Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)
The Bullies Inside Locked Schools
PHOTO COURTESY OF D. SHARON PRUITT
Physical and cyber-bullying represent another major safety and security problem for schools.
According to the National Center for Education statistics, 61 percent of schools report occasional bullying and 37 percent report bullying incidents at least once a month. Add those percentages, and 98 percent of schools need anti-bullying programs.
Last year, the “American Journal of Public Health” published a 2014 study analyzing bullying. Called “Trends in Bullying, Physical Fighting, and Weapon Carrying Among 6th- Through 10th-Grade Student from 1998 to 2010,” the study found that bullying has declined since 1998.
Specifically, students who reported being bullied at least twice per month declined from 13.7 percent in 1998 to 10.2 percent in 2010. Other studies have shown a similar downward trend.
Bullying experts attribute the decline to the number of anti-bullying programs adopted by schools. While these programs appear effective, it is not time to let up. The reason? Twenty-two percent of students still report being bullied in school.
Of the 22 percent of students that report being bullied, 7 percent say that they are being bullied electronically by way of texting, email, instant messaging and gaming.
So there is still a lot of bullying. Perhaps worse, bullying victims bring weapons to school. Another study presented at the 2014 meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies found that bullying victims were more likely than other students to bring weapons to school. The same study estimated that 200,000 bullying victims bring weapons to high school every month. A lot of those weapons probably go undetected.
More and more schools are incorporating anti-bullying efforts into their overall safety and security programs.
The website www.stopbullying.gov offers a step-by-step approach to building an anti-bullying program. You can compare your program to the one offered on the website or use the information to build your own program. Either way, it’s worth a look.
The first step is to conduct an assessment by surveying the community. According to the site, adults are often surprised by the extent of bullying uncovered by such anonymous surveys. That’s because kids don’t report being bullied, and bullies typically do their work when adults aren’t present.
Second, the stopbullying.gov program recommends engaging students, parents, teachers and administrators in developing an anti-bullying message. Set up a task force of students and adults to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
Next develop a code of conduct, rules for behavior and a system that enables students to report bullying safely and comfortably. Include information about what bullying is. Some kids might not even realize they are being bullied.
The website also recommends using staff meetings, assemblies, class meetings, meetings with parents, newsletters for families, the school website and student handbook to establish an environment of acceptance, tolerance and respect.
Finally, develop a continuing education program for students, faculty and staff. Most importantly, train adults to recognize bullying and to intervene in an appropriate way.
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of School Planning & Management.