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October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an issue that is very important to educators and administrators. Our partners at SafeSchools have put together a set of information for schools that can help schools prevent and address bullying among students. The following advice is taken from their October newsletter.
Technology: turn a foe into a friend
Unfortunately, bullying is easier today than ever before. Bullies can now intimidate students 24/7 through a laptop, IM, or cell phone. Often victims feel like there's no escape and often resort to violence or suicide after being relentlessly tormented.
However, technology can be part of the SOLUTION to the problem of bullying:
- Studies show 57 percent of students would not report an incident if they could not do it anonymously. Providing your school community with a confidential reporting tool is essential to opening the lines of communication.
- Tracking bullying incidents is also imperative. It allows you to see important trends, monitor repeat offenders and keep an eye on at-risk students.
- Finally, training your staff on how to identify and prevent bullying is key. Staff members are more likely to witness bullying incidents or notice changes in behavior, grades, and the overall demeanor of students; all of which are sure warning signs of bullying.
Key elements of prevention
Districts that have successfully reduced bullying, harassment, and intimidation incidents cite the following as key elements of their prevention strategies:
- Staff Training: Your entire staff, including school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and even volunteers, should be trained on bullying prevention, how to receive a bullying report from a student, and what to do if bullying occurs.
- Bullying Policies and Enforcement: Develop clear bullying policies and procedures to be shared with staff, students, and parents, and enforce these policies.
- Student Code of Conduct: Be specific about expected behaviors and safety rules in your code of conduct.
- Bullying Reporting System: Implement a bullying reporting system where students can report incidents anonymously, without the fear of retaliation.
- Intervention Process: Have a defined process and intervention steps for coaching ALL students involved in a bullying incident, not just the aggressor. This should include the target of the bullying incident, as well as witnesses and bystanders.
- Educate Students: Include classroom lessons, at all grade levels, to teach students how to recognize, refuse, and report bullying.
- Respectful Behavior Curriculum: Institute a curriculum that values diversity, teaches respectful behavior, and includes the development of positive social, emotional, and friendship skills to students.
- Establish Peer Mentoring: Peer mentoring activities as early as elementary school can help decrease bullying, especially of children with special needs.
- Open Communication with Families: Establish clear lines of communication and cooperation between schools and families about bullying incidents.
- Parent Resources: Share resources to help educate parents on recognizing the signs that their child may be a victim of bullying, or perhaps the aggressor. Parents can also reinforce your Respectful Behavior Curriculum at home as well.
Read the entire SafeSchools newsletter and learn more about how you can reduce bullying in your district.