There is bullying occurring at your school. Whether it's an elementary, middle, or high school, that fact is inevitable. Certainly, it is a far worse issue at some schools than others, but unfortunately, there is always more to be done.
In order to help, we've put together a guide discussing school-based bullying prevention programs. With the right programs, we can help students feel safer and learn better.
The Basics of Bullying Prevention Programs
The Center for Disease Control reports 1 in 5 high school students have been bullied in the last year. This number sits at 40 percent among students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
t's also important to note that while there is more data regarding high schools, reports of bullying are highest in middle schools. School students of all ages are at risk of becoming victims of bullying.
We will start by addressing the valid concern any educator should have: Do intervention programs work? Is reducing bullying in schools possible?
The good news is it seems the answer is yes. School-based violence and bullying prevention programs are scientifically shown to reduce incidents of violence, victimization, and overall bullying in schools.
However, not all programs are equal. What's important is that a school implement evidence-based programs if they want meaningful change. Big promises are irrelevant if they're not supported by good data.
These programs do not only help protect students vulnerable to bullying either. They can also guide would-be bullies towards better coping skills and healthier life paths.
What Makes a Strong Anti-Bullying Program?
If we know these programs work, how do we create our own? What makes a strong anti-bullying program? The trick is shedding our misconceptions and embracing available evidence.
The first thing a program needs to do is identify why students bully. There are many decades-old myths in this regard. For example, many bullies have perfectly healthy home lives and are fairly popular.
It's important a program is built on a research-based approach towards reality. What feels right and what is actually correct are often different.
A strong program also requires school staff to be educated on these issues as well. They should be taught the harm bullying can do, what it looks like, and the school's policy should such bullying occur.
All this said, the best programs are going to heavily involve students. The key to combating bullying is changing the attitudes of bystanders, victims, and even bullies themselves.
Finally, the school administration needs to take bullying incidents seriously. If bullies feel their behavior is tolerated, there is little incentive for them to stop or other students to report their behavior.
Turning the Bystander into an Upstander
If a school wants to stop bullying, they should consider the largest group involved in bullying: the bystanders. While not every bullying incident has witnesses, most have at least a few to perhaps dozens of bystanders involved.
By working to alter bystander behavior so that students feel better equipped and encouraged to interfere in bullying incidents, the power dynamic of bullying changes radically.
Social-emotional dynamic of a school-wide effort to deter bullies cannot be overstated. Bullies often act the way they do for a feeling of power or to gain social currency. The right program makes it so that bullying gets them neither.
We've developed our Empower Upstanders youth leadership program for that very purpose. It is a simple but effective way for educators to combat bullying.
At its most basic, our program is one that uses an evidence-based approach to turn participants into more active members of a school's anti-bullying efforts.
Our program teaches students how to take safe and calm measures to defuse various situations one might encounter. We do this through a customized strategy based on the specifics of the given school they'll be learning in.
How Important is a Bullying Prevention Program?
Gone should be the days of "Kids will be kids," "Boys will be boys," or any similar mantras. Bullying is harmful and preventable, damaging not only the victims but the bullies too.
From elementary school to high school and even beyond, educators need to make an active effort to intervene in bullying. They can guide all involved towards a better, healthier path.
The sooner this behavior is stopped, the less damage done to a bully's victims and the easier it is to guide them towards a better path. Serious behavioral issues get harder to treat the longer they continue.
Educators need to remember that students who bully still deserve empathy. Something is wrong on a mental and emotional level with a student who seeks to harm others. Even bullies are children who need our help.
Moreover, the truth is bullying not only can cause mental health problems but can and has killed people. Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide, which is already the third leading cause of death among young people.
Bullying victimization does damage that educators have a moral duty to address. This goes beyond how bullying affects a student's ability to learn (which it also does) and enters the realm of engaging in potentially lifesaving practices.
We Can Give Your School a Head Start
In summary, school-based bullying prevention programs, implemented well can save lives, guide bullies towards healthier lives. All it takes to start is real effort from those in charge.
If you'd like to learn how we can help empower your students to combat bullying, contact us. We can help show students safe yet invaluable ways to interfere in bullying incidents.