Creating a compassionate community:
Clinton talks about bullying
Bullying is an issue that exists in every school district across the nation. Not only is it tough to deal with, it can even be hard to talk about. Superintendent Deb Olson and her team at Iowa’s Clinton Community School District decided to tackle this tough conversation head-on by opening it up to the whole community, and engaging more than 2,500 people in an authentic discussion that helped them make progress on an important issue.
Annual surveys regularly revealed that bullying was an important issue in their district, so Olson and her team wanted to drill down deeper to learn more about those concerns and how they could better support students and parents in dealing with the issue.
They also wanted to reach out to the broader community and build awareness of bullying and harassment among people who don’t have kids in school, with the goal of creating a compassionate community.
“The larger goal for me has always been based around the idea that it takes a village to raise a child,” Olson says. “We need to involve the community in conversations…It’s important for them to be involved in the lives of our kids, even though they might not be related to children in the district.”
Understanding the community
Olson and her team had worked with Thoughtexchange in the past, so they knew an exchange would be the perfect way to reach out to the community about a sensitive topic like bullying.
“Thoughtexchange helped craft the questions in ways that would have the greatest possible feedback for us,” Olson notes.
The resulting exchange engaged 2,521 people who shared 2,996 thoughts and contributed 102,734 stars when reflecting on the thoughts of others.
That exchange helped Olson engage a broad range of community members about bullying in a highly visible way, understand their needs, and develop ways to talk with them about bullying.
Bringing the issue forward and taking action
One of the most significant results of the exchange for Olson was the ability to take action on the issue in a way that she knew was relevant to the community’s needs.
“It’s important that people see that we are actually addressing the issue at hand, versus saying we know it exists but never doing anything about it,” she says.
Along with insights such as a need for more counseling and more consistent enforcement of policies by staff, Olson affirmed that parents and students are concerned about bullying. She also discovered that both groups want to learn more about how to deal with the issue.
As often happens in exchanges, people also brought forward thoughts on much more than just bullying. They wanted to learn more about a wide range of topics.
“The depth of the conversation and the amount of information you get from Thoughtexchange is much greater than anything I could have done, through any type of survey.”Deb Olson, Superintendent
Creating learning opportunities
Olson says mental health-related issues like bullying are becoming increasingly common in her district, as they are in schools across the country. At the same time, she says funding for addressing these issues is decreasing. So it becomes the responsibility of school districts to provide services that help address them.
“I don’t know how well-equipped we are to do that,” Olson says. “We’re just trying to gather as much information as possible, and having a way to vet that process has probably been the greatest thing that Thoughtexchange has done for us.”
After doing a follow-up exchange designed to hone in on learning topics that mattered most to students and parents, Olson and her team were able to craft a set of relevant blended learning opportunities for both groups about not only bullying, but also mental health, supporting student academic needs and postsecondary preparation.
Olson also used insights from these exchanges to inform conversations with principals of elementary, middle and high schools in the district about how to best deliver the courses for students at different grade levels.
“I was very happy with the results we got,” Olson says. “It really helps us, and it validates why we should take some of the actions we take.
“The depth of the conversation and the amount of information you get from Thoughtexchange is much greater than anything I could have done, through any type of survey. It has been beneficial for me, and my school board also finds great value in it.”
Thoughtexchange provides software solutions that bring people together, build trust and make progress on important topics. Whether it’s employees, customers or whole communities, our solutions effortlessly connect you to your stakeholders. People can confidentially and independently share their thoughts, appreciate other points of view and understand how their perspectives are connected to decisions. Our patent-pending data analysis gives you the insights to make informed decisions and take action.