All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Defining, Acting, and Understanding Bullying

While schools value (or should) value the emotional and physical well-being of their students above all else, bullying continues to be a pervasive problem in todays’ educational institutions.  This stems from two main components; a lack of understanding and communication between parents, schools, and students.  Clearly a topic as important, large and complicated as this cannot be fully covered here, but what can be given is an overview along with some resources to help increase the prevention of bullying.

Formal Definition
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
·         An Imbalance of Power: This occurs when an individual uses their power (physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others.
·         Repetition: The behaviors happen more than once.

Bullying/harassment leaves scars that long outlast the act itself.

The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) located at http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm indicates that, nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

Victims often report increased:
·         Depression and anxiety
·         sadness and loneliness

They lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and often experience health issues and decreased academic achievement.  Additionally, they are more likely to be absent or completely drop out of school.  There are also effects suffered by those who bully or even witness such incidents.  The aftermath can be the root cause of a host of anti-social behaviors. In fact, most school shootings in the 1990’s were perpetrated by students who were victims of bullying.

Some Questions to Ask Students Regarding…
·         What does “bullying” mean to you?
·         Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
·         What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
·         Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
·         Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?
·         Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
·         What can you do if bullying occurs?
·         What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
·         What can your school do to help stop bullying?

Communication is Key
Many times students will say (and they truly believe) that there is nothing adults can do to stop bullying.  The fact is parents, staff, and students themselves can play a significant role in preventing bullying through communication and action.  Parents and staff need to take time to check in with students to find out about their concerns and let them know any type of bullying or harassment is unacceptable.  We need to take the time to inform ourselves about what is going on in our students’ lives.  It can be as easy as a ten minute conversation.  A few examples:
·         Meet or contact teachers and counselors
·         Read school newsletters and the school website
·         Go to school events
·         Listen to students beyond academics
·         Be aware of hallway behaviors
·         Help kids take part in activities
·         Report issues you see occur in school.
·         Talk about your concerns.
·         Promote a respectful environment.  You would want someone to help you.
·         Encourage students to do what they love and be who they are regardless of others opinions.
·         Model how to treat each other with kindness and respect.

In the end, it is everyone’s responsibility if bullying is to be prevented and talking about it directly is one important step.  Another is taking action against it.  We all need to remember that students watch how adults interact, manage stress, and treat others.  They learn from us.  Make sure the lesson they are receiving is one of maturity, respect, and responsibility.

Please take the time to investigate the following resources for a comprehensive amount of information concerning this very important topic.  After all, what could possibly be more important than taking care of our students’ physical, social, and emotional needs in the best possible manner to ensure they grow into healthy, happy adults?

Sources for this post:

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