Photo: Bullying: What You Need to Know – stopbullying.gov
By Bethiel Girma Holton, National Director of Student Engagement, City Year, Inc.
City Year’s work in schools isn’t just about academics, we also work to help students build the skillsthey need to get along with each other like empathy and teamwork–while helping schools identify opportunities to increase engagement and promote an inclusive environment.
As October and National Bullying Prevention Month come to an end, we hope to carry these skills throughout the school year and beyond. The best way to stop bullying is to prevent it from occurring by creating an environment where it is not tolerated.
We know that many teachers and schools do their best to create an environment where bullying is unacceptable but the fact remains that bullying is pervasive in some schools.
In fact, over 75% of sixth graders report being bullied at some point in their lives (National Crime Prevention Council, 2001). Those of us who have experienced bullying as children understand what a frightening and isolating experience it can be which makes it imperative that adults intervene appropriately when witnessing bullying behavior.
There is no set formula for the best way to intervene when you suspect or observe bullying behavior. But some actions to consider include:
1. Immediately break up bullying behavior
a. When you see bullying, you need to take actions right away and tell the bullying children that their behavior is wrong and they need to stop immediately.
b. The best way to handle this is to ask the bullying children to stop immediately in front of both parties and bystanders. Your goal is to stop the bullying behavior.
i. Be firm and specific about the behavior that needs to stop.
ii. Separating the students, when possible, is most effective.
iii. Be clear that you will follow up with both parties at a later time.
iv. For any serious incidents, you’ll need to follow school protocol for reporting misbehavior.
c. How you go about breaking up bullying behavior will depend on many factors including:
i. Time and location of bullying (Is this before school? On the playground? In afterschool?)
ii. Your relationships with the students involved (How well do you know that the students? Do you have any prior knowledge about the dynamics between the parties involved?)
iii. Existing school rules (Are there explicit rules about bullying?)
iv. Consequences? How do most teachers and adults in the school handle bullying behavior?
2. Have a serious talk with the bullying victim to find out more information about the situation.
a. Be sure to speak with the bullying victim along and adequately document what the student is sharing with you.
3. Speak with other students who witnessed but did not participate in the bullying behavior.
a. Help bystanders understand what has happened and explain how they can be helpful in preventing future incidents.
4. If minor bullying has occurred, speak with the bullying students about their behavior and why it is unacceptable.
a. Be sure to provide clear examples of bullying behavior and suggestions for changing behavior in the future.
b. Be sure to only comment on what you’ve seen and not what was shared by the bullying victim.
5. If serious bullying is occurring, arrange a meeting with student’s teacher and appropriate school staff.
a. Be prepared to discuss your observations and other incidents the student has shared with you.
(Reference: US Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention)