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Back to school and bullying: Time to change school cultures

Back to school and bullying: Time to change school cultures

With students returning back to school, issues of school safety and bullying are at the forefront.

It’s time for a new approach!

Everyone …schools, students and parents must understand the meaning of bullying which is constant harassment of a student by another.

Zero tolerance policies don’t work, nor does anti-bullying legislation if schools don’t enforce the legislation. Once a school enforces legislation, it is imperative to train all faculty and staff on how to handle incidents of bullying and cyberbullying. And if schools think cyberbullying is not their problem, they should think again. Regardless of whether students digitally harass another student on or off campus, they are still students of the school.

When an incident occurs, the worst thing for the school to do is to do an intervention by putting the aggressor and his or her victim together in a room to work things out.

Parents who think they can just call the aggressor’s parent to report that their child is a bully – think again. It is highly ill-advised and will only make the situation worse.

If your child is being verbally or emotionally harassed, empowering your child goes a long way, rather than reporting it.

If on the other hand the aggressor has physically harmed or threatened your child the appropriate way to handle this is by documenting these attacks and threats and notifying law enforcement, as well as having a calm meeting with the school principal.

Returning to school also means hundreds of thousands of school buses will be back on the roads. This is a time for school bus drivers to train and re-train to make sure kids stay safe. Not just on the roads but in the buses too. If bullying occurs, the bus should be stopped immediately, students separated and report made to the school and to the school bus company.

The entire culture of each school must change.

Not only do principals and teachers have to be given the appropriate training and resources, they must educate students about the issue and its consequences. Education about the various forms of bullying and cyberbullying is key.

Consequences does not mean suspending the aggressor from school (unless there are guns and other weapons involved.) Consequences means helping the victim, as well as the aggressor.

Providing support for the victim is extremely important. They must feel heard and supported and receive the necessary help in order not to let the experience define their lives.

Changing the behavior of the aggressor is the only way to stop it. This means providing support and resources to the aggressor and getting to the root of the problem. By changing their behavior, schools and parents are creating the foundation for a student to stop hurting others and to become a happy and healthy adult.

Students will benefit from adult support and resources. When youths see adults support issues such as cruelty prevention, LGBT and transgender students, and race, and hold open discussions as to why kids feel it’s okay to threaten and harass others, students communicate and understand the tone the school is setting.

  • Schools should increase supervision of students
  • Employ school policies and behavior management techniques in the classroom and throughout the school
  • Promote education and cooperation among school faculty, staff and parents
  • Schools and parents should promote responsible digital citizenship

Schools can no longer sweep the issue under the rug, parents can no longer say “Not my child” and the entire public must stop overusing the words “bully” and “bullying.” We must all take responsibility!

Putting an end to bullying and cyberbullying is a not an easy task, but changing school cultures, parental communication and student education and behaviors is our best shot.

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Ross Ellis is also the Examiner for:

National Parenting Examiner
NY Real Estate Examiner

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