Bullying not just a school issue
Jul 25, 2012
For first time offenders, the juvenile court can try to mediate a resolution without the issue going to a courtroom. This is accomplished through mediation, informal adjustments and restorative justice.
Restorative justice gets the victim and the accused and their parents in a room to discuss the issue before it can make its way to court.
“In that process ... there can be counseling, community service, anger management, things can be put in place that the child is required to do," Gallaher said.
“The end result is relationships are restored,” Gallaher said. “It affects the whole culture.”
The restorative justice approach is only used when the accused child admits guilt and takes responsibility for their actions.
“It saves the taxpayer money, and it also keeps the child from having a record,” Gallaher said.
Gallaher said the restorative justice process keeps hard feelings and bitterness from creating the same situation again and again. It also provides an opportunity to educate about problem-solving skills.
“If it’s really done right, and it’s effective and it’s successful, the bully really becomes an advocate for non-bullying, and he becomes a leader to stop it,” Gallaher said.
Both parties have to be willing to work things out in order for this model to be effective. This approach is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Gallaher emphasized the importance of taking children’s claims of harassment seriously. He said listening to children is important to figure out what is really going on.
“Bullying is worse in middle school, statistically,” Gallaher said, “and it decreases as you get into high school.”