Unfortunately, bullying is still an issue we must address in schools. According to stopbullying.gov, 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6-12 have experienced bullying. The long-term effects of bullying –a higher risk of depression, obesity, substance abuse and more – can lead to profound issues within our society.
State and federal government legislatures have been taking steps to create change. New legislation called “The Safe Schools Improvement Act” was introduced to the House of Representatives this past July. If passed, it will prohibit bullying based on race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or religion and will allow schools to use funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create policies and procedures to address these concerns.
If this legislation is passed and districts can use federal funds to create programs, where will they start? We’ve put together this list of five things to consider when creating your own bullying prevention program.
1. Clearly define bullying. Knowing the difference between an isolated incident of student violence or negative behavior and bullying will change the way the incident is reported and investigated.
Although there may be other definitions, WORKS describes bullying as:
“Any intentional, persistent and repetitive written, verbal, graphic, electronically transmitted, or physical act that a student or group of students exhibits toward another student and the behavior both: a) causes mental or physical harm to the other student; AND b) is sufficiently severe that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the victim.”
Even if an incident does not meet the criteria for bullying, it should be reported. For example, if a student physically harms another student, but has not done so previously, this behavior is categorized as abuse and should be reported and addressed as such.
Examples of other problematic student behavior that is not considered bullying, but should be reported include:
- Alcohol, Drugs and/or Tobacco use
- Hacking and/or Cyber Crime
- Health Concern
- Suicidal Behavior
- Suspicious Behavior
- Threat (bomb, physical, other)
- Violence and/or Fighting
- Weapons and/or Dangerous Items
The next three considerations are the steps EVERY bullying prevention plan should include. According to a professor from the Educational Psychology department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign an effective bullying prevention protocol includes the following three steps:
2.Report incidents. Allowing students who are bullied, bystanders and even bullies to be able to report their incidents is powerful because it gives them a voice. Moving away from the traditional “tell a teacher” model and toward an online format allows students to submit reports anytime and anywhere.
3. Review incidents. When one or more administrators are designated to review submitted reports, there will be a consistent process for reviewing, validating and documenting an incident. This process can pinpoint insight into school climate and trending issues that require further attention.
4.Resolving incidents. Districts should use evidence-based resolution tactics. With the correct guidance, resolved bullying incidents can serve as teachable moments and deter future negative behavior.
WORKS’ Student Bullying & Violence Prevention Program (SBVPP) provides staff and student training, reporting tools, written plans, supporting tools such as posters, and more to help your district implement and sustain a comprehensive bullying prevention program.
Our final point of advice may branch out into an entirely different initiative for your district.
5.Teach tolerance. Teaching students and staff to accept each other’s differences instead of alienating others promotes a school culture of respect, which can help decrease instances of bullying and other student behavior issues. There are many online resources to help teachers promote tolerance in their classrooms. Teaching Tolerance provides free classroom resources and Education World created this list of five lessons to teach about tolerance.
To train your staff on issues of tolerance and acceptance, the WORKS’ Student Behavior, Intervention & Support and Student Safety, Wellness and Social Responsibility training catalogs include courses on many different issues, including bullying prevention, recognizing and preventing violence and teen dating violence, positive youth development, eating disorders, providing for homeless students and many more.
Does your district have a successful bullying prevention program in place? What other points do you suggest districts consider when implementing a program? Comment below, or share with us on Facebook or on Twitter (@PSWORKS).