Zero Tolerance = Zero Retaliation
A volatile situation can arise unless you implement both.
Bullying is a huge problem in the schools and the workplace.
Fine to announce that zero tolerance is part of the program. But retaliation can be far worse than the bullying. May even escalate to levels of violence beyond the initial incident.
Consequences for a child can be physical. In the workplace results can end in being demoted, singled out as a troublemaker, or fired.
Negotiating the issues
Zero tolerance serves no purpose unless you can negotiate a truce between bully and victim. Without a workable program to address the possibility of retaliation, an unbearable situation can turn into an emotional trauma for the victim.
Who would tell on someone if no action takes place? The goal is not only to stop future encounters with the bully, but to diffuse bad blood against the victim and to assure it is not proliferating among friends of the bully.
The schools and the workplace don’t do enough to ensure safety for victims. Adults can avoid fellow employees when not at work. Laws protect them from physical harm. If one child hits another and causes bruises, adults try to intervene and tell them the behavior is not acceptable. If an adult hits another adult causing bruises they can file charges and an arrest can happen.
Children have a bigger problem when they lack support from the schools.
Children can’t jump in their cars and take off to avoid other students. Many walk home, ride the school bus, or frequent the same neighborhoods.
In schools, students coexist close to their peers, more than adults do in most workplaces. This proximity causes friction between students. Students will push and shove to get their three foot space of comfort.
Workplaces should at the point of hire, inform employees of zero tolerance for bullying. They need to define what bullying encompasses. The news has brought attention to many facets of what can classify as inappropriate behavior in the workplace. If employees are aware their position in the company will not protect them from being fired, victims of bullying can diminish in a company.
Programs in action
Sycamore Elementary School in Redding California has a zero tolerance program. I know the principal and witness what happens. Two boys bullying a girl made her upset. The principal talked to each one. She took the problem as a serious matter. Easy to say “don’t do it again”, but unless the victim feels assured that no further bullying will take place you do nothing to alleviate the problem and can even make it worse.
Another incident at the school started with words back and forth, ending in five boys fighting. The five boys first spoken to as a group. Later alone and again together to work out a plan to solve their issues. Two of the boys became advocates against bullying. A win-win for the boys and the school. To empower children to stand up against being bullied and others to be advocates for victims gives them self-esteem.
Children should get the resources and confidence to speak out against bullying when they are young.
Long term effects
Bullied as a child leaves a person vulnerable for being victimized their whole life. Afraid to tell for being called a liar, not believed, or accused of exaggeration of allocations. Many childhood victims encounter hard times as adults to tell someone “No”. It can become a life-time of victimization trying to cope with guilt others have inflicted. Over the years they try to re-build the humiliation, if they can.
Everyone has a right to be respected, a right to tell people “No”, a right to make your own choices without fear.
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