Bullying in schools is one of the biggest educational issues that school administrators, teachers, students, and parents deal with today. It is an epidemic that has caught America’s eye primarily due to the high number of teenage suicides that have been traced back to bullying. Bullying has always been a problem, but within the last decade the problem has exploded due in large part to cyber bullying which has enabled kids to be bullied outside of normal school hours with minimal way to monitor it.
Schools should be at the forefront of preventing bullying. However, it is not an easy task. Types of bullying can include physical bullying, verbal bullying, emotional bullying, exclusion, and cyber bullying. Each case of bullying is unique and should be treated as such, but no report of bullying should be ignored or taken lightly. Students in our schools should feel safe at all times. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Schools must take steps towards making their schools bully free. It will be virtually impossible to completely rid your school of bullying, especially cyber bullying, but a good bullying prevention program can go a long ways towards deterring those who choose to be a bully.
Create Effective Bullying Policies
The start of an effective anti-bullying campaign begins with the strength of a school’s bullying policy. The policy must include the following three components:
- An effective bullying policy must define what bullying is, what it looks like, and detail the primary types of bullying.
- An effective bullying policy must outline how a student should deal with types of bullying situations.
- An effective bullying policy must establish guidelines for students to follow if they see another student being bullied.
The policy must be clear and direct in these three components and written to a level that is age appropriate for the students whom it is intended to govern. As with any policy, every school is unique. A policy that works in one school may not be as effective in another. Every school must create a policy that fits their needs, but the policy should still include those three components.
Make Consequences for Bullying Tough
School administrators must never take any bullying case lightly. However all factors should be taken into consideration when making a student discipline decision about bullying. Those factors can include previous issues with bullying, age, time frame, and the incident itself. School administrators must take the time to collect all the evidence they can in a bullying issue.
Bullies who continuously get away with bullying or get by with light consequences will likely continue to bully. School administrators must hold those students accountable for their actions taking into account all factors as a whole. In the case of bullying it is better to be too hard on the bully than to be too easy. Correcting the behavior the first time bullying occurs will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
No administrator wants one of their students to hurt themselves or kill themselves because they are being bullied. This is why it is important that bullies be given tough consequences. You never want a student or parent to be able to say that you don’t take bullying situations seriously.
Provide an In-Depth Education to Students about Bullying
We live in an age where students are bombarded by violence on television and in video games. Our young people have become numb to this sort of thing. That in itself speaks in large volumes as to why bullying has become such an epidemic globally. Providing students with comprehensive bullying education is the key factor in preventing bullying issues in school. So many young people believe everything they see on television is the norm. Education is a vital step in getting them to believe otherwise.
Anti-bullying education must become a priority in schools. Schools must not take for granted that all their students know what a bully is and how to deal with one. The truth is that many young people don’t. Schools must develop programs and curriculum designed to educate students about all facets of bullying. Those can include what bullying is, what it looks like, how to directly deal with a bully, how to prevent yourself from being bullied, how to prevent others from being bullied, etc.
A comprehensive bullying education program can include videos, guest speakers, presentations, real life examples, books, etc. Bullying education should be continuous throughout the year. Opportunities to educate young people about bullying are endless. Educating students will decrease issues that you have with bullying and students are unable to claim ignorance if you have taken the steps to ensure that they know about all aspects of bullying.
Provide Faculty/Staff with Bullying Professional Development
Another important component of an anti-bullying program is that your faculty/staff is trained to understand all aspects of bullying. Without proper training you cannot expect that your anti-bullying program will be fully effective. All faculty/staff members should be provided with professional development designed to meet the following objectives.
- Teach your faculty/staff to be proactive in dealing with bullying issues through education.
- Teach your faculty/staff to recognize what bullying is and what it looks like.
- Teach your faculty/staff to recognize signs that someone may be a bullying victim and effective ways to provide them the help they need.
- Teach your faculty/staff to recognize signs that someone may be a bullying and effective ways to curtail their behavior before it happens.
- Teach your faculty/staff exactly how a bullying incident should be dealt with.
Create an Anti-Bullying Atmosphere
When visitors leave your building there should be no doubt in their mind that bullying is a priority in your school. Plastering commercial and/or student made anti-bullying posters around the school can reinforce key bullying prevention concepts and promote the overall anti-bullying cause. Every student, administrator, teacher, and parent should sign an anti-bullying agreement at the beginning of the year. This simple agreement should align with your overall anti-bullying goals and causes all participants to think about the overall cause and effect of bullying in general.
It would also be good practice to give all visitors a copy of your bullying policy. Even adults who are visiting the school should be made aware of what bullying looks like and how to do deal with bullies. In addition all new students should be required to go through anti-bullying orientation within the first few weeks. This is good practice since new students are typically prone to bullying especially early on. Bullying should never be a concept we talk about the first week and then forget. There should be continuous dialogue amongst all patrons of your school concerning bullying throughout the entire year.
Provide Bullying Offenders with Remediation
There is typically a variety of underlying reasons why people become bullies. Many of these reasons can be traced back to low self esteem and variety of other internal and external factors. The bottom line is that bullies need help too. In addition to the harsh disciplinary consequences that a bully should receive, the bully should also be required to attend counseling. This is not designed to be an additional punishment, but instead is designed to get to the overall root of the problem. Helping a person who has become a bully deal with issues such as low self esteem can ultimately prevent future problems with bullying. This type of program can help teach the bully coping skills that ultimately guides them to becoming a better student and person.
Provide Bullying Victims with Counseling Opportunities
Bullying victims, especially those who show signs of depression, must be given every opportunity to work with a counselor. Although it is difficult to force a victim to talk with a counselor, it is a component that should be highly recommended. Bullying victims almost always feel like that it is their fault which can lead to immense guilt. A good counselor will help a victim externalize their emotions and eventually lead them to understand that it is not their fault. Too many young people have ended their lives because they do not feel like there is any way out. Do everything you can to ensure that bullying victims at your school know that there are plenty of people who love and support them.