When students feel connected and safe at school, they learn better. Last year, 75 percent of students surveyed in high schools and 62 percent in middle schools reported “always feeling safe at school.” I would like to see this percentage grow to 100.
Bullying, which can include both physical harassment as well as verbal or online harassment, is not tolerated in the San Francisco Unified School District, where we investigate all reports of bullying. At the beginning of each school year, students and families receive a handbook that outlines both state laws and school district policies regarding student behavior and consequences.
Our schools devote time to teaching healthy conflict resolution and to promoting empathy and tolerance. Health education builds social skills and healthy relationships. Fun schoolwide events, such as Hoover Middle School’s peace week, focus on how students can create a safe school environment and encourage peace in the world. This year, Hoover students played “bully bowling,” where they knocked down bully statements on bowling pins and formed a human peace sign.
Additionally, schools have begun using a new system for discipline called restorative practices, in which a student who is bullying can learn firsthand how his or her actions affect the school community.
We want children to succeed, and we know a safe place to learn is the first step.
Carlos A. Garcia is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.