As part of National Bullying Prevention Month this October, k-12 schools across the nation are calling attention to bullying, trying to alleviate the problem experienced by as many as one-third of U.S. students.
By definition, bullying involves unwanted aggressive behavior coupled with an imbalance of power. And these days, bullying is widespread enough that nearly 71 percent of young people in the U.S. have observed it in school settings. According to StopBullying.gov, bullying can happen online or in-person and be both physical and verbal.
At its worst it can lead to feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion and despair, as well as the depression and anxiety that can contribute to suicidal behavior. Bullying in schools can also impact students’ physical and emotional safety and harm their ability to learn.
While no federal laws apply to bullying prevention, several state laws are established. That means educators are often legally obligated to intervene and to file reports about bullying in schools, particularly when such issues pertain to race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion.
“Solutions to bullying are not simple,” the site authors advise. “They involve the entire school community — students, families, administrators, teachers and staff such as bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria and front office staff — in creating a culture of respect.”
So what actions can your k-12 school take to work toward bullying prevention?
- Implement evidence-based curricula to convey anti-bullying messaging, selecting a program based on your district’s demographics, capacity and resources. You can always adjust the curricula based on staff input about bullying prevention measures likely to work in your school.
- Ensure your entire staff understands what defines bullying, what policies and rules your district will enforce and how to follow through on that enforcement.
- Teach students, parents and staff how to intervene and report bullying. Bystanders who step in during a bullying incident can be enormously effective, according to research.
- Stage competitions inviting students to express themselves by submitting artwork or creative writing centering around bullying prevention.
- Encourage staff and parents to keep the lines of communication open with students, modeling kindness and respect and encouraging them to seek help when needed.
One tool that can be enormously helpful for staying on top of bullying prevention is Alert Solutions’ Speak Up! tool. Speak Up! allows parents, staff or students to anonymously send a phone call or text message to your school to report bullying and cyberbullying incidents. It also allows for a designated school administrator to anonymously communicate with that individual.