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School encourages shunning to stop bullying

Parents unhappy with unorthodox method to stop bullying

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A school in Colorado Springs is using shunning as a strategy to stop bullying, and not all parents are happy with it.

This week, fourth through sixth graders at James Madison Charter Academy are participating in a simulation meant to stop negative behavior, which school officials said they have seen a lot of lately. Each day, a different group of kids receives a sticker identifying them as the "shunned group." They are not allowed to talk to students outside the group, they must sit separately at lunch and other kids are supposed to ignore them. The simulation ends Thursday, and the principal plans to have a discussion with the students about what it was like to be excluded.

"The purpose was to try to help them to put into context what it means to be left out or to have an unkind comment or feel bad about yourself because of what others are doing," Principal Anne Shearer-Shineman said. "That did not mean that they could tease or taunt the kids who had stickers. That was not allowed. They were just to ignore them."

One parent kept her son home from school, because she didn't want him to be a part of the simulation.

"I understand what their goal is, and they've got a great goal in mind, but the way that they're approaching it is completely wrong on so many levels," Johanna Myers said.

Her son was in the shunned group Tuesday. He said he didn't like it.

"It didn't feel very good," Mark Innekus said.

The school principal said they constantly work on promoting respect and kindness at the school. Students in lower grades are also participating in anti-bullying activities this week. They include lessons on social and friendship skills.

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