When someone thinks of bullying, the first subjects they consider is how to prevent it before it becomes serious as well as who to turn to in order to halt the harassment in its tracks. However, one rarely ever ponders the idea of talking to the aggressor themselves before it becomes a serious issue, which, as counselor Tim Holmes suggests, could be even more useful in preventing this sort of behavior from occurring.
Mr. Holmes, who has had a long history of experience when it comes to dealing with this issue and the consequences of it, says that this sort of action is recommended to prevent further bullying and abuse. However, he also believes that in order to be truly effective, it should be treated less like a conversation and more like diplomatic mediation.
“Having a conversation is a great idea depending on the level of force involved. However, the bully often won’t listen and will continue to pick on them,” Mr. Holmes said. “What we encourage is peer mediation where each person comes down to the guidance office and discusses their problems.”
Mr. Holmes likens this more diplomatic approach to the relationship between countries and believes it can prevent further aggression.
“Peer mediation is diplomacy. It’s like what happens between the United States and other countries,” Mr. Holmes said. “If someone is picking on the U.S., we try diplomacy before going to war. Mediation can be difficult, but it should be used. Bullying should be stopped with [mediation] because without it, it could continue.”
The method is extremely effective, with around 85 percent of all sessions resulting in lasting resolutions. Despite the effectiveness of this method, Mr. Holmes said many students don’t utilize it to its fullest extent. In fact, many don’t even know it exists.
“Students aren’t sure who to turn to with things like these and don’t know how to go about doing [peer mediation],” Mr. Holmes said. “We have a program like that here, but only students who have used in past years know how to use it, so we need to get the word out.”
When it comes to when this conversation should be attempted, counselor Michelle Breuer has a very clear idea as to when this should be done.
“They should say something as soon as they can,” Ms. Breuer said. “They can let that person know or come let the counselors know.”
Mr. Holmes agreed with that assertion, stating this sort of thing should be gauged based on the student being bullied and the level of harassment. He also provided an explanation as to how the peer mediation sessions work at FHC.
“In peer mediation, we sit both kids down and start out with the counselor explaining the situation. We let the student being bullied explain the problem, and then we let the bully explain their point of view,” Mr. Holmes said. “Then, we tell the first student to be a little more specific about the problem. We give each of them time to talk without being interrupted. Finally, we ask them want they want from each other.”
Ms. Breuer believes that the students should be honest about the topic at hand and not shy away from expressing their feelings.
“You need to let someone know that they are upsetting you. Don’t beat around the bush because that doesn’t help anything,” Ms. Breuer said.
Mr. Holmes stresses confidentiality when it comes to matters regarding the mediation session as he believes that it helps smooth over relations.
“What’s important to remember is what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. We don’t discuss what happened outside of the counselor’s office,” Mr. Holmes said.
However, these methods don’t always work out, and Mr. Holmes believes that discipline would have to be the next course of action.
“When it’s over, we say that nothing will happen. No disciplinary measures will occur if this stops,” Mr. Holmes said. “However, something might happen if problems continue. There may be some discipline involved, but you have to start with dialogue, then discipline.”