Developing and Implementing an Anti-Bullying Program in Schools

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1 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 1 Developing and Implementing an Anti-Bullying Program in Schools Michael Ricke South Dakota State University EDAD 735 School Law Dr. Scully April 21, 2013

2 What is Bullying? A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 2 In schools all across the United States, there are boys and girls who are going to school today in fear. It s not a fear of taking a test, having an incomplete homework assignment, or having to give a speech in front of their classmates. This fear runs much deeper than those things it s the fear of being bullied. Bullying in schools has been around since the first public and private schools opened in this country in the 1700 s and it is not unique to schools in our country (Olweus & Limber, 1999). However, bullying has been studied extensively just in that 30 years in an attempt better understand the bullies and their victims. Until the wave of school shootings beginning in 1993, little research on bullying behavior was conducted by American researchers. The horrific act of school violence at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado prompted American researchers to seriously consider the physical and emotional implications of bullying (Bender & Losel, 2011). Drawing from studies spearheaded by Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus and others, American researchers reevaluated the impact of bullying behavior, prompting the construction of antibullying school programs (Safran, 2007). Milsom and Gallo (2006) classify bullies in four different categories: Physical bullies often hit, kick, or shove others. Verbal bullies use words to harm others through name-calling, insulting, making racist comments, or harsh teasing. Relational bullies often focus on excluding one person from their peer group and usually do so through verbal threats and spreading rumors. Reactive bullies are individuals who are often both bully and victim.

3 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 3 In terms of gender differences, boys are much more likely to bully others than are girls, and a relatively large percentage of girls report that they are bullied mainly by boys (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Although direct bullying is a greater problem among boys, bullying also occurs among girls. Girls are less apt to use physical means of bullying; instead, they use more subtle and indirect ways of harassment such as slandering, spreading rumors, intentionally excluding others from the group, and manipulating friendship relations (Safran, 2007). While just as damaging, these forms of bullying may be more difficult for adults to detect. The Effects of Bullying The consequences of bullying are many. Studies have clearly shown that bullying at school was a strong predictor of later delinquency, violence, aggression and related undesirable life outcomes in victims. In particular, frequent physical bullying appeared as a risk marker for the development of anti-social problems (Bender & Losel, 2011). Victims of bullying who receive little support are more likely to suffer from academic problems, absenteeism, loneliness, and loss of friends. Both the bullies and the victims are at a much higher risk of depression which can lead to academic problems, self-defeating behaviors, and interpersonal problems (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Kaiser and Rasminsky (2003) reported that as bullies go through adolescence they are more at risk for severe problems such as delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, and dropping out of school. Bullying behavior sets a tense and sometimes violent undertone in a school that can contaminate the educational environment and affects every child's learning, sense of security, and psychological well-being. Many students report silently suffering great physical and psychological pain, humiliation, and stress and are traumatized as a consequence of undetected bullying behavior. The impact is longstanding, often leaving victims of bullying

4 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 4 emotionally scarred. Bullying also creates an undercurrent of fear in schools. Most students report that they consider bullies to be a normal part of the school community, suggesting that bullying is enmeshed in the very fabric of a school's culture (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Developing and Implementing an Anti-Bullying Policy Different prevention and intervention strategies have been implemented in different schools throughout that nation that have been effective in reducing the cases of bullying. While the strategies may be somewhat different, there is a common theme that seems to run through all of them: effective bullying prevention and intervention programs target not only the classroom, but also the school environment, students, parents, and the community. Bullying is not just a classroom issue it s not just a school issue it s a community issue and needs to be addressed at all levels in order for prevention programs to be effective (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). A big first step in an effective bullying intervention program is acknowledging that bullying does exist and taking the stance that it will not be tolerated. From that point, policies need to be developed that clearly communicate what bullying is, how incidences of bullying can be reported, and what possible consequences of bullying behavior are. From there it is vital to get all school personnel to buy in to the program and make sure the policies are enforced fairly and consistently (Safran, 2007). Gallo and Milson (2006) go as far as to say it is important even include bus drivers, lunchroom staff and paraprofessionals in any in-service training because they are often one who see the kids in settings that seem to promote bullying behaviors. Bullying policies should be developed with input from administrators, teachers, student representatives, parents, and community members. Bully prevention/intervention

