Kids need to tell teachers and schools when they are bullied

8 Apr

Moi wrote about bullying in School bullying: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency report:

The Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency has issued the report, Bullying in Schools: An Overview by Ken Seeley, Martin L. Tombari, Laurie J. Bennett, and Jason B. Dunkle. Among the study’s findings are:

  • Bullying is a complex social and emotional phenomenon that plays out differently on an individual level.

  • Bullying does not directly cause truancy.

  • School engagement protects victims from truancy and low academic achievement.

  • When schools provide a safe learning environment in which adults model positive behavior, they can mitigate the negative effects of bullying.

  • Any interventions to address bullying or victimization should be intentional, student-focused engagement strategies that fit the context of the school where they are used.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Increase student engagement.

  • Model caring behavior for students.

  • Offer mentoring programs.

  • Provide students with opportunities for service learning as a means of improving school engagement.

  • Address the difficult transition between elementary and middle school (from a single classroom teacher to teams of teachers with periods and class changes in a large school) (Lohaus et al., 2004).

  • Start prevention programs early.

  • Resist the temptation to use prefabricated curriculums that are not aligned to local conditions.

Increase Student Engagement

Bullied children who remain engaged in school attend class more frequently and achieve more. Challenging academics, extracurricular activities, understanding teachers and coaches, and a focus on the future help keep victimized children engaged in their education (Bausell, 2011). Schools, administrations, and districts that wish to stave off the negative effects of bullying must redouble their efforts to engage each student in school. Typical school engagement strategies include (Karcher, 2005):

•            Providing a caring adult for every student through an advisory program or similar arrangement.

See, School Bullying Report Makes Recommendations To Address Issue, Support Victims

The article, When Kids Are Afraid to Tell Teachers About Bullying—That Is a Problem discusses the reluctance of some children to tell teachers about bullying.

Learning when and how to “tattle”—I mean when and how to report incidents—is extremely important to preventing bullying and building a safe and caring learning community in the classroom.

When acts of meanness, small or large, go unchecked, disrespectful and mean behavior becomes the norm. Over time, this creates a culture of meanness that eventually can grow to permeate the entire classroom or school.

Parents and educators should redefine tattling as reporting and teach children why it’s important to report hurtful behavior to an adult in order to help keep someone else safe. Teaching young children how to “report” may have lasting effects, and help prevent some of the awful incidents of violence that have occurred in our high schools. 

As a more experienced, and hopefully wiser, teacher now, I listen carefully first and then determine what to do with the information children share with me. On the first day of school, I tell my students, “My most important job at school is to keep you safe.” I also make sure parents know it’s a message I take very seriously.

I go on to tell my students, “If someone is being mean to you—hurting you on the outside or on the inside—I need you to tell me.” They learn quickly that kindness is valued and meanness is not allowed. As a community, we learn better ways to take care of each other. We spend lots of time strengthening our skills of cooperation and problem-solving.

But, even with all of this proactive work, children will still test limits and experiment with how to treat each other. Because I know this, we model, we practice, and we role-play what to do when someone is unkind to someone else.

We get really good at identifying when we need to tell an adult and what we should say. A dilemma we face is that much of the meanness and bullying goes on when teachers aren’t around—at lunchtime, recess, in the hallways, and just before and after school.

Teachers can’t be everywhere and even if we could, we can’t see everything. We need to prepare our students to get help outside the safety of our classrooms.   

When children tell us about bullying behavior, we adults need to intervene and send the message that we will not let this continue. Children need to know we are going to help them.

As teachers, we need to think carefully about our responses when children come to us and share information.

As teachers, we need to think carefully about our responses when children come to us and share information. When they tell us that something is happening to them or to someone else, they should know that we will help them.

We need to show them that the information they shared with us will not be ignored and that the adults in the school will help them.

When it comes to tattling reporting, we need children to have the skills and courage to tell us about problems they’re noticing. Because we teachers can’t stop what we don’t see or hear—or know about.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has information about bullying.

The APA has the following suggestions for teachers and administrators:

Be knowledgeable and observant

Teachers and administrators need to be aware that although bullying generally happens in areas such as the bathroom, playground, crowded hallways, and school buses as well as via cell phones and computers (where supervision is limited or absent), it must be taken seriously. Teachers and administrators should emphasize that telling is not tattling. If a teacher observes bullying in a classroom, he/she needs to immediately intervene to stop it, record the incident and inform the appropriate school administrators so the incident can be investigated. Having a joint meeting with the bullied student and the student who is bullying is not recommended — it is embarrassing and very intimidating for the student that is being bullied.

