and the Northside Association for Community Development, just to name a few,” Second Wave reports.

“I had no idea JABS was going to turn into such a needed thing,” Hooker said. “You have to invest in the place you live, work and play. If everyone invested in where they lived, they would profit.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, points to the importance of addressing specifics of a community’s moral ecology to create personalized solutions to bullying that actually work.

“We can only care for the young in their particularity,” Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education programs in a wide variety of schools. “If we are not attentive to and understanding of these contexts, we are not caring for real, live human beings, but rather abstractions that actually don’t exist at all.”

The federal website StopBullying.gov offers a wide variety of tools and information for parents, guardians, educators and others to push back against bullies, from laws and policies to training and research resources.

OH students show commitment to kindness to raise funds for school security

Students in Geneva, Ohio schools are showing off their commitment to kindness for all to see.

Middle and high schools recently pledged to treat everyone with kindness during an event to kickoff a month of kindness awareness programs. The effort, designed by Geneva Parents for School Safety, coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month in October, the Star Beacon reports.

“Kindness is the key to overcoming bullying,” Geneva Parents for School Safety co-director and counselor Marti Milliken Dixon said. “Young people who are kind to each other have far fewer instances of bullying behavior. Teaching a young person kindness is an effective way to improve our society both locally and globally.”

About 100 students tied red and white ribbons on a fence outside of school to show their commitment to treating others with respect and intervening in bullying situations – a display that will greet visitors throughout the month.

“The ribbons blowing in the breeze will be a month-long reminder of their pledge,” Dixon said. “When we empower young people to stand up to the bullies and use positive peer pressure to curb these behaviors, the benefits are palpable. This activity also provides young people with a tangible representation of their good work.”

The kindness pledge event – along with rock painting at elementary schools, compliments day at the middle school, and the creation of a kindness garden at the community library – also serve as fundraisers for Geneva Parents for School Safety to purchase 251 emergency lockdown barriers for every classroom in Geneva Area City Schools, the Star Beacon reports.

“We’re currently at 30 percent of our fundraising goal,” Geneva Parents co-director Margie Netzel said. “Our sponsors have shown they understand the need for safety in our schools and are helping to make it happen.”

Administrators throughout the district spoke up in support of the program, and applauded the focus on rallying the community together around kindness.

“Anything we can do to help kids be sensitive to others and kinder is a positive thing,” Geneva High School Principal Douglas Wetherholt said. “The anti-bullying message is important to us.”

“We want to involve the entire community in this effort,” middle school principal Alex Anderson added.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed to the importance of school practices and connections to the community in “The Content of Their Character,” an analysis of character education in a variety of different U.S. schools.

“How a school is organized, the course structure and classroom practices, the relationship between school and outside civic institutions – all these matter in the moral and civic formation of the child,” Hunter wrote.

Parents and educators looking for tips to combat bullying can find a variety of resources from Champions Against Bullying. The group’s “No-Nonsense Guide To Kids’ Bullying Solutions,” for example, teaches students “prevention and intervention strategies, immediate practical solutions and safe and effective ways to help a friend who is being targeted by bullies,” among other topics.

Student knife incidents prompt FL district to highlight anti-bullying efforts

Two recent incidents of Lake County, Florida students carrying knives to class is prompting school officials to step up efforts to promote the district’s anti-bullying hotline in October – National Bullying Prevention Month.

Fred Jones, a sergeant with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and longtime school resource officer, told Spectrum News both students brought the weapons to school for protection against bullies, but will be charged with a felony for bringing the weapons to school.

In one instance last month, a 10-year-old girl at Minneola Elementary Charter School told police she stashed a kitchen knife inside a stuffed animal she carried in her backpack “for protection.” Days later, a South Lake High School student caught with a knife told police he “carried on a daily basis” to protect against bullies, according to the news site.

“Maybe that is something inside of them that they feel they need to, maybe it is a culture that says ‘I need to protect myself, I am looking out for me.’ But it is a dangerous one,” said Jones.  “If your kid is having a problem, they don’t feel comfortable coming in, please give the school resource officer or deputy a call. Talk to them, and let us address it.”

Jones pointed to the district’s SpeakOut hotline, coordinated through the Central Florida Crimeline, as one way students can report bullying and remain anonymous. Students can also text “speakout” to 274637 or use the P3 Campus App to make reports, Jones said.

School and sheriff’s officials posted a message about National Bullying Prevention Month on the district’s Facebook page as well to remind families of the consequences of bullying in Lake County schools.

“Many times, bullying is directly related to comments or actions threatening our schools. A threat or even a joke about shooting up the school is not cool. Children will be prosecuted and suspended immediately pending a threat assessment by school administration,” according to the Facebook post.

