Back in 2006, PACER, a training and information center for children and young adults with disabilities, created a week long campaign against bullying. Since then the event has expanded to run for an entire month. Every October, organizations and individuals all over the United States spend 4 weeks raising awareness about bullying prevention. So this week, we’re sharing how you can help!
Where Does Bullying Happen?
Even though your students may not come to you with bullying complaints, it’s likely still happening around you. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying”. Bullying is most prevalent in middle school. In fact, one study found that bullying occurred in the following locations on campus: “the hallway or stairwell at school (42%), inside the classroom (34%), in the cafeteria (22%), outside on school grounds (19%), on the school bus (10%), and in the bathroom or locker room (9%)” (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
Who Gets Bullied?
While bullying doesn’t have a blueprint, there are factors that put kids at greater risk of becoming victims of it. Most notably, students that are perceived as different from their peers are more likely to be bullied than others. For example, a student may stand out because they are new to a school, dress differently than the rest of their classmates, or have disabilities. Anything that keeps a child from fitting in is more likely to draw negative attention.
Warning Signs that Someone is Being Bullied
Whether bullying is verbal, social, or physical, it is important to be able to recognize the warning signs. While there are some more obvious signs, like unexplainable physical injury, others are much more subtle. For example, consider observing the following:
- Do they frequently feel sick? They may be faking illness to avoid bullies.
- Do they come home from school particularly hungry? They may not be eating lunch.
- Are their grades suffering? They might loose interest in academics
- Do they often rip or stain their clothes? It may not have been an accident.
- Have they stopped hanging out with friends and attending social events? They might be being ostracized.
- Do they have low self-esteem? Others may be making them feel small.
- Do they display destructive behaviors such as as self-harm or substance abuse? They may be experiencing depression or anxiety. (stopbullying.org, 2018)
What Can You Do?
Now that you know what to look for, here’s what you can do to help prevent bullying. Training students how to recognize and address bullying is often the most effective form of prevention. In fact, more than 50% of bullying situations are stopped when a peer intervenes (Pacer.org, 2017) . Unfortunately students very rarely step in. Seeing as student’s have a particular ability to de-escalate a bullying incident, it is so important that we offer them the tools to handle these situations.
For this reason, a powerful action teachers and staff can take is forming relationships with students. Talk to them often, check in on how they are doing, know who they spend time with. This allows you a window into students lives and creates a safe space for them to come to you if they are being bullied.
Not only will this relationship build a bond, but it will give you the opportunity to be their mentor. Students need role models to teach them appropriate behavior and kindness. You can encourage them to treat others the way they would like to be treated. Additionally, they will be more accepting of your advice. For instance, stopbullying.org, suggests that educators encourage students to participate in the activities and hobbies that they enjoy to make friends and instill confidence.
Whether it’s through staff training, student activities, or school programs, we all have a part to play in preventing bullying. How will you participate in National Bullying Prevention Month?