And so the School Violence Prevention Act tour of the state continues! Last week, interns Greer and Wes and I (Rebecca) went to Fayetteville for our latest community meeting on the SVPA. Thanks to a tip from our friend Jessica Ackley over at Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, we connected with Dr. Melissa Barlow over at the Institute for Community Justice at Fayetteville State University. A big thanks to Dr. Barlow for hosting us in the great Institute office, and for spreading the word about the meeting on campus!
Participants were a good blend of community members and FSU students—thanks in large part to professors in Social Work and Criminology who brought their classes. They kept us on our toes with questions about bullying victims’ rights and the types of punishment the bullies, themselves, may incur in public schools. We talked in much more detail about this than we had in previous meetings, thanks to participants’ insightful dialogue. This is one of the many things I love about traveling across the state to talk about the SVPA: the wide variety of experiences and points of view that people bring to the table. One participant remarked that bullying shows “a profound lack of mindfulness…[bullies] don’t have the skills to think about the harm they are doing.” It was a great reminder that the SVPA isn’t just about the kids who are being bullied, but the bullies, themselves—whom often we neglect to include. When kids learn that no peer should be “fair game” to torment at school, it’s a step toward empathy for others. It’s not just about protecting the target of harassment, but about challenging students to be better people. And that will make schools and communities safer for everyone.