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Solutions Journalism Analysis

In the article “The Rural School Poised to End Bullying,” journalist Emily Richmond seeks to confront the rampant bullying problem common throughout middle- and high-schools, through the lens of one rural, New Hampshire school in particular. She explains the primary cause for the issue: the fact that bullying at this age has always been a problem, but has been exacerbated recently by the rise in younger populations using online messaging and social media platforms. Additionally, through a quote from the superintendent, she also points out the high faculty turnover rates, as well as substance abuse, financial worries, and depression that students of this particular school face. However, something that seems to be missing is a deeper look into why exactly such aggressions among classmates start—for reasons such as low self-esteem, competition among friends, jealousy, etc.?

The associated response to the problem that Richmond focuses on is the school’s new course titled “Drop the Drama,” in which students (currently only girls—a major limitation of the solution) develop campaigns and ideas for bettering the school’s culture and response to bullying. She explains that this class started out as a female leadership course, but as more and more students began sharing their stories of “drama,” the teacher and students together built the new course to combat this culture of bullying that they all wanted to end. Citing an expert on the subject of school bullying, Richmond points out the importance of this student-run technique: “The most effective interventions are student-led ones.”

Many different students who have had their own run-ins with bullying from various angles (either as victims or from afar) are featured throughout the story, thus providing a ground-level understanding. However, many teachers and experts are used as sources as well, bringing in a higher-level voice to contextualize and make sense of the students’ problems and calls for solutions.

There is not much evidence for results provided, unless the reader is able to induce from parts of the piece that certain students are becoming receptive to the idea of the “Drop the Drama” course. The main character, Tori, who is followed throughout the story, also says in the final few paragraphs that she might be interested in joining the class. While Richmond does attempt to show the positives that the course can offer (although there are not many proven results yet), she does a good job of pointing out the limitations. As stated earlier, a big limitation is the absence of boys from the course, even though they are often a major source of the “drama.” Additionally, Richmond includes an anecdote from her time observing the class: one girl tells the teacher she is leaving the class because her and another student do not get along. The teacher tries to reconcile with her, but she drops the course anyway. Later, the teacher then sees that the other student has also dropped the course. The piece thus demonstrates the complications and difficulties teachers can have in trying to understand school bullying and teenage drama—this one program cannot possibly solve the complexities of the issue.

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