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By Rocío Inclán, Director of the Human and Civil Rights Department of the National Education Association
October is Bullying Prevention month, and this year we see signs of progress in the national effort to stop bullying in our schools.
For example, the recently released 2011 National School Climate Survey from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) shows for the first time decreased levels of victimization based on sexual orientation. It also found increased levels of student access to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) school resources and support.
This is excellent news. LGBT students have been a major target of bullying in schools. But the fact that 8 out of 10 LGBT students still experienced harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation reminds us we have a long way to go.
Here is another encouraging sign: Bullying prevention resources are far more widely available today than in the past. Google “bullying prevention,” and a plethora of resources will open up to you. Indeed, there is so much anti-bullying material out there, it is hard to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Fortunately, the federal government has consolidated its once far-flung anti-bullying resources onto one website: www.stopbullying.gov, and there you will find only evidence-based bully prevention programs and practices. In addition, NEA provides practical anti-bullying tips and strategies, specifically tailored for school employees, on www.nea.org/bullyfree. We also invite readers to take our Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge. In return, we provide you with the means of identifying yourself as a caring adult who will help the bullied student and stop the bullying.
There is now a full-fledged anti-bullying movement afoot in America. It is peopled by educators who see the academic damage bullying does to students, parents whose children are victims of bullying, and an army of adult Americans, including celebrities, who were bullied in their youth, still bear the emotional scars and are now speaking out.
Forty-nine states have now passed anti-bullying laws. In today’s political climate, that borders on the miraculous.
It is time to use the momentum of the bullying prevention movement to do what we know needs to be done.
We need to get teachers as well as school secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school staff trained in the most effective ways to intervene when students are being bullied or when a bullied student seeks their help.
We need to implement what we know will work. Measures such as zero tolerance and demonizing those who do the bullying don’t work. Conflict resolution and peer mediation, as we saw in this year’s documentary film, "Bully," don’t work in bullying incidents.
What works is taking every report of bullying seriously. Reaching out to the bullied students and becoming their advocate works. School Codes of Conduct that detail the behaviors which are unacceptable work. One-on-one, adult-to-student instruction of those who bully works.
Above all, to put a stop to bullying, we must slay once and for good the myth that bullying is a harmless rite of passage.
Editor’s Note: This post is from our partners at the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Each month, we feature a new column on a topic related to school health. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of important health issues that impact schools and offer educators and parents resources to address them.
Image from the documentary Bully.
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The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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