So, How Schools Can Fight Back Bullying?It is important for schools to know that they have recourse when bullying occurs, so that it will not continue to happen. The schools are not without resources or help when it comes to bullying. Some bullying even borders on or crosses over into the realm of criminal mischief or criminal assault.
For now, suffice it to say that bullying can and should be handled like the malicious act that it is, and examples should be made of perpetrators, so that such deviant behavior does not have a chance to take root in the schools. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many situations and bullying often goes unpunished.
How Schools Can Fight Back Bullying: Passive comments and reasons on not fighting back
The reasons schools often give for bullying going unpunished are the following:
1) “We are not sure they did anything wrong.” This is just sloppy detective work, because if the bullying is investigated, as it should be, the truth will come to light as to what exact acts were committed, who did it, and how harsh the punishment should be. How Schools Can Fight Back is by admitting they are lacking.
2) “There were no witnesses. It’s just the bullied kid’s word against the bully.” Common sense should be the rule here, but teachers should also always be vigilant, so that incidents like this do not occur without someone being aware. Having teachers circulate around the playground, cafeteria, or other location where the bullying supposedly occurred can go a long way toward observing things which might not ordinarily be seen. Administrators should train teachers to have an eagle eye and to observe body language and other factors when in charge of play areas, hallways, and so forth. Just a little extra vigilance may be the solution here.
3) “There was no physical violence or aggression.” While there may be no visible signs of physical violence toward the victim, the psychological and emotional damage from vicious teasing, bullying, and psychological warfare may take a long time to heal. While physical aggression should be punished more harshly in general, bullying is bullying. No one should become a victim to coercion, intimidation methods, or other techniques bullies use to create fear in their victims. There should be a school policy in place as to how bullies will be dealt with, even in the absence of physical violence or aggression.
4) “The bully is a teacher’s child.” The only answer that should be given to this presumptive statement is, “So what?” If teacher’s children are expected to live by one rule set, and the other children are expected to follow another set of rules, for fear of stepping on the teachers’ toes from having to discipline their child, then we are perpetuating the same scenario that created bullying in the first place: that some kids have the power and some don’t. Administrators need to stand up and do what is needed to stop bullying in its tracks, even if it is started by the sons and daughters of educators!
5) “We want to give kids a choice to do right.” This is perhaps the best challenge, but still a weak one. I currently serve as the school counselor of a “school choice” theory school. Choice theory, developed by William Glasser, noted psychiatrist and educator, was meant to give kids options. But, in the real world, punishment can and must be a part of this puzzle. Guide a child to make good decisions, but if they cross the line, and violate the rights of others, then there has to be a negative consequence. Glasser dreamed of a society in which punishment could be thrown out. It’s a nice dream, but just not practical in the real world.
These are some good things to ponder on when anyone says any of the things above. Many times staff members, or even administrators need a reality check about what should be done in the case of someone who is being severely bullied. Many times, the victim will not report the incidents, until the situation is out of control. This, and other reasons, is why there needs to be a dedicated school-wide program that is in place which everyone buys into. The following gives 10 guidelines schools could consider following when developing such a plan. There can be variations of this, depending upon the area you are in. But this is a good start.
How Schools Can Fight Back
1) First, anytime a plan is initiated, everyone in the organization must buy into it. An initial meeting should be held at the beginning of the school year, to go over the details with parents, the community, staff, and students. Separate meetings could be held with students if this is more appropriate. The key is to get everyone “on the same page” from day one.
2) Have the anti-bullying policy clearly spelled out in the district handbook. Details of the plan should be clearly explained both in the handbook and aloud at the initial parent meeting with the community. This is for the purpose of addressing both parents of bullied kids, as well as parents of potential bullies. They both need to understand the seriousness of it. Just putting a fine point on the idea of an anti-bullying plan that everyone will adhere to may have a strong impact in how it is perceived.
3) Involve law enforcement to make the point even stronger. Sometimes, just the presence of a DARE officer or anti-drug policeman who happens to be around near the first day of the school year can make the point for you. While you are not trying to create an intimidation tactic, a word or two from local authorities enforces the seriousness of bullying. The officer could talk about policies regarding where the school’s authority ends, and the law steps in. In this talk, they could remind students that threatening gestures or verbal threats, including intimidation methods some bullies use to get their way could be perceived as terroristic threatening, threats of physical violence, or discrimination. Discrimination is a civil issue, but the officer could still remind them of the consequences of each, as it pertains to bullying.
4) Form a parents’ advocacy group. While most schools have a PTO or Parent/Teacher group, it might be a good idea to develop one just for the purpose of carrying out the “anti-bullying” policies. This watchdog group could be responsible for helping out at school functions on occasion, sitting in for teachers while they are out, and patrolling the halls at different times. Not only will this cut down on bullying, but it may also have an effect on student behavior in general.
5) Consider teaching an “anti-bullying” class to either parents, kids, or both within the curriculum. A chapter on bullying should certainly be addressed by the school counselor, but it would also be good to have information on bullying taught in different contexts across the curriculum, at least as a reminder throughout the year. For example, in Basketball or PE, the point could be made that it is ok to grab the ball from a player, but it is not ok to hit the person on the back to retrieve it. In Social Studies, it could be addressed by talking about individual rights of people and how “your rights end where someone else’s face begins,” and other similar lessons. Teaching boundaries in all contexts, and stressing why it is wrong to infringe on the rights of others will help students see that anti-bullying goes across the board and in many different contexts in school, and in life.