“Bullying, including cyber-bullying, will not be tolerated in Lake County Schools. Have a talk with your kids and make sure they understand that we have a zero-tolerance concerning threats to our schools and students.”

Crafting a coherent anti-bullying message is an important component of effective moral education that’s not as easy as it seems, according to researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

“This failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character”

Often, educators simply avoid “providing serious direction on what was right and what was wrong,” Hunter wrote.

Officials in Lake County Schools clearly understand the important role educators play in keeping kids safe and conveying important messages about character. The SpeakOut hotline is one of several ways educators in the district are going beyond talk to put the message into action.

The SpeakOut website offers more information about the three different ways of reporting bullying through the program, which is tailored to students in elementary, middle and high schools.

Anti-bullying experts credit NJ anti-bullying laws for creating safer schools

In New Jersey, school anti-bullying coordinators are crediting one of the nation’s oldest anti-bullying laws with helping to keep classrooms safe.

New Jersey passed its first anti-bullying law in 2002 requiring schools to offer anonymous reporting and conduct investigations into complaints. Lawmakers followed up nine years later with an expansion known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which better defined bullying and mandated anti-bullying coordinators at every school, as well as specific timelines and procedures for investigating incidents, the Burlington County Times reports.

Anti-bullying coordinators said the laws provided schools with a blueprint for identifying and responding to both bullies and victims, along with training to help students develop kindness and civic responsibility.

“I think the New Jersey anti-bullying bill of rights does a great job encompassing every area,” Pemberton Township coordinator Rita Jenkins told the news site. “I say we’re fortunate with the big plug with character education. We’re very conscientious to make sure that we’re teaching these responsibilities, and ultimately that will help with the bullying situation.”

And that’s important because according to the data, bullying is a major contributor to school violence overall.

The Times reports:

The FBI’s 2017 guidelines for violence prevention in schools said bullying is often a precursor to school violence, and in 71 percent of instances of targeted school violence, the most common motive among perpetrators was ‘revenge’ for bullying.

New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws put schools, parents, lawmakers, counselors and others involved with students on the same page, while offering opportunities to build relationships.

Pemberton Child Study Team Supervisor Holly Corsanico said stronger relationships between students and adults in schools, in particular, helps to both identify troubled students and prevent them from doing something they might regret.

“I think that’s one of these stemming things with these cases that have occurred is, did they have – could we have prevented it by having connections and having an outlet and someone to speak with?” Corsanico said. “Because you’re really not going to hurt someone if you have a relationship with them, or you’re less likely to hurt anyone if you have some type of bond or connection with them.”

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, highlighted the critical importance of presenting a unified message to students on issues involving character and moral values in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

Moral education can work where the community, and schools and other institutions within it, share a moral culture that is integrated and mutually reinforcing; where the social networks of adult authority are strong, unified, and consistent in articulating moral ideals and their attending virtues; and where adults maintain a ‘caring watchfulness’ over all aspects of a young person’s maturation.

Teachers and parents interested in character education can look to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues for lessons and resources on a variety of topics. Lessons like “The Virtue of Friendliness and Civility” encourage students to consider the perspective of Aristotle in exploring the impact of their actions on themselves and others.

TN schools stress importance of ‘upstanders,’ reporting tools in fight against bullying

Tennessee teen Cicela Hernandez has been on both sides of bullying.

After relentless teasing about the way she dressed, hair on her leg, and her family’s financials, Hernandez turned the tables to torment other students to vent her frustrations. She eventually began to lash out in class, and to harm herself in a destructive cycle that also involved sexual abuse in a home she shared with her mother and another family member.

It wasn’t until a sixth-grade teacher stopped to talk to Hernandez about her troubles that she started on a path to recovery that ultimately led to graduation and a scholarship to attend college.

“I really couldn’t control much of the anger I felt inside,” Hernandez told The Tennessean. “He was the first person to ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’”

Hernandez’s story could have ended much differently, and it illustrates the critical role “upstanders” play in the lives of the roughly 21 percent of teenage students who experience bullying in U.S. schools each year, according to the news site.

“If they don’t know how to access help or they feel like nobody cares about them, that’s the worst-case scenario,” said Lauren Dickson, a social worker for STARS, a Nashville nonprofit focused on bullying, substance abuse and violence among youth. “In those situations, problems just get bigger. They can fester.”

Brought to their ultimate conclusion, they can also lead to the types of disgruntled student shootings plaguing schools across the country. And preventing a tragic outcome often rests on the adults in students’ lives, and resources available to help.

