Faculty attend bullying conference

On Friday, Nov. 5, Guidance Counselor Emily Vaughn joined Assistant Head of School Laura Hotchkiss and Grade Level Deans Allison Moser, Sandra O’Connor, Reid Cottingham and Regina Rosi at New Roads school in Santa Monica for a conference on school-related bullying. The conference, called “No Bully: Solution Team and Solution Coaching,”  consisted of teachers explaining methods students can use to find solutions when their peers are bullied.

At this all-day event, teachers met with deans and counselors from independent and charter schools throughout the greater Los Angeles area to discuss the underlying causes of bullying from the perspective of both the bully and the target.

“The goal is to bring back information that engages students to mediate campus problems themselves,” said Vaughn, who added that the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released a study in 2007 showing America ranks 2nd to last in childhood well-being among industrialized countries.

“It comes first from hurt feelings and people feeling misjudged,” Vaughn said. “I think bullying here has to do more with inclusion and exclusion. Some girls are made obviously aware of exclusion, and it only becomes easier when many comments are made towards one other on the Internet.”

When bullying is brought up, however, most girls at Marlborough said they don’t feel as though it’s an issue.

“I think we have such trust here that there can’t  be cases of bullying,” said Olivia Holavird ’16.

This sentiment is echoed throughout the grades.

“There are different extremes of bullying here and how people perceive them,” said Tara Lio ’12. “Sometimes friends joke with each other, and these actions may be seen as bullying from someone looking from outside.”

However, while the Honor Code makes up Marlborough’s very foundation, one aspect of bullying is inescapable on all campuses.

“Middle and high school girls often bully by using relational influence to turn other students against someone and isolate them,” Vaughn said. Studies show that exclusion creates the same mental effects that physical abuse does, so both cases are equally devastating.

Bullying cases have recently made headlines, including an incident at Rutgers in late September where a student was bullied to his suicide, mainly due to insensitivity on the Internet.

“I think that we’re really lucky that we are able to be in such a comfortable environment,” said Evan Lynyak ’13, who believes that bullying is not a factor on campus. However, she has seen firsthand cases of online bullying.

“It’s hard to regulate behavior on the Internet,” Lynyak said, “and [on the Internet] it’s hard to hold people accountable for their actions.”

According to Vaughn, adults’ roles in preventing and solving such problems are also key in creating a safer campus environment.

“Studies also show that adults ‘punishing’ bullies can often make the situation worse, and so the most effective method to combat bullying may be student-led,” Vaughn said.

According to attendees, the next goal is to include students in the discussion.

“Gathering a group of students is the most effective way to solve the problem,” said 7th Grade Level Dean Sandra O’Connor. “I’m excited to use [these] methods if we ever have to.”