Bullying has been an occurrence in schools ever since there was school. Unfortunately, children have a natural inclination, at times, to be cruel. However, in any form, when bad behavior goes unchecked, it will continue through generations and continue to be a problem.
The anti-bulling movement began in 1999 when Georgia created the first laws that directly addressed bullying. Unfortunately, this was following one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, Columbine High School. Because of these types of instances and tragic stories of the suicide of hopeful teens being bullied, this issue must be met with head-on intention.
Stopping bullying in schools will never stop entirely. However, there are many things we can do to stop it in its tracks and possibly, save lives.
What Is Bullying Behavior?
According to Dictionary.com, the term “bully” was initially recorded in Dutch in the 1500s to mean “lover.” Interesting, right? Especially since today, this term has taken the meaning of one who is a blustering or predatory person. Many kids may confuse a one-time instance of being mean as bullying behavior. However, the actions of bullying go deeper than this and look like the following:
- Bullying is repetitive aggressive behavior.
- Bullying behavior is intentional behavior meant to harm another in some way.
According to the EDC (Education Development Center), bullying occurs in four different ways:
- Physical bullying (kicking, punching, pushing, shoving, hitting)
- Verbal bullying (name-calling and verbal slanders)
- Relational bullying includes leaving someone out or spreading rumors
- Cyberbullying includes harmful and hurtful messages via an online platform.
How Can We Address Bullying in School?
If we want to stop bullying at schools, one thing is for sure: You cannot be passive when addressing a bully. The only way to reduce bullying and create a safe environment is to handle bullying head-on. Does this mean calling out a bully in front of other students? Not necessarily. If the behavior is verbal or taunting, you can separate the students, pour the aggressor aside, and talk to them about their behavior.
If you see violent behavior in more pronounced cases, that would require a different response. All school staff and other adults present in the school should be aware of how to handle a child’s behavior.
While both the bullied student and the bully may require counseling or additional services, that is not something that is the first line of defense. Essentially, clear expectations for the student body and a consistent school-wide approach are more feasible to prevent bullying.
Ways to Prevent Bullying
One of the best ways to prevent bullying is not to ignore it. The National Center for Education Statistics stated that “…22 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year”. The percentage was even higher among middle school-aged students. Each one of these prevention strategies is data-driven and proven effective.
Can Uniforms Stop Bullying?
No, uniforms do not stop students from bullying. In fact, according to ProCon, school uniforms were reported to increase bullying and physical assaults. While uniforms are meant to be an equalizer, they become nothing more than wearing the same colors and types of clothing. The root of bullying behavior is not addressed.
If there is anything I have learned in my years teaching in public school, bullying will always happen, and students almost always see it first. Having a way that students can report easily when they see bullying situations is imperative.
One of the easiest ways to do this would be to have a QR code that connects to a Google Form. This way, students can anonymously and quickly scan and fill out any bullying they see.
Also, engage parents in this reporting method so that if they hear something at home, they too can report school bullying.
Promote Social and Emotional Learning
A significant part of changing anything in society is to promote education on how to fix an issue. In this case, prevent bullying by promoting social-emotional learning. Because students are on school grounds more often than they are at home, it makes sense that a bullying prevention program would start here.
Ways to promote this in the school environment would be to teach emotional intelligence, social skills, and decision-making.
You can even employ the health and human services department in your area to talk to students in your school as part of your anti-bullying programs.
Work to Build a Positive School Climate
Rewarding positive behavior at school is a beautiful way for students to be extrinsically and intrinsically motivated. Also, rewarding helpful and positive behaviors will help promote that good thing come to those who do the right things even when no one is looking.
When you reward positive behavior, whether for good behavior, helping students, academic achievement, or attendance, you are setting an example to students that when they do right in life and work hard, and are kind to others, they will ultimately be rewarded.
Noticing the Warning Signs
When a child is being bullied, whether at school or outside of school, some signs are tangible and could indicate a struggle. Students who are being bullied at school will typically show a decline in academic performance. This is because the child’s mind is on bullying rather than school activities.
Even more concerning is that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that children even develop depression, anxiety, trouble eating and sleeping, poor self-esteem, and loss of interest in things they love.
Teachers, noticing these signs and having good rapport will all of your students allows you to have open communication positively. As teachers, you may be the only one that notices there is something wrong.
Anti-bullying weeks and months are promoted all over different parts of the world. In the U.S., National Bullying Prevention month for 2022 is promoted during the entire month of October.
Blue is considered the color for bullying prevention during anti-bullying months or weeks. Wearing this color during this time promotes anti-bullying programs in schools.
Final Thoughts on Bullying Prevention
Bullying at schools has a myriad of negative consequences. Since the early 2000s, many schools have taken positive action in fighting against bullying behavior. Bullies are kids who need to re-learn how to treat other people, despite what they may have learned at home. It is vitally important to train staff on the many resources available to them and how to notice when there is a problem.
Be the trusted adult and positive light to a child that needs it. Have a training program for both students and teachers as you start the school year. Doing these things and being consistent when you see bullies will positively affect your school. To stop bullying at schools starts with you.