5 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 5 programs work when schools have clear and consistent policies and rules. Bullies are more likely to continue engaging in bullying behavior when they feel no one will intervene and there will be no consequences for them (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Acknowledging that bullying occurs and that it will not be tolerated is an important start in helping students to recognize a school s commitment to protecting them from bullies. Policies must include clear definitions of bullying, outline policies for reporting inappropriate behavior, and list consequences of bullying behaviors. Once the policies are in place, it is vital that school personnel follow through by enforcing the policies fairly and consistently. It is a good idea for the school principal, counselor and teachers to meet with students during an assembly at the start of each year to review the school s zero-tolerance policy in regards to bullying. Teachers can also talk with students during classes to clarify what behaviors are considered bullying and discuss acceptable student behavior in response to bullying. In addition, I think that it is important to remember that that bullying is not a topic that can simply be addressed at a staff meeting and assembly at the beginning of the year - this is an issue that must constantly be addressed and reviewed with students, staff, and community. If a school can make everyone involved aware that bullying behaviors will not be tolerated, the intervention program will be much more effective (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Both victims and bullies can benefit from developing skills and receiving support both prior to and after incidents of bullying (Olweus & Limber, 1999). For victims, it is important to clearly communicate that they are not at fault and do not deserve the bullying they experience. We need to help victims of bullying identify personal strengths and accomplishments, thereby instilling feelings of pride and confidence (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). If we can build their self-esteem, victims might better able to shield themselves from future bullying. Improving social skills may also decrease a victim s chances of being bullied.

6 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 6 Teaching victims effective social skills can help students develop stronger relationships with peers, which may decrease the likelihood of them being targeted in the future (Olweus & Limber, 1999). Teaching empathy to bullies has been recommended as an important component of most all anti-bullying efforts (Olweus & Limber, 1999). For the bullies it is important to help them learn new ways of interacting with others. Teaching them skills in self regulation, anger management, and conflict resolution can help bullies learn both to think before they act and to change their behaviors (Kaiser & Rasminsky, 2003). Just like with victims, bullies can also benefit from social skills training. Many times bullies often lack the social skills to get what they want in acceptable ways. Helping bullies develop friendship-making skills may serve to eliminate their aggressive behavior toward others (Olweus & Limber, 1999). Finally, just as victims need adult support, bullies can also benefit from it too. In other words, rather than immediately assume a student is intentionally being cruel (although that may sometimes be the case), school personnel can approach intervention from a developmental perspective by providing education (Gallo & Milsom, 2006). Conclusion Bullying is an issue that school districts have been fighting for many years. Program after program has come and gone yet bullying still occurs. To me the reason for this is because there is no magic program that works. There are many programs that CAN be effective if schools commit to them. Teachers and administrators can obviously have the biggest impact on bully prevention. However, by getting the students, school and community as a whole to understand that bullying exists and commit to putting an end to it, a program s effectiveness will be maximized.

7 A n t i - B u l l y i n g P r o g r a m 7 Bibliography Bender, D., & Losel, F. (2011). Bullying at school as a predictor of delinquency, violence and otheranti-social behaviour in adulthood. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Gallo, L. L., & Milsom, A. (2006, January). Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention. Middle School Journal, Kaiser, B., & Rasminsky, J. S. (2003). Challenging behavior in young children: Understanding, preventing, and responding effectively. Boston: Pearson. Olweus, D., & Limber, S. (1999). Bullying Prevention Program. Golden, CO: Venture Publishing. Safran, E. R. (2007). Bullying Behavior, Bully Prevention Programs & Gender. Journal of Emotional Abuse,

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