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Bullying in Schools—and Beyond

Bullying in schools is a huge issue that’s gaining even more coverage with the explosion in popularity of smartphones, social media, and their new antagonist, the cyberbully. From email and texts to Facebook and Twitter posts, aggressors today have an almost ubiquitous ease of access to their targets. It is perhaps unremarkable that kids drawn to bullying behavior have leveraged digital media as their newfound engine of progress.
The school culture kids experience today surrounding bullying behavior can send important messages about how similar behavior is tolerated in cyberspace. Students who encounter little resistance to bullying in school may think, “Since I'm getting away with this in class, I probably won’t be called out for online behavior either.”  
Ideas like this explain why the actions you take today to reduce bullying in school are more critical than ever in curbing its reach. Here are ten steps you can put in place today to help reduce and prevent bullying in your school or district:

1. Define Bullying
The first step to eliminating bullying in schools is developing an accepted definition of bullying. CPI defines bullying as being characterized by intentionally aggressive behavior that involves an imbalance of power and strength.

2. Remove Labels: Address Behaviors.
When teachers or other staffers label a child as a bully or victim, they may unwittingly render a behavioral script for the student’s future actions and reactions. By instead identifying and addressing specific behaviors, such as assaulting other students, everyone involved understands what behavior is prohibited, why it’s prohibited, and the consequences it will bear.

3. Set Clear and Enforceable Rules and Expectations.
Age-appropriate rules allow a student to know what behavior is expected. When kids are younger, keep rules simple. When kids are older, shape the rules to help them meet their maturity level.

4. Reward Positive Behavior.
Teachers who do not actively recognize and reward good behavior are missing out on a huge opportunity for positive reinforcement. When a student is always getting into trouble, rewarding constructive behavior is positive and supportive. Reinforcing good behavior will give students clear expectations about what you want—in a positive way.

5. Have Open Communication.
Communication is key to building rapport and reducing bullying in school. When teachers have open communication with their students, all involved in bullying behavior—including bystanders—will feel more open to talk about their problems or observations.

6. Engage Parents.
Keeping parents informed about their child’s grades, social interactions, and overall attitude is essential in almost any parent-teacher conference, but when their child is a perpetrator of or on the receiving end of bullying behavior, communication can become tricky. Teachers and staff can build rapport with parents by working toward a consistent approach to bullying that includes productive and appropriate replacement behaviors that parents can reinforce at home.

7. Look for Warning Signs.
Those involved with bullying in school often show warning signs of the behavior. Bullied students may have unexplainable injuries, difficulty sleeping, and declining grades, while students who bully may have new belongings, frequent fights, and exaggerated concerns about popularity.

8. When Bullying Occurs, Clear the Scene.
While bullying in school does not necessarily require an audience, kids who bully understand that bystanders frequently encourage and reinforce their behavior. During an incident, it is strongly recommended to first remove the bystanders before dealing with the bullying behavior.

9. Monitor Hot Spots. 
Bullying in schools occurs most often in areas where adults are not present—areas like hallways, bathrooms, playgrounds, and busses. Staff should be coordinated to keep these hot spots monitored. When an adult is present, children feel safer, and bullying behaviors are less likely to occur.

10. Know Your State Law and District Policies.
Forty-nine out of 50 states currently have bullying laws in place (Bully Police USA, 2012). All staff should be familiar with their state laws regarding bullying in school, as well as how their school or district’s policy conforms to the law.

To help you respond to these realities and reduce bullying in your school, we offer a number of additional resources, including the School Bullying Prevention Resources Guide, a free eBook packed with tips to help you reduce and eliminate bullying behaviors. We hope it helps you deliver the urgent message that exporting harassment and intimidation through technology is as unacceptable as bullying in school. By setting clear, enforceable expectations and supporting positive behavior, you can help create a culture of respect and safety where students can thrive socially, academically, and personally in school and online.
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About the Author

“When you change how you look at a challenge, you unlock its positive potential. If you remain mindful about your ability to control your own behavior, you can make constructive choices that can promote the best possible outcome instead of the worst-case scenario.”

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