Nearly 1 in 4 children report experiences with bullying and more than 80 percent of high school students say they witness bullying at least once a week. According to Joel Haber, Ph.D., author of “Bullyproof Your Child for Life: Protect Your Child from Teasing, Taunting and Bullying for Good,” and founder of the anti-bullying website respectu.com, bullied students are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, social embarrassment and even physical health problems.
They also suffer academically. Research suggests that schools where students report a more severe bullying climate score lower on standardized tests than schools with a healthier climate.
“As educators, there’s so much emphasis on academics,” says Joann Morris, senior policy analyst at the National Education Association’s Human & Civil Rights Department. The underlying issues that affect performance can easily be overlooked. “Students cannot learn if they’re living in fear.”
This isn’t news to educators. We’ve known for decades that students need to be in safe, supportive learning environments to thrive. And while it may take a village to change bullying’s sobering statistics, with Bullying Prevention Month in October, there’s no better time to think about the best ways to keep our children safe.
The following resources are a good place to start:
- NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me: Designed by educators, for educators, the NEA’s Bullying Prevention Kit features the best available research on bullying prevention strategies. Learn how to be an advocate and access a complete list of NEA’s bullying prevention resources. Take the Pledge to stand up for students and receive a pin and a poster you can put on your door that says, “Talk to me. I will listen.”
- Defeat the Label: Defeat the Label strives to promote an inclusive, judgment-free society. The NEA has partnered with Defeat the Label to bring Stand4Change Day to schools across the country.
- National Bullying Prevention Month: In 2006, PACER (the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center) created a campaign called The End of Bullying Begins with Me. The one-week event has now evolved into a month-long effort encouraging communities nationwide to raise awareness of bullying prevention. The site houses resources for students, educators and community members to prevent bullying.
- StopBullying.gov: The government’s national bullying prevention site is one of the best resources available for information about bullying. The site has separate pages with information for different target groups, including parents, educators, community members, teens and kids. Under the “Resources” tab, you’ll find tip sheets, tool kits, training materials and links to relevant sites.
- Anti-Defamation League: The Anti-Defamation League’s A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Institute is a leader in developing anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying training, curriculum and resources for educators and students alike.
“It’s impossible to completely prevent bullying,” says Haber, “but school-wide programs that draw attention to the issue and outline clear consequences for bullying behavior can help.” Perhaps even more important, he says, is making sure students feel safe to report bullying behavior, and that those who are bullied can find a safe haven in their schools.
Ensuring that educators are trained to provide immediate assistance and can facilitate ongoing solutions will make a big impact.