Opinion
School Climate & Safety Opinion

Addressing Bullying: Schoolwide Solutions

By Nicole Yetter — November 13, 2012 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Kids have been bullying each other for generations. But for Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration or the Net Generation, the ability to utilize technology to expand their reach—and the extent of their harm—has increased exponentially. Bullying in all forms, face-to-face or via technology, is of course unacceptable, but today’s school leaders need to arm themselves with new rules and strategies to address aggressive behaviors that hurt students’ well-being, their academic performance, and school climates overall.

One 2011 report suggests that many schools are not adequately preparing students to be safe in today’s digitally connected age. It cites basic online safety and ethics as two areas in which students need more education.

The report, “State of K-12 Cyberethics, Cybersafety, and Cybersecurity Curriculum in the United States,” was published by the National Cyber Security Alliance and sponsored by Microsoft. Among other findings, the report states that 81 percent of school administrators, including principals and superintendents, said they believe their districts are adequately preparing students in online safety, security, and ethics. However, only 51 percent of teachers agreed.

To date, not a single state has passed comprehensive legislation mandating that online safety, security, and ethics be part of the K-12 curriculum. The National Cyber Security Alliance is urging states to support legislation that does just that.

Creating comprehensive policies and procedures is critical for the protection of all. In some cases, when bullying is based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, it overlaps with harassment, and schools are legally obligated to address it.

It’s important for schools and districts to work with school boards to develop comprehensive policies that address bullying (including cyberbullying) and harassment and to be sure to outline what bullying looks like and sounds like while specifying the consequences of such behavior.

I encourage district administrators to assess the extent and scope of the problems within their schools by conducting a survey of their students. Once there is a baseline of what is going on in a school, educators can implement specific strategies to teach students and staff members about the nature and impact of bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment. They can also share creative and powerful ways to change the behaviors, positively.

Cultivating a positive school climate starts and stops with adults."

Keep in mind that bullying, in general, is more likely to occur in areas that are less supervised by adults, such as on the school bus and in the cafeteria, locker rooms, restrooms, and hallways. Schools should create a plan of action to address these “hot spots” by adding additional adults to supervise them, using security cameras in less-controlled places, and asking students for suggestions on heading off problems. Getting students involved gives them a sense of ownership in protecting their classmates and the opportunity to be part of the solution.

School administrators should implement such programs with consistency and make all policies and procedures readily available to students, staff members, families, and the larger community. They should also utilize specially created curricula or general-information sessions, such as assemblies and homeroom, or in-class discussions to raise awareness within the student body. And educators should invite specialists to come talk to staff and students (and also be sure to invite parents, or at least send information to them).

Many schools are now offering anonymous-reporting tools, like a cyberbullying hotline that lets students instantly send text messages—or leave a voice-mail message—alerting school officials to an incident. In response, those officials can reply immediately, also anonymously, and provide students the support they need to address the act, whether they are witnessing it or on the receiving end of it. Such a comprehensive program also establishes a reporting mechanism in the school.

Administrators must take each report of bullying or cyberbullying seriously, regardless of whether it was made anonymously or in person.

It’s vital, too, that school leaders investigate all reports in a timely manner and gather as much information as possible to ensure accuracy—the who, what, where, when, and how questions must be asked and answered. And remember: Always speak with students individually, never in a group.

Cultivating a positive school climate starts and stops with adults. Research has shown a link between a perceived negative environment on campus and an increased prevalence of cyberbullying, bullying, and harassment behaviors. It’s crucial to establish and maintain a school climate of respect and integrity where violations result in informal or formal sanctions. So remember:

• Putting a stop to bullying takes a collaborative effort.

• Approach the process one step at a time.

• Change happens in small increments. The problem was not created in one day and cannot be solved in one either.

A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2012 edition of Education Week as Addressing Bullying


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety 'Devious Lick' TikTok Trend Creates Chaos in Schools Nationwide
Shattered mirrors, missing soap dispensers, and broken toilets in school bathrooms have been linked to the "devious lick" challenge.
Simone Jasper, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
2 min read
At the new Rising Hill Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo., gender neutral student bathrooms have a common sink area for washing and individual, locking, toilet stalls that can be used by boys or girls. Principal Kate Place gave a tour of the facilities on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. The school is in the North Kansas City school district.
A gender neutral student bathroom.
Keith Myers/The Kansas City Star via AP
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says A Hallmark of School Shooters: Long History of Social Rejection
New research finds that shooters in K-12 schools are more often "failed joiners" than loners.
5 min read
Butler County Sheriff Deputies stand on the scene at Madison Local Schools, in Madison Township in Butler County, Ohio, after a school shooting on Feb. 29, 2016.
Sheriff deputies were on the scene of a shooting at Madison Local Schools, in Butler County, Ohio, in 2016.
Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP
School Climate & Safety 4 Myths About Suspensions That Could Hurt Students Long Term
New longitudinal research shows that longer in- and out-of-school suspensions have severe consequences for students.
5 min read
Image of a student sitting at a desk in a school hallway.
Jupiterimages/Getty
School Climate & Safety Photos The Tense and Joyous Start to the 2021 School Year, in Photos
Students are headed back to school with the threat of the Delta variant looming. How is this playing out across the country? Take a look.