By Bethiel Girma Holton
October is National Anti-Bullying Month. We know that bullying behavior can stem from disengagement with school, from teachers and from peers. In fact, students who bully other students are at greater risk of experiencing loneliness at school; having trouble making friends; and are more likely to be involved in problem behaviors in and out of school.
Bullying behavior involves repeated physical, verbal or psychological attacks or intimidated direction and all bullying involves repeated harmful acts and an imbalance of power. The best way to stop bullying is to prevent it from occurring by creating an environment where it is not tolerated. StopBullying.gov, an initiative from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, identifies a number of school wide bullying prevention strategies that have been found to be effective, including:
Parent Involvement: Parents are an important part of bully prevention. A great first step to involving parents is educating them so they understand the problem and recognize the signs of bullying and bullied behavior and have tools to intervene appropriately.
School Wide Expectations: Creating clear expectations about bullying is important to ensuring that students understand that bullying behavior is unacceptable. Posting classroom signs prohibiting bullying and listing the consequences is an important first step.
Target Hot Spots: Some areas of a school (perhaps the lunchroom, playground, gymnasium or hallways) maybe a "hot spot" for bullying behavior simply because adults aren't as visible or present. Developing tailored strategies and/or activities to counter bullying in specific school hot spots can help reduce bullying behavior by keeping students busy and limiting the access bullies have to unsupervised time with other students.
Build a Safe Environment: Work to create a school culture of respect, empathy and inclusiveness. Find opportunities to reinforce these values with students, parents and staff through events, activities and assemblies. An example of this is morning greeting where City Year AmeriCorps members welcome students and teachers as they enter the school building. A team may engage the entire school community in chants and dances or simply warmly welcome each person who walks through into the school building each morning, morning greeting can help remind students that school is a fun and welcoming place while sharing our values of teamwork, positive energy and inclusivity!
Bethiel Girma Holton, M.S.W., is the National Director of Student Engagement at City Year where she works to develop trainings and resources to support City Year’s work in the areas of attendance, social emotional learning, school culture and youth development. She is a alumna of City Year Boston.