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The first problem inherent in this question is what determines “a bad kid.” The term is so general and steeped with layman’s terminology that it hardly elicits a response at times. Saying that a kid is “bad” carries with it the idea that there is no hope for them or that they should be removed from the general population. Is that what we really believe? If so, why do we have drug programs, counselors, rehabilitation facilities and clinics, and a host of other resources to help kids do better.
What about kids with a criminal record? Is this a good criterion for determining who the “bad kids” are? What if it’s a girl who has perfect grades, is out with her friends one night and steals something from a store? Is she a “bad kid” from this one incident, or does it take a series of arrests to get to the “bad status.” The problem with the “bad kid” terminology is that it is highly judgmental and cannot be evident through any one act. Terminology aside, should kids with a criminal record be banned from school, expelled, sent away?
And what about kids with special needs? If a child attends special education classes in the United States, they have specific protections that keep schools from being able to isolate them or bar them from participation in the general group. Should this standard be dropped in favor of the “bad kid rule?” There is no doubt that is special needs kids were asked to leave the public schools due to their disability, the lawsuits would be so numerous that the courts could not keep up with them, and rightfully so. It’s wrong to exclude kids from their right to a free public education, whether they are considered bad or not. You may remove a special needs student temporarily (up to 10 days at a time in most states) until such time as it can be determined what to do next to help them. But this cannot be a permanent thing unless it is shown he is an imminent danger to others.
It seems that situation ethics does apply in some cases when kids have demonstrated that they cannot handle being in the larger group. In some cases with special education students, there have been parent meetings held to determine if the child is in need of further interventions and helps in order to function in the larger group. If this cannot be accomplished in a reasonable matter, then the parent/teacher committee may decide to transition the student to another location. In some cases, this may be necessary, but this must be handled with care, as to not discriminate against a child or deny him his right to an education in the public school setting. In most cases with special needs students, the school must prove that the disciplinary problem is NOT due to their disability, which is beyond their control.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing school today is determining when a child is an imminent threat to others. This has come to the forefront lately due to all of the school shootings and the ease by which the shooter was able to access innocent kids and actually go on to take their lives. Equally disturbing is the fact that somehow these kids got past the radar when they were students and no one noticed they had a problem serious enough to warrant attention. Many times, when a student has made a threat of violence toward others in a public school setting, law enforcement has gotten involved and the student can certainly be (and should be) removed from the public school setting until such time that it can be determined if the child is going to continue to be a danger to others. If it is shown by board certified psychologists or even law enforcement officials that he is, the school has a right to ask him to be detained in an institutional setting or other facility to avoid possibly tragedy and to reduce the risk to innocent children.
The problem often comes up due to a ‘slippery slope’ scenario when school administrators decide to use this removal method for students who are disruptive. It should be noted that students who are only a discipline problem and not an inherent danger to themselves or others cannot be removed from the school setting without a very valid reason. This criteria of removal for dangerous kids who pose an imminent threat provide schools a valid reason to do so, but this cannot be overused and applied to just any kid with behavior issues, so it must be used with due diligence.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in all of this regarding “bad kids in school” is the fact that it leaves it up to people in the school primarily to decide who is a “bad kid.” This sets up a negative, judgmental system which can backfire on schools in the worst way. Schools should never tolerate bullying among kids, violence, or aggression. But there needs to be a way for them to communicate that they care about the bully or aggressor too, and want to work together to find a solution so that the school is safe for everyone.
The best idea for schools is the “do right rule.” If parents, community, administrators, teachers, and students can all work together for the greater good to help ALL kids, then we will create a win-win situation for everyone. Schools are safer when we care about the bully, the kid with the criminal record, the disturbed young person, and the drug addict, just as much as we care about the innocent, high-performing kids who always comply and never rock the boat. We have to change the way we think about the bully, to consider them someone to help, rather than someone to dismiss. Because if we dismiss them to society without helping, then we are part of the problem that will continue to repeat itself time and time again.
As individuals, as parents, and educators, we must stand together against bullying, but consider the bully not as a “bad kid,” not as someone to dismiss or forget about, but someone to help. By working with school counselors and others, the bully can regain self-confidence and hope in himself and his future, and this may be the way that bullying will stop once and for all. Together, we can make a difference with bullying, one kid at a time.
So, in closing, the question should not be what to do with bad kids in school, but what to do for all children, to provide an atmosphere of positive change and kinship of spirit, so that every child has the chance to learn and grow. We must foster this attitude in all areas of our schools as well as at home. We should teach children to be kind to kids who have special needs or are isolated. We should look to ourselves, as well as to the kids with problems to see if there is something we can do, or something that we can teach our children to make the world a better place for everyone. Where do we start? We start with our our kids and in our own schools and communities.
Parents should realize their role is perhaps the most important of all-to communicate to their kids that bullying and aggression is wrong no matter what form it comes in, and it must be avoided at all costs. There must be stronger attention paid to “red flags” about violence that kids give us at an early age, and more involvement with mental health in such cases to prevent further tragedies and bullying incidents. Stricter laws against bullying are being sought in several political circles across the country, and more kids will ultimately be in legal trouble if they continue to bully others. We must provide the opportunities for bullies to learn from their error and have a chance to do the right thing, while also keeping schools safe from those who ignore the rules and responsibilities they have to treat others right.
We focus on the eradication of bullying through empowerment through knowledge. Nobullying.com is the foremost authority on bullying and anti bullying campaigns. We try to offer schools, communities, and parents a wide array of information and techniques to use in their own schools so that they feel more empowered to do something about it. There are other resources in your own areas, such as the Department of Human Services, youth groups, church and community civic organizations, and many others who care about kids and their futures and actively work every day to prevent school violence and bullying from happening.
If we can help you in any way to promote anti bullying in your schools and communities, contact us. Together we can defeat bullying, by helping both the bullied and the bully to do the right thing and make a positive change in our world.