Steph Jensen, MS, LPC – Boys Town National Training
The month of October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month when schools and organizations around the world share resources and participate in activities to raise awareness about bullying. This is a wonderful movement that reminds and inspires us to intentionally integrate bullying awareness into our academics and activities. With an estimated 160,000 children missing school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, bullying prevention and awareness is an important topic that requires more than a month to address. Here are some ways to expand Bullying Prevention Awareness beyond October.
- Develop a Definition: A good rule for developing a bullying definition is to keep it simple. Yes, we do have bullying definitions in our district policies and school handbooks but these are generally written in legalese and not practical for the day-to-day. Use a definition that is easy to understand and remember. Here are some examples from schools I’ve visited:
- Bullying R.I.P: Repeated, Intention, Power Imbalance
- Bullying ABCs: Aggressive, imBalance of Power, Consistent, Deliberate
Both of these examples are quick and easy definitions that everyone can understand and communicate with one another.
- Build a Culture of Connection: Frequent bullying incidents in a school may indicate a broader school climate problem. In order to establish and sustain a school environment free of harassment, bullying and discrimination start with an assessment of the climate and culture. Schools with clearly stated expectations, rules and procedures experience fewer bullying behaviors. Schools that proactively teach the “what” of expectations combined with the “how” of procedures create safe and predictable environments for students, leading to a positive school culture where kids feel connected. Positive school culture promotes inclusion and acceptance where students feel everyone is respected and their identity is valued. Get more tips on building positive school culture in our blog post from We Are Teachers.
- Be a Model: In short, be what you want to see! Educators have a unique opportunity to greatly influence students’ attitudes and behavior through the way they interact with the adults and students in the building. As you navigate through the day remember to model behaviors that facilitate positive relationships. A great way to start modeling positive behaviors to prevent bullying includes:
- Use positive greeting skills with co-workers and students.
- Praise positive academic and behavioral accomplishments.
- Calmly redirect errors in academics and behaviors, offering opportunities for a do-over.
- Keep your cool even in challenging situations.
- Encourage Student Voice: When it comes to bullying awareness on your campus, students are the experts. Find ways to tap into what they are experiencing to develop prevention strategies that address the specific needs at your school. There are many creative ways to encourage student voice:
- Ask students to write a letter to the editor about a specific topic.
- Invite a group of students to participate in a focus group related to school issues.
- Have students lead a class meeting about social issues.
- Let students interview each other and report to the group.
Remember, you will get more participation from students if student voice is a common practice and not a special event. Look for ways to apply student voice throughout the school year. 13 and Counting: Be the Difference from Boys Town Press has great activities to start these important conversations.
- Beyond the Bully, Bullied and Bystander: Even with the best attempts to prevent bullying and raise awareness, there will still be some incidents of bullying in every school. Build a system of support that addresses the needs of students at various levels in the bullying cycle. A multi-tiered system that includes prevention, intervention, group and individualized supports can help students develop the pro-social skills necessary to combat bullying regardless of the role they play in the cycle. Develop processes that:
- Identify students that need additional support.
- Offer a variety of targeted interventions for small groups or individual students that focus on developing self-awareness, self-control, conflict resolution and resiliency to move beyond bullying.
- Evaluate and refer students for intensive individualized interventions as needed.
Here are some fun tips and resources to help teach kids to stand-up to bullying.
Bullying is not a challenge that can be solved in one month, but October is a great time to assess our progress in bullying prevention and awareness and identify areas to strengthen. Keep this conversation going beyond National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and find ways to make everyday a Bully Prevention Day!