The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying is trying to deal with a problem that goes deeper than the school day. Students who were bullied and willing to come forward have shown the depth of the issue.

“Some of the most prevalent times they talk about it were at their home, at a friend’s home, in the neighborhood, at the mall,” said Mark Tallman, Vice President for Advocacy with the Kansas Association of School Boards. “Here again, it’s one of the things that schools are struggling to solve a social problem or address a social problem that is something that wasn’t really an expectation in the past and is certainly not limited to what happens at school.”

Preventing bullying is much more likely to work than attempting to prosecute it.

“What schools are more and more trying to do is saying, what can we do to try to deal with those attitudes in the first place, to try to stop it before it happens?” said Tallman. “Again, as we all know, in the real world, with human nature, you will never completely do that, but what I think this committee is hearing from schools that seem to be having some success is, they’re really talking about how are we working on kids having relationships with each other?”

It’s important to note that in order to teach anyone anything, first they have to feel safe enough to pay attention to what’s being taught.

“We do have to help kids cope with the fact that some people are going to be mean to you,” said Tallman. “That’s just true. But, if you have a climate where a student is distracted, in fear, feeling excluded, then their mind is not going to be on the top, what the top focus of school should be. In a world where people do have to live and work and get along together, they’re also not acquiring the skills to do that.”

Employers have told educators that it’s not a lack of academic skills that makes it tough, but a lack of the relational skills to handle day-to-day life in the workplace.