Bullying and Speech Policies in Your School or Community

Students use a poem to discuss bullying and then explore policies within their school, community, and state.

Gossip

My name is Gossip.

I have no respect for justice.

I maim without killing.

I break hearts and ruin lives.

I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.

The more I am quoted the more I am believed.

My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.

To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.

I am nobody’s friend.

Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.

I topple governments and wreck marriages.

I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartaches and indigestion. I make innocent people cry in their pillows.

Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip.

Anonymous

1. Ask students to read the poem, “Gossip.” Lead students through a comparative analysis discussion with the following questions: 

What characteristics does Gossip have in the poem? How is Gossip personified?

Do you think these depictions of Gossip are accurate? Why or why not?

What do you think is Gossip’s relationship to bullying?

2. Encourage students to discuss their definitions of bullying. Compare them to the official definition of bullying from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

3. Discuss the definitions with students:

What characteristics does bullying have under this definition?

Do you think this is an appropriate definition?

In what ways might bullying occur?

4. Ask students to continue the discussion of bullying:

What do you think is the relationship between bullying and the right to free expression?

How has social media affected everyone’s ability to express themselves? How might this contribute to, or prevent, bullying?

What do you think students, teachers, and schools should be doing to prevent bullying?

5. Explain that many schools have policies, and many communities and states have laws, which prohibit bullying. Allow students to explore the policies in their school as well as in their community and state. Depending on their findings, students might propose reforms, draft policies, or develop programs.

 

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Insights on Law and Society is edited by Tiffany Middleton. She can be reached at tiffany.middleton@americanbar.org.