Bullying is a pervasive problem that can have grave consequences. Schools and school officials have an important role in preventing bullying and should do everything in their power to educate staff and students alike through anti-bullying school assemblies, counseling sessions, and other forms of instruction. Both middle school anti bullying programs and anti bullying programs for high schools need to accomplish the following goals.
Goal #1: Establish a clear definition of bullying.
Many people have a particular image of bullying from TV or movies. They picture a bigger child, usually a boy, threatening or physically attacking a smaller boy. Real-life bullying scenarios are not so clear-cut, so a definition needs to help people understand that bullies and victims can be any gender, race or size, that bullying speakers for schools does not need to involve physical violence, and that bullying does not always occur in a face-to-face environment. A good definition also needs to clarify those actions which, even though annoying or hurtful, do not constitute bullying.
Goal #2: Clarify the roles in a bullying scenario.
Children may be bullies, victims, or bystanders, and individuals may play different roles in different circumstances. Bullying is associated with differences in social power, but power differences can shift over time, and they are very much relationship-dependent. As students learn strategies to prevent bullying, they need to learn the responsibilities of each of these roles.
Goal #3: Give students and staff a clear plan of action for responding to bullying.
Teachers and other staff members should learn how to respond to bullies to make the bullying stop, how to help victims, and how to encourage bystanders to help the victim. All children need to learn productive strategies for dealing with bullies, like responding in a calm and assertive manner, disengaging, and reporting to an adult. All children need to be empowered to stand up against bullies. Children need to know above all that school officials are aware of bullying and take it seriously.
Goal #4: Provide resources to address cyber bullying specifically.
Cyber bullying is different from face-to-face bullying because it can more easily happen under the radar of authorities. The consequences of cyber bullying can be especially severe because an incident can be witnessed by innumerable anonymous bystanders through forwarded text messages and social network posts. Children need to be educated regarding cyber safety, and schools and parents need strict policies in place to limit and/or supervise children’s use of technology.
Many schools follow up a bullying incident with a school-wide bullying assembly, but anti-bullying efforts need to be ongoing and evolving. Schools also need to partner with parents and involve them in anti-bullying education programs and policy decisions.