Numerous hotlines, available both in person and through text, offer counseling, from the Tennessee statewide crisis line, to the National Suicide Prevention, to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Schools in Tennessee and numerous other states are also working with anti-bullying apps for smartphones to streamline the reporting process.

But Rodger Dinwiddle, CEO of STARS, contends it’s the adults in students’ lives that can make the biggest difference.

“Dinwiddle talks about the ‘web of five’ confidants for kids,” The Tennessean reports. “This is a group of at least five adults – a teacher, a counselor, a coach, someone in a faith community, an aunt, a grandparent, a mentor – whom a child trusts enough to talk to about any issues they may face at home and school.”

“It’s really important for kids to feel safe with somebody in that school building that they can report to,” he said. “So that if anything happens to them, there is someone there to catch them.”

Dinwiddle explained it’s about developing habits of looking for signs of trouble to intervene before it’s too late. It’s about creating upstanders – rather than bystanders – to bullying and other issues through a new tradition of kindness and compassion.

James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed to the importance of establishing those habits and traditions to prompt people to take action when the time is right.

“What empathy we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person,” Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America.” “But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.”

In Tennessee, more than 180 schools have signed up with the anonymous reporting app STOPit to allow students to share their concerns about bullying classmates or other dangers.

“Students are digital natives and many choose to communicate, first, through digital means rather than face-to-face conversations,” Robb Killen, Maury County Public Schools’ supervisor of counseling, said on the STOPit website. “This program meets them where they are … they can, more easily, stand up for each other and create a culture of safety, caring, and respect.”

CO schools refocus on drug use, bullying after ‘school snapshot’ survey

A recent “School Snapshot” survey showed students in Colorado’s Summit School District struggle with bullying and substance abuse at a higher rate than the state average, and administrators aren’t taking the news lightly.

Results from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed 55.2 percent of students at Summit Middle School reported being bullied, just over 11 percent higher than the statewide average, while 20.8 percent of high-schoolers said the same, compared to 18.1 percent statewide, the Summit Daily reports.

High school students also used alcohol, vaporizer or e-cigarettes, marijuana and regular cigarettes at higher rates than students statewide.

“We take these results seriously, and we don’t want to see our kids taking illegal substances, alcohol or marijuana underage,” Julie McCluskie, spokeswoman for the district, told the Summit Daily.

McCluskie said the district is already taking a variety of steps to address the issues, such as including bullying in its “Second Step” social and emotional curriculum, new school counselors and social workers, and an anonymous Safe2Tell reporting system, which provides an avenue for students with concerns about suicide, bullying, violence or drugs.

“Over the last five years we’ve seen a rise in the number of students who express stress, anxiety and depression,” McCluskie said. “There’s also been an increase in students threatening self-harm and suicide. That’s been the focus for us the last few years. Our numbers are lower than state averages, but it’s always concerning if kids have those feelings. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure no child feels lost, alone or does anything to harm themselves.”

The survey provided some hints that the efforts are making an impact.

The percentages of students who felt sad or helpless for two weeks in a row or more, and those who considered or attempted suicide are all below the statewide average. The survey also revealed 89 percent of the Summit middle school students, and 87 percent of high school students, said they had someone to talk to when they felt helpless, the Summit Daily reports.

“The school district takes our responsibility to keep kids safe and healthy very seriously, but we can’t do it alone,” said McCluskie. “When our parents are engaging not only with the school work, but also being supportive of social and emotional challenges the kids are facing, those kids will be more successful and safe…there are concerns for us in this data. What’s important now is that we respond to that as a school district and as a community. Nothing is more important.”

Summit administrators are already establishing new practices through curriculum, staffing, and methods of communicating with students that will compel action and change.

Sociologist James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, wrote in his book “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

What we feel may help us understand someone else’s needs, and even feel the desire to help that person. But without embedded habits and moral traditions, empathy does not tell us what to do, nor when, nor how.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a broader look at teen drug use with the 2017 “Monitoring the Future Survey: High School and Youth Trends.”

The survey of eighth, 10th and 12th grade students in hundreds of schools across the country shows “past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana holding steady at the lowest levels in over two decades.”


Parents complain about student survey about bullying, violence and sex assault

Efforts in a South Carolina school to broach sexual assault and other sensitive subjects with students is meeting resistance from some parents who believe the discussions are better left at home.

Jennifer McAteer, mother of a Lancaster High School student, told WCNC she was disappointed when her son texted her about a school sex survey he was asked to complete in class last week.

“You know, if they want to do a survey, that’s fine do a survey, do it online with your mom and dad, mail it, whatever, but this isn’t something to go in the classroom and be presented with before parents know and before we can talk about it with our minor children,” she said.

