The S.A.R.A. anti-bullying intervention
The S.A.R.A. Program (Students Against Relational Aggression) is a 12-week anti-bullying curriculum geared for 4trh or 5th grade classrooms. The program (embedded in a class on the Social and Psychological Dynamics of Relational Aggression taught by Dr. Laura Martocci at Wagner College) has been running since 2007, but is not yet available on a wide scale. The intervention, delivered weekly by a pair of college students, uses games, role plays, and a host of activities to raise awareness of behaviors, responses, and responsibilities surrounding Relationally Aggressive behavior. In addition, it offers alternatives to all stereotypical ways in which children respond.
The S.A.R.A. Intervention gives elementary school children an enhanced skill set as they prepare to move into the treacherous waters of middle school. By defining acceptable behavior within the context of competition (gossip) social mirroring (laughter, exclusion, shame), and stereotyping (judging), and by involving bystanders (whose active silence provides the audience required for public shamings) the SARA program redefines the dynamics of the classroom. The Intervention empowers the class as a whole, student by student, and fosters an ability for each member of the class to assume a role in ‘policing’ their classroom. Students take ownership of their everyday environment, and become sensitized to the idea that simply ‘watching’ incidents of bullying reinforces aggressive behavior, while simultaneously reinforcing the victim’s shame.
The insight that humiliation is central to most forms of emotional violence anchors the SARA program. The intervention takes this fact, as well as the knowledge that children judge, lablel, and ‘other’ what is different from them, as its point of departure. Built upon the awareness that when any of our children are humiliated and labeled ‘social failures’ their subsequent shame and emotional consternation clouds their ability to learn in class, the SARA program explores ways that each student can lessen the fallout for any classmate that feels her / him self to be victimized.