October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

Bullying & School Districts

What Can School Districts Do to Stop Bullying?

bullying-and-school-districtsParents in your community want to know that their school and school district are doing everything possible to make sure their child feels safe at school. Below are some steps your district can take to curb bullying.

Create the Right Environment in Your Schools

Does your district have a statement on the sort of environment it would like to foster in its schools?

Dan Olweus of the successful Olweus Anti-Bullying Program states that their program is focused on creating a school environment where the following four principles hold:

  1. The environment is warm, positive and has involvement from adults
  2. Has firm limits as to what constitutes unacceptable behavior
  3. In case of violations of limits and rules, there is consistent application of non-hostile, non-physical sanctions
  4. Behaviour by adults at home and at school creates an authoritative (not authoritarian) adult-child interaction or child-rearing model (backbone as opposed to brick-wall structure).

Create an Effective School Bullying Policy

Ken Rigby in his article, “Health Consequences of Bullying and Its Prevention in Schools”, lists the elements that should appear in effective school policies on bullying:

  1. Powerful statement of the school’s desire to create positive peer relations and prohibit all forms of bullying and harassment by all members of the school community (not only students)
  2. A clear definition of bullying with specific examples
  3. A declaration of the rights of the different groups in school (e.g., students, teachers, etc) and particularly their right to be free of harassment.
  4. A statement of the responsibility of bystanders to stop or report harassment and bullying when they see it
  5. Encouragement of all concerned members of the school community to speak with school staff about bullying and harassment
  6. An outline on how the school will deal with the problem of bullying
  7. A plan and timeline to evaluate school policies on bullying in the future

If you work for a school district, does your district’s school policies on bullying include each of these 7 items above? Are schools encouraged to create a positive environment consistent with the four principals stated by Dan Olweus?

Ensure Your School & School District Procedures & Programs Enforce Your Anti-Bullying Policies

To many well-meaning anti-bullying committees draft policies only to have them framed and collect dust on the wall.

You must ensure your school district’s procedures and programs enforce your anti-bullying policies.

What programs at your school teach bystanders how to stop or report bullying when they see it? What programs at your school or school district are being used to improve peer relations? What programs are in place to help both students that bully and the students that are victims of bullying? Have students been taught to know what’s bullying and what’s not?

Find Out from Students How Much of a Problem Bullying Is at Your School District

Bullying is insidious and can be almost invisible to most teachers. Students that bully may have had years to hone their crafts and know to wait for teachers to turn away before they may their move.

That’s why it’s critical that you get first hand information from students about the bullying environment at your school.

  1. First, educate students about the three types of bullying so they can recognize it as such when they see it.
  2. Second, use an anonymous survey to find how from students the nature and quality of peer relations at the school, how often they are bullied, witness bullying or bully other students and what they need from adults in order to feel safe at school.

Train All Adults in Schools to Respond Sensitively and Consistently to Bullying

It takes a lot of courage for a bullied student to speak out against their tormentors, and the worst that can happen is they reach out to an unsympathetic adult that brushes off the bullying as just another instance of kids being kids.

In the school environment, it is the responsibility of adults to ensure the safety of all students. Adults in the school environment must promote tolerance, positive peer relations and ensure that school anti-bullying policies are followed.

Ensure Your Schools Have a Plan of Action When Interventions Don’t Work

There are bound to be cases of bullying where intervention fails and the bullying continues despite the best efforts of school staff. For these cases and the safety of students at the school, it’s critical that schools have a plan in place for when intervention fails.

Some options for this include:

  1. Removal of the bully from the class or school
  2. Referral to an alternative school or mental health agency
  3. Referral to police

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