Supporting Friendships at School
The friendships students make in school can often last a lifetime. Friendships and social development are one of the many benefits of going to school. Yet, navigating the challenges that come with forming friendships can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a student. I often hear adults say that they would never go back to middle school or high school because of the social dynamics and friendship challenges that come with this time in life. Yet, this can also be a very exciting time for students.
Forming and maintaining friendships is one of the many developmental tasks students face. Helping students navigate their school-age years is a partnership between families, teachers, coaches, counselors and other caring adults at school and in the community.
Each of our Forest Lake Area Schools has programs and lessons in place to help students of all ages build positive relationships with each other and with school staff. This work emphasizes kindness, empathy and respect. It helps our students become part of a community and practice the essential life skills of living and working alongside people who have different backgrounds and personal characteristics.
Although we work tirelessly to help students learn to treat their classmates and friends with kindness and respect at all times, unfortunately, we know that this is not always the case. We fully understand that students can be unkind to each other, especially as they work to form their friendship groups.
Along with our work to emphasize the behavior we expect from our students (kindness, empathy, respect), we also define unacceptable types of behavior, like bullying.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is a repeated behavior or pattern of behavior by a student or group that is intimidating, threatening, abusive or harmful. It involves an actual or perceived imbalance of power in which the student being bullied has difficulty defending him or herself.
Bullying is also behavior that materially and substantially interferes with a student’s educational opportunities, or performance or ability to participate in school functions or activities or receive school benefits, services, or privileges.
What does school staff do about bullying?
Regardless of whether or not the bullying behavior occurs at school, it is helpful if parents or students report the behavior to school staff. Once we’ve learned about the situation, there are a variety of interventions we can use to help stop the behavior and to lessen the harm to the student who is being mistreated.
School officials can intervene and provide consequences for inappropriate behavior that happens in school, but we have less opportunity to intervene when behavior happens at home, online or in the community. That’s why we rely on a partnership with families to help address the situation.
If bullying is happening to my student, how can I report it?
We recognize that it is never easy for a student to report incidents of bullying, but we need students to report these incidents to school staff. School staff can only intervene when they are aware of what is happening. Without incidents being reported, staff will most likely not be aware of the behavior.
Although our goal is to eliminate or reduce bullying, we know, unfortunately, that bullying does still occasionally happen in our world today. When our staff sees it or is made aware of it, we respond quickly to intervene and end the pattern of bullying.
If a pattern of bullying is happening to your student, you can fill out the bullying reporting form on our website to let school officials know about it. You can also contact your student’s teacher and/or principal any time your student is having difficulty with other students’ behavior.
Working in partnership with parents and families, we are committed to providing a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.