Involve students and parents

Students and parents need to be a part of the solution and involved in safety teams and antibullying task forces. Students can inform adults about what is really going on and also teach adults about new technologies that kids are using to bully. Parents, teachers, and school administrators can help students engage in positive behavior and teach them skills so that they know how to intervene when bullying occurs. Older students can serve as mentors and inform younger students about safe practices on the Internet.

Set positive expectations about behavior for students and adults

Schools and classrooms must offer students a safe learning environment. Teachers and coaches need to explicitly remind students that bullying is not accepted in school and such behaviors will have consequences. Creating an anti-bullying document and having both the student and the parents/guardians sign and return it to the school office helps students understand the seriousness of bullying. Also, for students who have a hard time adjusting or finding friends, teachers and administrators can facilitate friendships or provide “jobs” for the student to do during lunch and recess so that children do not feel isolated or in danger of becoming targets for bullying.

Stop has some great advice about bullying.

According to the Stop article, What You Can Do:

What to Do If You’re Bullied 

There are things you can do if you are being bullied:

  • Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
  • If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

There are things you can do to stay safe in the future, too.

  • Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
  • Stay away from places where bullying happens.
  • Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.

Even though children are encouraged to report bullying, they often don’t.

The Committee for Children explains Why Don’t Kids Report Bullying?

There is good evidence that young people often do not report bullying to adults. Children are adept at hiding bullying-related behaviors and the unequal “shadow” power dynamics that can exist among them. Because of this secrecy, adults underestimate the seriousness and extent of bullying at their schools.

Schools cannot help if children do not entrust them with information. So why don’t children report bullying?

Research Shows That Adults Rarely Intervene

There is a catch-22: Students don’t tell because they don’t see adults helping, but adults can’t help if students don’t tell them what is going on in their peer groups.

The perception that adults don’t act may lead students to conclude that adults don’t care, or that there are different standards for adults’ behavior than for young people’s. In the workplace, shoving co-workers in the hallway would not be tolerated. Yet many adults believe that young people need to “work out” bullying problems like these on their own. This belief may promote a “code of silence” about abusive behavior. A logical consequence would be the failure of students to report other dangers, such as knowledge about a weapon at school.

Students Fear Retaliation and a Reputation as a “Rat”

Fear of retailiation might be especially the case about reporting popular students who bully. There is evidence that well-liked and successful children can be the most skilled at bullying and at escaping detection.

They Don’t Want to Lose Power

Students may not report that they or their friends bully because they don’t want to lose the power they gain through controlling others.

They Don’t Recognize Subtle Bullying

Students may not report more subtle, indirect, and relational types of bullying (such as deliberately excluding peers or spreading rumors) because they don’t realize that these are also unfair, unequal ways to treat others.

They Feel Ashamed, Afraid, or Powerless

Students may not report being victims of bullying because it makes them feel ashamed, afraid, and powerless. Over time, they may come to feel they deserve to be bullied. This may be particularly true of children in fourth grade and up.

Because adults rarely intervene, young people may come to believe they can bully without any consequences. Many believe that “acting bad” pays off. In fact, it may win them status with others, as children do act more friendly and respectful toward those who bully.

What Can Adults Do?

If we want children to talk to us and ask for help, we need to invite them to report. And effective adult follow-through is critical. This means “walking the talk” of bullying prevention, and addressing the power imbalances that put children who bully, those who are bullied, and bystanders at risk of perpetuating abuse. Bringing children who bully and those they bully into the same room to talk is not advisable. Intervening, making plans for behavior change, and continuing to check in on an individual basis with the students involved is best.

Adults can also give young people tools to help them evaluate when and how to report. Teaching about the distinction between reporting (telling to keep someone safe) and tattling (telling to get someone in trouble), for example, can help students make responsible decisions. This, in turn, can empower everyone in schools to help prevent inequity and suffering.

The Tanenbaum Center which honors the work of the late Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum has a really good definition of the “Golden Rule” which is stated in an interview with Joyce Dubensky entitled, The Golden Rule Around the World At the core of all bullying is a failure to recognize another’s humanity and a basic lack of respect for life. At the core of the demand for personal expression and failure to tolerate opinions which are not like one’s own is a self-centeredness which can destroy the very society it claims to want to protect.


Helping Kids Deal With Bullies                                       

Teachers Who Bully                                          

Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent

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