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Bullying Prevention: A Helpful Primer

Janelle Cox

This time of the year, when tempers flare and patience runs short, bullying can rear its ugly head in even the most composed of classrooms. Here's a bullying prevention primer with many links and ideas to help you and your class get a handle on this destructive behavior.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is when someone with more power or confidence intentionally intimidates someone. Bullying can include, but is not limited to: Making threats, gossiping or spreading rumors (on or offline), unprovoked physical or verbal attacks, and the intentional exclusion of someone from a group, social setting or activity.

The History

Bullying isn't something new; it has been around for generations. In the past, bullying was seen as part of growing up and children were told to "toughen up" and "not let it get to them." It was a problem that was most common during school hours. In today's world, people are becoming more and more aware of the impact bullying is taking on the victims. There have been numerous reports of school shootings, stabbings, and verbal or physical abuse due to bullying.

In this digital age, bullying is a 24-hour-a-day issue that children cannot seem to escape. Children are taking bullying to a whole new level and are now "cyberbullying" their peers. Cyberbullying consists of the use of electronic technology such as computers, cell phones and tablets to intentionally harass someone. This type of bullying is different because it can happen anytime and rumors can be posted anonymously. Trying to delete these messages or pictures can be extremely difficult and children are having a hard time getting away from the situation.

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Who is at Risk?

According to Stopbullying.gov, bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere. There may be an increased risk of being bullied depending on the environment and group the person is associated with. Groups that are at an increased risk of being bullied are the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, along with children with disabilities and students that socially isolate themselves from their peers.

Some warning signs that teachers can look for are:

  • Declining grades.
  • Sudden loss of friends.
  • Students that come to school hungry.
  • Loss of personal items.
  • Decreased self-esteem.

The full list of the warning signs that may point to bullying can be found at Stopbullying.gov.

How to Report Bullying

According to "Yorber & Kern, 2003" from the Bullying Prevention Resource Guide, "Only 30 percent of students who had witnessed or been the target of bullying said teachers intervened "often" or "always" - contrasted with up to 85 percent of teachers who described themselves as doing so." Therefore, it's important to initiate bullying prevention if you observe a student being bullied in school. The chance that a teacher will observe this is rare, but given the fact that is does occur, it's important to know what to do and how to report it.

Steps to Take:

  1. Take immediate action and confront the bully in a firm manner.
  2. Send a clear message to the bully that it is NOT OK to treat people like that.
  3. Record the incident and share what happened with the parents.

To view the full list of how teachers should respond to bullying, visit Peacefulplaygrounds.com.

What you can do in the Classroom

If you take a look at the headlines in the news, it's easy to see that bullying is a huge problem in our society and schools. As teachers, we can help tackle this issue by creating a bully-free classroom where students feel safe. We can create lessons and activities that help children identify their feelings and learn how to make the "right" decisions.

To help raise awareness about bullying in the classroom, try these activities:

  • Have a Class Discussion. Regularly schedule weekly class discussions about bullying. Generate the discussion based on what's relevant in the students' lives. Ask, "How do you think Harry Potter felt when he got bullied?" Or try this example of an effective class discussion from the National Bullying Prevention Center. "Ask the students for their ideas on what bullying is; use these responses to help define the term. Give examples of what bullying is and is not. Ask the students, "Who is bullied?" "Why do kids bully?" and, "What can you do about it?" Discuss their ideas and offer tips on what they can do."
  • Role Play. Role playing provides the opportunity for students to identify with someone who has been bullied, has bullied someone, or who has observed someone who was being bullied. For this activity, have students take turns assuming roles while the other students observe and take notes. For the complete role playing tutorial, visit Goldenrulepledge.com.
  • Create a Bullying Prevention Mascot. Create a symbol to represent that bullying can be stopped. Trace one student's body on a piece of paper and cut out. Then each student takes turns writing a statement on the body, describing how they think they can help someone being bullied. Display the finished product outside the classroom and title it, "Together we can make a Difference."
  • Explore Similarities & Differences. Oftentimes students don’t realize how much they have in common with their classmates. If they had the opportunity to learn this, there's a chance bullying can be avoided. Try playing a game that highlights students' commonalities. Gather students to play a "Simon Says"-type game where students watch carefully and respond to the teacher's commands. For example, "Teacher says, everyone who has a sister please stand up" or "Everyone who's favorite sport is baseball please sit down" and so on. At the end of the game, ask students to share one thing they learned that they didn't know about one of their classmates.
  • Teach Tolerance and Acceptance - Have students work together to learn how to be more tolerant and accepting of others. Brainstorm what is means to be a good friend, and how they can be more tolerant and accepting of others. Discuss their responses as a class. Then divide students into groups and have them use their responses they brainstormed to create a poster about accepting others. 

Additional activities to raise awareness and increase understanding about bullying can be found at Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center.

Bullying prevention can be initiatedin your classroom. It is essential that you provide your students with a safe and secure environment where they feel protected. Be observant, and model positive appropriate behavior. Provide students with anti-bullying activities, and keep parents informed of what is going on in your classroom. Together you can make a difference.

For additional information on bullying visit:

Bullying Prevention Resource Guide

National Bullying Prevention Center

StopBullying.gov

Center for Safe Schools

Drugrehab.com