Allan L. Beane, a former classroom teacher, is an internationally recognized expert, keynote speaker and author on bullying, as well as a nationally renowned consultant and educator. His article provides 7 ways schools must address bullying.
Rashes of suicides, criminal cases, and lawsuits involving bullying have highlighted the seriousness of bullying and the struggles school personnel and parents experience in addressing the problem. Evident in these cases is the realization that inaction and inappropriate action can have severe consequences. I have served as an expert consultant in ten cases and would like to share the following tips for preventing and stopping bullying in your schools.
1. Admit that bullying exists in your schools and enforce the anti-bullying policy. Unfortunately, too many school systems are denying that bullying is a problem in their schools and do not adhere to their policy. The consequences have been disastrous. The truth is, approximately 20% of students in every school is bullied. Since most of it occurs in secret, school personnel underestimate the problem. Additionally, students sometimes bully teachers and adults bully students and other adults. All of it must stop!
2. Provide training for school personnel in all of the appropriate areas. Don’t just provide an awareness workshop. School personnel must understand the nature of the problem, how to provide quality supervision, and how to respond to bullying they see and hear. On-the-spot responding is extremely important.
3. Implement a district-wide and school-wide anti-bullying program, including a curriculum (lesson plans). Positive Behavior Support and Character Education programs are great but are not anti-bullying programs. They do not have all of the necessary components. Preventing bullying is not just the counselor or principal’s job. All school personnel must teach anti-bullying lessons once a week. The book, Bullying Prevention for Schools: A Step-by-Step Guide for Implementing a Successful Anti-bullying Program by Allan L. Beane, Ph.D. describes the nine-teen steps to implementing an effective program. Lesson Plans much be taught.
4. Empower students to take a stand against bullying. The vast majority of students aren’t involved in bullying, but they know it is happening and don’t assist victims by taking a safe stand against the abuse. Sometimes they even reinforce it and encourage it. Teach students how destructive bullying is and how it puts the people in their school at risk of retaliation. Just encouraging students to take a stand is not enough. They need to be taught how to take a stand. Our Bully Free Lesson Plans teach students how to collectively and safely respond to bullying they see and hear.
5. Encourage victims and bystanders to report bullying and provide an anonymous reporting procedure. Only about 15 percent of bullying victims tell an adult. Often they keep quiet because they are embarrassed, they are fearful they will be blamed, they are afraid the bully retaliate, they feel shame because they can’t stand up for themselves, and they fee defective. Some have witnessed adults being told and nothing was done. Bystanders are afraid of retaliation.
6. Provide adequate monitoring and supervision in high-risk areas (hallways, locker rooms, bathrooms, under stairwells, etc.): Bully often happens where there is a lack of adult supervision, not enough supervision, poor supervision, and/or a lack of structure. Quality supervision has been an issue in almost every lawsuit I’ve been involved in. Identify these areas and develop a supervision plan and, where necessary, add structure.
7. Promptly and thoroughly investigate reports of bullying. Lack of response from school personnel has been a major issue in lawsuits. All reports of bullying must be taken seriously and investigated in a timely manner. Don’t make light of it or blame the victim. Even rumors should be promptly investigated.
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