6) Have the drama teacher do some role-playing exercises, perhaps with the help of the school counselor. Dramatic play is often used in therapy in clinical settings to get the point across. Have students play both the “bully” and the “victim,” then have them switch roles. It is important that they see the world from both perspectives, in order to get a clear picture of how it is from both sides. This will help them develop a sense of empathy for the victim, especially when they are playing the victim themselves in role-playing. This has often proven effective in therapeutic counseling to teach a variety of skills and develop more empathy for others.
7) Use “art therapy” for both therapeutic counseling and evidentiary proof. In some states, the art therapist must be licensed to practice art therapy in its truest sense. However, some variations of art therapy may be used, such as drawing and painting pictures of things that disturb someone, and showing them to the counselor. Use art to let students who have been victims of bullying get their frustrations out, and also keep such drawings and art work as evidence, in the event that such proofs are needed to show the bullying did take place. Pictures and drawings done by kids in a clinical or school setting have often been admissible as strong evidence in court about what the victim went through.
8) Document every incident of bullying, no matter how small. Make it a school policy that the school will document every incident of bullying. Don’t delineate between what is in need of documentation and what is not. Instead, let the record speak for itself by documenting every case of reported bullying by students. In doing this, you protect the victim and let their parent know something is being done, while also building a case against the bully over time if the behavior continues. Eventually, if the bullying is substantiated, patterns will emerge as to who the bullies are and their modes of operation. The more incidents that are reported on a particular person, the stronger your case will be for suspension or other disciplinary measures, should it come to that in the future.
9) Don’t be afraid to have a lawyer on campus. In some cases, bullying may not be a criminal act, but it may border on legal harassment. If the school has an attorney, they could visit the school once in awhile, and investigate cases of harassment that is repeated among certain students. The lawyer could even sit down with the bully, in the presence of their parents of course, and remind them , (as a favor), that incidents of harassment are legal issues and that parents of the harassed child may pursue legal action against them if they so choose. By having the legal authority of an attorney be involved in the process, the bully may back down, or at least think twice before continuing. It is important to note that the attorney does not have the authority to open a lawsuit against the bully, unless the parents of the bullied child initiates such. But having a lawyer around may drive the point home about the seriousness of bullying that involves harassment.
10) Reward students for reporting bullying when they see it and teach them to stand up against bullying. By getting kids to buy into the program too, and rewarding them when they see bullying or harassment, it becomes harder for the bully to get the upper hand. By seeing first hand that everyone is going to stand against bullying wherever they see it, the bullies will be outnumbered and may lose some of the “fame” of the bullying game among their peers. Get everyone on the same page, including the students in order to make a school anti-bullying plan work.
How Schools Can Fight Back
Another great idea which wasn’t mentioned above is to have regular guest speakers to come to the school to talk about the harmful effects of bullying. Here is a link to a motivational speaker on this topic: http://tomthelen.com/. His name is Tom Thelen. He focuses on building strength of character, respecting others, and how to forgive those who have bullied others in the past. Bullying occurs primarily because of low self-esteem, either on the part of the bully or the ones they bully, or both. Building character and developing empathy for others is often the first step in moving toward building a school that says NO to bullying. Thelen has been featured on PBS, as well as countless other public broadcasting programs.
Keith Deltano is another speaker with a mission. He has helped countless young people learn to see bullying in a different light, develop both self-respect and respect for others, and create positive climates for schools against bullying. He focuses on bullying online, and you can find out more about what he does here: http://www.dontbullyonline.com/.
Even if you cannot afford to have these find speakers come and talk in your school, their websites offer some great additional resources for schools as they develop their own anti-bullying environment. There can be many ideas obtained from visiting these sites, or others like them. Also, local agencies may have speakers who will come speak on the topic. The more we pool our resources together, the stronger we will be in fighting bullying and getting the message across that it is just not going to happen in our school.
How Schools Can Fight Back: Conclusion
The bottom line in schools fighting back is being on the same page as a district, and a community. Parents groups can help by being “watchdogs” for bullying behavior. Kids can be involved too, by reporting bullying wherever they see it, and standing up against intimidation. If a student witnesses an act of bullying, they could tell the bully that they know what they are doing is bullying and that they are going to tell. They should only do this if they are safe. If the person is threatening them, or someone else, they should go straight to the teacher or principal. But by teaching students to say NO to bullying from the beginning, it will create an atmosphere that will be extremely hard for the bully to find his footing. The bully depends on his friends and others who admire what he or she does to fuel their passion. If we nip this in the bud, and stand against it at all times, we disallow them to get any real satisfaction from these acts.
CALL A SPADE A SPADE
Bullying is bad no matter what form it comes in. Whether it is physical aggression, intimidation, or verbal abuse, it is all hurtful. The damage and the scars that are left on the victims of bullying exist, long after they have left the school or the situation in which the bullying occurred. Kids are depending on us to make sure they are protected from these damaging influences. There is no doubt the media plays a role in these scenarios and we will discuss that in a future article in more depth. But, if schools are to fight back against bullying, they must create an environment in which the bully is the minority, and it is almost impossible for them to find a victim, because there are so many heroes.
There are no easy answers. But bullying will continue unless schools have a definite anti-bullying policy in place, vow to enforce it at any cost, and involve all players in the game to rally against it. This means including parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. This requires more communication on the part of all of these people, but it can be done, if it is decided it is crucial to the anti-bullying climate the school is trying to create.
Without anti-bullying policies in place, without schools who will fight back and create an environment in which the bully will never win, without active involvement from all participants, bullying will continue. Statistics show that both bullies and victims often become criminals later in life, possibly due, at least in part, to their patterns of behavior as a child.
How Schools Can Fight Back
SAY “NO” TO BULLYING AND MEAN IT