“I hope that this does not start the conversation, which it has,” McAteer said. “I think this should be talked about with me and my children, not through children and my children. This should be talked about at home.”

Paul McKenzie, the district’s veteran research director, told the news site he crafted the survey as part of a broader effort to gauge teen perceptions of bullying, violence and sexual assault ahead of a new program called “Engaging Men and Boys.”

The survey includes questions such as: “You’re at a party and a girl there is drunk and passes out. Some boys decide to take her to a bedroom and take turns having sex with the young lady, what would you do?”

“It’s an effort to get young men that when bad things happen, they stand up and take a stance,” McKenzie said. “And so that’s what that question was, ‘What would you do? Would you call the police? Would You call a parent? Would you not know what to do at all?’”

“Engaging Men and Boys” is an elective course at the school run by the group “Palmetto Citizens Against Sexual Assault” using a curriculum developed in coordination with a local church. The class is designed to include church leaders, police and other community leaders to help serve as role models for students who don’t have a strong male influence at home.

The survey, McKenzie said, serves as a baseline for progress.

“The data that we collect is not only to identify problems but also to help us generate solutions and monitor to see if they’re working or not,” he said.

A year-long Associated Press investigation published last year uncovered roughly 17,000 reports of sex assaults by K-12 students between 2011 and 2015.

Researchers with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia noted that some public high school teachers’ are reluctant to engage students in controversial issues like sexual assault and that this has potential to undermines character education.

They observed “this failure to provide a fully developed and broadly coherent moral message was partly due to public school teachers’ reluctance to opine on controversial issues,” Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Content of Their Character,” a summary of character education in a wide variety of schools.

The situation means many often refrain from “providing serious direction on what is right and what is wrong,” Hunter wrote.

A 2010 study from the University of Newcastle takes a deeper look at “Teaching about, and dealing with, sensitive issues in schools,” particularly from the perspective of pre-service teachers.

“Teachers are developing an increasingly active role in the education of students in areas of sensitivity, including issues such as sexuality, mental health, grief and loss and child protection. There is a growing expectation for teachers to become competent not only in educating students in these areas but also in recognizing and dealing with such matters if and when they arise in the classroom,” according to the study.

“However, a large proportion of teachers express discomfort in these areas, resulting in negative outcomes for both teachers and students.”

Barbados teachers learn restorative practices to address student discipline

The island nation of Barbados may soon officially adopt restorative practices as part of its national education model, according to a Canadian social justice group who works to train educators on an alternative approach to student discipline.

Velma Newton, regional director of the Canada-based IMPACT Justice, told Barbados TODAY the group has trained 219 Barbadian educators out of 867 in the Caribbean on restorative practices, which aim to create discussion and conversations and repair relationships when student conflicts arise.

The intervention method, which has also gained momentum in U.S. school districts in recent years, is based on restorative justice practices in the criminal justice system dating back to the 1970s that rely on mediation and reconciliation between offenders and victims, rather than punishments or zero-tolerance policies.

“We have trained over 100 educators in Barbados. We have done principals, deputy principals, guidance counselors, ordinary teachers, education officers, representatives of all groups in the educational system … because we firmly believe that the restorative practices, the principles, if properly applied, can help to curb violence,” Newton told the news site.

Newton said IMPACT Justice is working with Senior Education Officer Patricia Warner and Guidance Counselor Julia Edey to train all educators on restorative practices. The group also hopes to include the principal of the local Erdiston Teachers Training College in those sessions, as well, “because we would like restorative practices to be included in their curriculum so that as class teachers are trained, they would get used to the concepts and how to apply them in schools.”

The intent is to eventually create a regional association to advocate for restorative practices in all schools, Newton said, adding that Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw seemingly supports the effort.

Newton wrote to Bradshaw about including restorative justice in the curriculum, and “her response shows that she is willing to look at restorative practices as something that can be included in the curriculum, not necessarily in secondary schools … (but) certainly we include it as a practice,” Newton told Barbados TODAY.

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture have noted the significant impact school culture has on students’ character, and why efforts to create a positive learning environment is critical.

Institute founder James Davison Hunter wrote in “The Tragedy of Moral Education in America”:

The form of character is one thing, but the substance of character always takes shape relative to the culture in which it is found.

While IMPACT Justice and other groups focus on restorative practices designed to repair harm stemming from student conflicts, others offer resources for preventing school violence, bullying, suicide and other issues in advance.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, for one, offers a “prevention curriculum,” suggestions for a “peaceful school bus,” “comprehensive suicide awareness,” and other materials to help parents and educators to keep kids safe at school.

The Olweus site features online courses and reports about bullying, readiness assessments and training certifications, as well.