Elements of an Anti-Bully School Campaign
An effective campaign involves: a commitment and a willingness to work collectively rather than reactively on achievable methods of bullying prevention. The benefits of taking the time in the early stages to develop an approach that engages all of the school personnel, other professionals, students and parents will reap greater rewards. The following elements are important to a successful program:
- Develop a clear policy and procedures statement for the reporting of bullying incidents.
- Administer an anonymous questionnaire/survey.
- Engage parents/care-givers…especially students!
- Develop a school anti-bully constitution/Code of Conduct. Hold a school anti-bully day within two months of the start of the school year.
- Improve supervision in those areas where bullying is most evident.
- Engage students from local secondary schools.
- Develop a resource centre with materials, videos, curriculum ideas and internet resources.
- Coordinate parent/caregiver meetings that allow a discussion of the issues.
- Use special in-school staff meetings to raise awareness and knowledge.
- Designate a teacher(s) as a key resource and provide opportunities for training.
- Develop older students, volunteer and former teachers to prevent/identify bullying behaviour.
- Involve the bus drivers, volunteers, monitors, maintenance, office and cafeteria staff.
- Establish a confidential reporting system that allows students to report victimization.
- Develop strategies to reward students for positive, inclusive behaviour.
- Use special assemblies but recognize they have limited long-term results.
- Include an item relating to bullying as a part of school newsletters.
- Send home a quarterly newsletter which contains articles written by students.
- Arrange student focus groups coordinated to generate solutions.
- Ensure that staff do not ‘turn a blind eye’ to suspected bullying.
A teacher may unwittingly or otherwise, engage in, instigate or reinforce bullying behaviour in a number of ways. This may be through the use of sarcasm or other insulting or demeaning forms of language when addressing students or in making negative comments about a student’s appearance or background.
Humiliating a student (directly or indirectly) who is academically weak or achieving, or vulnerable in other ways is not only demeaning but sends a strong message of endorsement to other students. If it is okay for the adult to say those things then it is acceptable for everyone!
Teachers using any gesture or expression of a threatening or intimidating nature, or any form of degrading physical contact need to recognize that this simply promotes a ‘we/they’ ethos. The adults are in competition with the students; a battle of wills that rarely generates any winners.
Prevention of Bullying
The school principal is accountable for the management, organization and aministration of the school and is responsible for ensuring adequate and reasonable measures to counter bullying in their schools. The policy to counter bullying must be formulated in co-operation with the school staff, both teaching and non-teaching, and in consultation with parents and students. In this way, the exercise of agreeing on what is meant by bullying and the resultant development of school-based strategies for dealing with it are shared by all concerned. It is essential that all parties have a clear understanding of the aims and content if the policy is to form the basis for developing effective school-based strategies for dealing with the problem.
The prevalent misconception among adults and many students is that bullying is a normal phase, that it teaches students to toughen up. This needs to be challenged. It is important that students are encouraged to report incidents of bullying. This may require a radical change in attitudes so that students realize that they have a responsibility for the safety and welfare of fellow students.
The principal has a key role in dealing with bullying in school because he/she is in a strong position to influence attitudes and set standards. If staff, students and parents/care givers are involved in the development of the policy, they are more likely to actively support it. The policy should stress the need to prevent and not just control bullying. It is not sufficient to discipline the bully and to give support to the victim.
Zero tolerance, sometimes referred to as the “one strike and you’re out” policy, was developed in schools as a response to legitimate concerns that should not be minimized. Unfortunately, the so-called remedy has perhaps created more difficulty than the original problem due to misunderstandings and the proverbial search for a ‘quick fix’ solution. It is apparent that zero tolerance often results in heightened bitterness on the part of the expelled student and a greater resentment towards authority. The ‘one size fits all’ methodology has not resulted in safer and calmer schools indeed the approach may more often than not hurt students. It certainly has the potential to create an adversarial relationship with parents, harm the child’s education and increase the likelihood of students simply lying when confronted with any misdemeanor. In some cases it has simply resulted in a re- victimization of the victim of bullying.
What if you told a teacher that you were being bullied only to hear that “this school doesn’t have a bullying problem, or that “bullying is a part of life, deal with it”.
There are students who don’t know of their right to expect a safe environment in which to study and learn. Bullying is unacceptable and that is why we want to encourage schools and other institutions to develop anti-bullying approaches that include young people themselves and others in the community.