School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

Social Bonding Is Key to Limiting Bullying

June 05, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Bullying in schools is a deadly serious issue. It certainly warrants the copious media attention it has been receiving lately, including in Education Week (“The Semantics of Mean,” March 21, 2012). In response to the crisis, anti-bullying laws and programs are proliferating across the United States, but I propose that bullying should be considered in the larger context of whole-school culture and interpersonal relationships.

Schools employing “restorative practices” achieve dramatic reductions in bullying and violence by proactively providing opportunities for students to get to know one another. Becoming an integral part of school life, restorative circles and other strategies address underlying tensions, fostering empathy and connectedness. Restorative practices improve social bonding among diverse individuals and create cooperation and community.

When bullying occurs, it’s addressed in face-to-face restorative circles, bringing together everyone affected by the incident: students, teachers, and potentially parents. In the circle’s safe environment, all participants speak candidly about how they have been impacted and receive understanding and support. Unlike punishment, the circle confronts bullies with the emotional consequences of their behavior and offers them an opportunity to make amends and provide assurances that their harmful behavior will stop.

Importantly, the circle reintegrates wrongdoers into the community—without the stigmatization and resentment that sow seeds for further bullying.

Restorative practices hold bullies accountable, but avoid damage from labeling children “bullies” and “victims.” Affirming the inherent worth of every child, the restorative approach recognizes that many school bullies have been abused or bullied themselves. Finally, restorative practices empower children with responsibility for resolving their own conflicts.

Kosciuszko Middle School, in culturally diverse Hamtramck, Mich., was plagued by bullying until restorative practices helped students recognize their common humanity and build positive relationships, effectively ending the bullying problem.

As a 15-year-old Bengali student at Kosciuszko said: “In circles, everyone gets to know each other. You can say anything that comes into your head, from your heart. I felt shame at other schools. I feel good here. I never saw a school beforewhere there was no bullying.”

Ted Wachtel

President and Founder

International Institute for Restorative Practices

Bethlehem, Pa.

The IIRP is a private, accredited graduate school.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2012 edition of Education Week as Social Bonding Is Key to Limiting Bullying


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Rising Reports of School Violence Are Pushing Teachers to Want to Quit
Educators are being met with violence and aggression from various sources, and it's causing them to consider leaving the profession.
10 min read
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024.
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024. Parsons, who has experienced several instances of physical and verbal aggression while at work, has thought about leaving teaching.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
School Climate & Safety Opinion ‘We Cannot Stop a Bullet’: A Principal Demands Better Gun Laws
When guns are easily accessible, not even the Secret Service can prevent every threat. Why would we expect teachers to do better?
Tracey Runeare
5 min read
A tangled jumbled line leads from a moment of impact to a clear conclusion: a ban symbol.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School Climate & Safety Roads Around Schools Are Unsafe, Principals Say. Here's What to Do About It
Traffic conditions aren't fully within school leaders' control. But there are still steps schools can take to help students arrive safely.
4 min read
Focus is on a flashing school bus stop sign in the foreground as a group of schoolchildren cross a parking lot with the help of a crossing guard in the distance.
School Climate & Safety Video Should Teachers Carry Guns? How Two Principals Answer This Question
One has two armed school employees. The other thinks arming teachers is a bad idea.
4 min read
People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
George Walker IV/AP