It’s Kids Day at X Games 2020, where local schools enrolled in the Shred Hate program are invited to spend time with athletes and talk about their bullying experiences. In the crowd stand students from KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School. The excitement and positivity emanating from group is palpable. With such a strong sense of community, it is clear they are no strangers to Shred Hate’s practices and Solution Teams.
This is because they have spent significant time working with students and parents to define what modern bullying is, what it looks like, and how students and teachers should intervene.
Thanks to the community’s dedication to the initiative, school officials had a pretty clear idea of what sorts of incidents they would be dealing with when they decided to implement the Shred Hate program.
Though they didn’t see “a large bullying concern” at their school at first, they knew the program would complement and integrate well with all the other modalities they were working with. These include restorative practices, trauma-informed care, social-emotional learning, and more. The addition of Solution Teams “would be beneficial in how we work with students overall,” said Dave Vaale, the school’s Director of Culture.
They also loved that the Solution Teams were built to be student-initiated and student-run. In these teams, an educator brings together the bully and other students in the community so they can understand how to best make the target feel included and safe. The meetings focus on using empathy and social-emotional learning so students can understand how the target of the bullying feels, thus developing a solution that tackles both student well-being and the dynamic between bully and target.
Right away, they started seeing impact.
“Students who brought concerns of bullying to our attention and opted into using the No Bully Solution Team seem happier within their school community,” said Vaale. “Students report that they see the [targets] having fun at lunch and recess and are more focused in their classes. Other students feel more comfortable in PE where they usually would not participate, or feel embarrassed.”
The students have embraced being part of a Solution Team.
“The kids get so, so excited,” Vaale said. “They feel hand-selected and come to it with an attitude of ‘I get to do something to help somebody.’
”They have seen team members start using compassion and empathy as soon as they’re briefed on the situation and invited to be part of the team.
“At first they’re hearing this story about how this person is experiencing things or a particular situation, and they might be thinking of themselves or a friend and how they might feel if they were experiencing something like that,” Vaale said. “Once they come to that conclusion of who they’ll be working with (we describe the scenario in an anonymous way, but they figure it out), that momentum carries.
“Students who are participating on the Solution Teams get really involved in making students’ experiences more joyful. Some have said to me that they feel like they are on a mission to make others’ lives better.”
For KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, there is now a comprehensive solution to all forms of bullying, traditional and new. By empowering students, the Solution Teams have enacted change at the source of bullying itself.