Bullying rates are on the rise. According to a survey done by YouthTruth (https://youthtruthsurvey.org/bullying-today/), 1 in 3 students are bullied in schools. As a parent and principal, seeing a statistic like this is hard. Is bullying different or is the definition of bullying changing? What are ways we can be active in preventing bullying?
The reality is, what we the adults think matters a lot less than what the kids think.
We shouldn’t put words into our kids’ mouths, and we should caution against overly inflammatory language. Still, if a child thinks they are being bullied, we need to trust their assessment.
As a school principal, it can seem like an impossible task to be the one responsible for preventing bullying. There are so many places it can happen – before school, walking home, during class, recess, at home through social media, etc.
We find taking one step at a time can result in huge improvements in the school community and culture. Here are some proactive ways to start:
Proactive Ways to Prevent Bullying
Character Building Beyond Bullying
Let’s be real –kids not bullying other kids is a minimum expectation. As such, focusing on bullying prevention can ring hollow. While every kid can run the risk of falling into bullying behavior, as principals and parents we aspire for much for our kids. So let’s raise the bar. Instead of focusing on not bullying with kids, focus on what kind and brave leadership looks like.
When kids can create a vision of themselves of being a kind and brave leader, they start to see their responsibility in treating others kindly. They start to see themselves as one who sets the tone for how others are treated – not just in preventing bullying.
Here are a few ideas of character building structures:
There are programs like The Leader in Me that Possip school Napier Elementary uses. Possip partner Nashville Classical uses their school core values, an acronym called the FIRST values (Focus, Integrity, Responsibility, Scholarship, Teamwork). We have also found holidays like Kwanzaa also offers an opportunity to talk about character beyond bullying. Brene Brown has a program called the Daring Classroom that some educators in our network have found interesting.
Preventing Bullying Lessons For Kids
In addition to larger character building work, tactically talking about and teaching anti-bullying is important. At the beginning of the year, think about whole school lessons you could do on bullying prevention. The first week of school is a great time to build trusting relationships with students and staff through these culture building activities or lessons.
Here are a few anti-bullying resources:
- Here is a movie on bullying with curricular resources to show students and have a few lessons on this topic: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/bully/
- Here’s a link to websites, organizations, articles, planning guides, lesson plans, and other resources dedicated to preventing bullying and harassment: https://www.edutopia.org/article/bullying-prevention-resources
- Here’s a link to lesson plans and activities you can use in classrooms to combat bullying: http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/teaching-students-to-prevent-bullying.html
- Here’s a list of organizations that partner with schools to combat bullying and PD resources for bullying: https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/bullying-help-resources-and-partners
Here are a bunch of resources for principals to help deal with bullying issues: https://www.naesp.org/bullying-prevention-resources
Teaching Bullying 101 to Parents
Teaching parents the signs of bullying and also the difference between bullying and mean moments is a great first step. This is especially important for 6th grade parents coming from elementary school to middle school. Hosting a parent training on preventing bullying with prevention resources and information at the beginning of the year is one way to do this.
You can also send home some activities or topics in a parent newsletter that parents can discuss with their students about bullying prevention.
For parents, bullying starts to get tricky for them too! They start to see things happening to their kid, with their kid, and sometimes see things on social media of concern.
Having parents help teach these topics, equipping them to notice if bullying is happening, and giving them an outlet (like Possip or some other mechanism) to share when they see bullying happening will help you immensely as the school year progresses.
A sub-component of teaching parents about bullying can be a Social Media 101.
Social Media 101 can give parents tips on how to monitor their child’s social media. This is especially important during the middle school and high school years. Parents and I have created solutions like:
- Not allowing child to have their phone past 8pm
- Having daily checks of social media messages and posts
- Following child on social media accounts to see content posted
- Only allowing them to have one social media platform
- Downloading a social media monitoring app (examples here: https://www.learningliftoff.com/5-best-monitoring-apps-for-parents/)
Teaching Correct Terminology to Students, Parents, and Teachers
Knowing the differences between a mean moment and bullying will allow students, parents, and teachers to have a common definition of bullying and decide on what action steps to take.
This was something I went through with parents frequently throughout the year when determining the conclusion of a bullying investigation. I made a quick one-pager with the definition of each and referred to that frequently. If the situation ended up being either a rude or mean moment, they should still be addressed and are unacceptable ways to treat others in the school community. The RULER Blueprint tool was effective in resolving those conflict situations along with situational consequences and restorative assignments. Here is also a helpful article to get started on teaching this terminology to your school community:
Here is a framework for assessing the behavior.
Creating a Clear Mode of Communication for Students and Parents
Make sure students have, and know, a safe way to communicate to staff if they feel they are being bullied. Some parents have used Possip to help articulate when their kid is feeling bullied or unsafe – knowing the specifics helps the school intervene.
You can also consider having an anonymous “mailbox” outside of your office or in a neutral location that students can slip a form in when they either see a student in need of help or feel they need help but don’t know who to go to.
Also, having a secure online google form for students and parents to submit detailed information about a bullying issue could be a more comfortable method of communication for these sensitive concerns.
These were a few proactive strategies.
Look out tomorrow for our blog on reactive steps to bullying prevention. And if you want help thinking through your anti-bullying strategies, email firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up to learn more about Possip through possipit.com/contact.