Meridian Times staff writer
Haslett High School English teachers Stephanie Livingston and Sue Doneson are taking an active approach to end bullying in schools by integrating novels that deal with “respect” and “responsibility” into the 9-12 grade English Language Arts Curriculum.
The hope of the initiative is for students to discuss certain novels in a safe classroom environment and that these dialogues about certain characters will carry over into daily lives.
Students in ninth grade read two books: “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson and “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls.
“In the books, students see coping strategies and ways to deal with the bullying and ostracism. Both of these pieces have to deal with young people; Speak is about a ninth grade girl, so that very much connects with their experiences,” said Livingston.
“In the English 10 course we teach “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and we talk quite a bit about overcoming prejudice toward those with disabilities, and the choices we make to survive that prejudice specifically related to a character with disabilities,” said Doneson. “In the honors section, we teach classics “Scarlet Letter” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” both dealing with ostracism from a community and how a person overcomes that and the dehumanizing treatment a person can overcome if they are considered an outsider from that community.”
Students in the 11th grade read “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding.
“We talk quite a bit about the dehumanizing treatment of one group of boys toward another and the physical size difference and how that plays into bullying and harassment and how that is used as a mechanism to intimidate – we talk about coping mechanisms and ways in which the group dynamic can change and be altered with particular leaders and how to deal with that,” said Livingston.
The 12th grade World Literature is geared toward recognizing the importance of personal responsibility and respecting the diverse cultures that surround us.
School Board Trustee Robert Fowler said, “We’ve been doing this for a long time – there’s so much attention to bullying these days, as if we’ve just woken up and realized that it’s a bad thing.”
The state adopted an antibullying law for schools in Dcember and all districts are required o submit policies within six months.
“I actually think that some of our legislators think that if they hadn’t passed this law, nobody would do anything about bullying and that’s not the case with our district.”