Bullied students are more likely to drop out of school, get into physical fights, and experience health problems (US Department of Health and Human Services). Here are ways educators can prevent bullying in schools.
Reward positive behaviors with praise and privileges. Students who witness bullying may be too afraid to speak up for fear of being labeled a “snitch.” Encourage bystanders to step in and take action.
Create a Safe Learning Environment
In order to prevent bullying, educators must ensure that students have a safe learning environment. This means that teachers must be visible and vigilant in classrooms, hallways, stairwells, cafeterias, and locker rooms, as well as on buses and for those who walk to school. They must also be aware of the many different forms of bullying, including social bullying and cyberbullying, and be ready to respond accordingly.
Educators should be familiar with their state laws regarding bullying, as well as their school district’s policies on the matter. This will allow them to take the necessary steps in the event of a bullying incident. They should also be able to answer questions about the school’s policies, including what constitutes a bullying incident and how they should handle it (US Department of Health and Human Services).
When an incident occurs, it is important that teachers separate the students involved as much as possible. This will make it easier to get the full story, especially if there are bystanders who may be encouraging or reinforcing the bully’s behavior (Mahoney, 2012). When talking to a student who has been victimized, they should be encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings with them. The teacher should empathize with the victim and make sure they know that they will help them resolve their problem. However, it is important that the teacher does not talk to them in front of the bully, as victims are often afraid of retaliation (US Department of Health and Human Services).
While it is true that kids will be kids, today’s children cannot cope with the daily abuse and harassment that bullying can bring. When kids are constantly exposed to beatings and death threats, it’s hard for them to develop healthy coping skills. They become withdrawn, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal. In addition, kids who are bullied are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs and alcohol in adolescence and as adults, get into fights and vandalize property, have relationship problems, and abuse their romantic partners or their own children (US Department of Health and Human Services).
Teachers should encourage all of their students to stand up for others and to report any incidents of bullying they witness. They should also let their students know that they will not be punished for speaking out as long as they are being truthful and not tattling.
Create a Culture of Respect
Kids learn through the adults in their lives, and that means that teachers and other school staff can send a strong message to students about how they expect them to treat each other. Modeling respectful behavior and demonstrating empathy in all interactions with students and staff members can help prevent bullying from occurring.
Educators can also help by being alert and paying attention to their students. Bullying most often occurs in areas where adult supervision is minimal — such as bathrooms, playgrounds, and crowded hallways — so it’s important that educators take note of what happens in these areas. This helps them to identify possible incidents of bullying and take action accordingly.
When an educator witnesses a bullying incident, they should react quickly and calmly. They should be prepared to explain what happened and why it’s unacceptable. This can help to prevent the student from feeling judged or embarrassed for reporting it.
It’s also important to teach students that tattling is not the same as gossiping, and it’s always okay to tell an adult about something that they have seen or heard. Educators should stress that they want to hear the facts of what has occurred and that it’s their responsibility to report any incidents of bullying to the appropriate person at the school.
When a student is punished for engaging in bullying behavior, it’s essential that the punishment be reasonable and fair. It needs to fit the context of the situation and the history of the student’s behavior at the school. Depending on the severity of the incident, possible punishments could include taking away privileges, detention, and even suspension or expulsion.
It’s also important that educators understand their school’s bullying policy and make sure that their students know what to do if they witness an incident of bullying. This includes knowing what the teacher or school administrator should do in response to the complaint, as well as what steps will be taken if law enforcement becomes involved. Having this information available can help to prevent a student from becoming a victim of bullying because they do not have any faith in the school’s ability or willingness to address it.
Promote Social-Emotional Learning
Educators can help students develop social-emotional skills by encouraging them to build strong friendships and participate in programs that promote peer-to-peer support. The skills that students gain through these experiences can improve their ability to cope with stress, which may make them less likely to engage in aggressive behaviors like bullying. In addition, fostering empathy and other social-emotional skills can reduce bullying by helping students empathize with their peers.
A student’s social-emotional skills are impacted by both their family environment and the relationships they develop in school. Research has shown that students with supportive family relationships and good friendships are less likely to be victims of bullying. In addition, students who have strong relationships in their lives are more confident and possess better interpersonal skills, which can also reduce their likelihood of becoming a victim of bullying.
Schools need to be a place where all children feel supported and accepted, regardless of their family or school situation. This can be achieved by creating a safe and supportive learning environment that is free of aggression. Schools can do this by promoting a positive classroom and school-wide culture, setting clear expectations, and implementing a variety of bullying prevention strategies.
While bullying is often seen as a problem between individuals, it is actually an issue that impacts the entire school community. Bullying often occurs because of a combination of factors that include a lack of social-emotional skills, negative peer influences, poor coping mechanisms, and trauma.
Teachers can help students develop social-emotional competence by encouraging them to express their emotions appropriately, practice conflict-resolution skills, and learn about the cultures of others. In addition, they can incorporate activities in the classroom that help students build awareness of their feelings, including having a “Feelings Tree” or using social-emotional learning strategies to encourage perspective-taking.
Many students witness bullying, but they are not able to step in and intervene because they do not know what is appropriate or how to respond. Teaching students to use nonviolent conflict negotiation methods can help them develop their social-emotional skills and be more empowered in the face of bullying.
Teachers need to be able to recognize the warning signs that students are being bullied. This includes noticing a sudden change in the way a student interacts with classmates or is treated by their peers. For example, the victim may stop spending time with friends or begin skipping lunch periods to avoid being around their peers. Teachers should encourage students to come to them with any concerns they have and be willing to listen, especially when it comes to bullying.
It’s also important for teachers to make sure they are encouraging their students to report bullying incidents by providing them with the tools necessary to do so. This could include ensuring that all students know they can talk to their teacher privately (while still keeping the matter confidential, of course) and providing them with ways to do so anonymously.
One of the biggest things that can prevent bullying is making sure students feel connected to their peers and the school community as a whole. This can be done by promoting a culture of openness and positivity in the classroom, as well as encouraging students to get involved in after-school activities that align with their interests.
Finally, it’s essential to have open communication with parents and guardians. Bullying can impact the lives of many people in a child’s life, including their parents and siblings, so it is critical that everyone is working together to address the issue.
Traditional approaches to bullying largely focus on raising awareness, monitoring “hot spots” like hallways and bathrooms more effectively, and instituting stricter punishments for bullying behaviors. However, these strategies don’t always work and are disproportionately targeted at students of color. Instead, teachers and administrators should try to foster a climate of respect, kindness, and empathy in their classrooms and the school as a whole.
Additionally, they should make sure to practice what they preach by being respectful and supportive of their own staff members in order to create a positive workplace environment that discourages bullying behavior. Educators should be encouraged to speak up for themselves and advocate for their own professional needs in order to help keep the school a safe place for all students.