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EDITORIAL: Schools Tackling Bullies, But Can't Do It Alone

school-bulliesBullying in school is a serious, widespread problem. According to the General Assembly's Commission on Children, 25 percent of Connecticut high school students say they have been bullied.

But schools and school districts can do only so much. As with other problems facing public education, real change will come only with cooperation and advocacy at home.

Laws passed by the state legislature last year will reduce school bullying. Every public school must appoint a "safe school climate" committee and specialist to monitor bullying. In addition, each school district must create a safe school climate coordinator to, among other things, act as a liaison between the district and the state Department of Education.

Those are prudent moves: The first step in combating bullying is to identify, investigate and document inappropriate actions, and that means devoting serious resources to the task. But these shouldn't be interpreted as a sign that "the schools are taking care of it." Parental involvement, too, is a must., a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that in addition to threats and physical violence, bullying can include making inappropriate sexual comments, telling other children not to be friends with someone, or spreading rumors. The website suggests that parents encourage their children to report incidents of bullying to them; coach the child in ways to address bullying; work with school staff on the problem; and use other parents as resources in finding ways to encourage respectful behavior at school.

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Kidpower, a nonprofit anti-bullying organization founded in 1989, says parents can fight bullying by teaching kids to:

-- Walk with confidence, calm and awareness, projecting a self-assured image.

-- Avoid bullies by simply walking away from them.

-- Set boundaries by saying "stop!" or "no!"

-- Practice "throwing the mean things other people are saying into a [mental] trash can."

A Swedish study found that bullies make up about 15 percent of the teen population. Telling behaviors are name-calling, bragging, uncontrolled anger, cruelty to animals, spending too much time with less powerful kids and defiance. Parents who suspect their child is bullying should consult with school staff and a pediatrician for help. Young bullies often go on to difficult adult lives that can include criminal convictions.

Book an Anti-Bullying & Prevention Speaker for your next in-service day.

Find out how other teachers handle bullies in the classroom in our bullying poll.

(c)2012 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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EDITORIAL: Schools Tackling Bullies, But Can't Do It Alone

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