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Compassionate Schools And Communities Impacts Bullying Prevention


*This column by STARS CEO Rodger Dinwiddie originally appeared in the Tennessean, September 29, 2013

(4) Rodger
Rodger Dinwiddie, CEO of STARS, is also the current president of the International Bullying Prevention Association.

Bullying Prevention and Intervention efforts will be recognized across the United States this October.  Activities and events will focus on helping young people, their families, schools and even our workplaces address the issue of bullyingemp and harassment.

Practitioners, researchers and leaders in the field of education, psychology and social work continue to search for answers to this perplexing issue. Many promising strategies and programs are being implemented throughout the nation, as well as here in Tennessee.  Though many are showing promising results, one strategy that will always be in vogue is treating one other with kindness. Exercising compassion and concern for one another and teaching the social, emotional competence of empathy is at the center of most successful initiatives.

According to a recent Kellogg School study we have an empathy gap in our nation. I could not agree more.  Loran Nordgren, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations, reminds us that,  “People fail to understand the consequences of the social trauma experienced by victims of bullying, teasing and ostracism, and that this empathy gap can be devastating because it means victims often do not get the support, intervention or advocacy they need.”

And while I completely agree, I would suggest that at least one more issue is in need of immediate attention in our efforts to address bullying. It is imperative that we all understand the nature of what bullying is and what it is not. The term “bullying” has become overused in our culture. Many acts often referred to as bullying, are in fact normal acts of discomfort that each of us will experience in our lives. Labeling normal peer conflicts and minor level acts of normal childhood struggles as bullying is a gross misrepresentation of the term and minimizes the impact that bullying has on those who truly experience the trauma associated with intentional, repetitive, and power imbalanced acts that define what bullying is really all about.

This November Nashville will host the International Bullying Prevention Association’s 10th annual conference.  This year’s conference theme is Creating Compassionate Schools and Communities.  As President of IBPA, I am excited that we will have two excellent general session presentations, titled Building Emotional Intelligence to Increase Compassion by Dr. Ernie Mendes and Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon. Both of these sessions will directly focus on how we treat each other and will nicely follow up October’s National Bullying Prevention theme, The End of Bullying Begins with Me.  Author Bob Goddard reminds us to, “Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and wrong …. Because sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”  This October may we all participate by increasing our empathic and compassionate acts towards one another.

For more information about the IBPA conference visit and if you would like more information about how to become involved in local efforts to prevent bullying, please contact STARS today and visit our website at

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.