One of the most striking findings of researchers is the extent to which students and teachers differ in their views of how frequently bullying occurs, and how consistently and effectively it is dealt with by school staff.
In several studies, for example, only 25-35% of students who had experienced bullying said teachers intervened “often” or “always” — contrasted with up to 85% of teachers who described themselves as doing so. And among the small percentage of high school freshmen in a nationwide survey who said they had reported witnessing or being the target of bullying, nearly two-thirds said the result was “nothing changed” or “things got worse.”
A steadily growing body of evidence suggests the need to provide ongoing training to administrators, teachers and other school staff to ensure that they understand the nature, dynamics and impact of bullying; how to respond when they observe bullying or it is reported to them; and how to work with others at the school to curb and prevent bullying. Designated staff should hold follow-up meetings with children who are bullied and, separately, with children who bully. The parents of affected students should be involved whenever possible. Teachers and other school staff should be assigned to monitor hallways, playgrounds, bathrooms and other locations identified by students as “hot spots” for bullying.
- Among BPI grantees, a significant number seemed to have underestimated the importance of interventions in their programming efforts, and some implemented curricula that do not provide step-by-step intervention skills to learn and role-play. But other grantees have shown remarkable initiative and creativity in this area, including those profiled below.
Mercy Housing is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Denver that develops and manages affordable housing for a variety of economically disadvantaged and special-needs populations.
In 2005, Mercy set out to incorporate the principles of the Olweus bullying prevention model into after-school and family-support programs at four of its Denver residential complexes, home to a large number of African refugees and Spanish-speaking immigrants.
Mercy’s Resident Services staff began by organizing a number of activities for parents and children designed to introduce the concept of “Peace Pals,” based on the Olweus model’s anti-bullying rules: (1) we will not bully others, (2) we will try to help others who are bullied, (3) we will make a point to include others who are left out and (4) when we know somebody is being bullied, we will tell an adult.
- These family-centered activities laid the groundwork for the second phase of the program, in which resident children:
- Participate in a series of discussions, over eight weeks, aimed at deepening their understanding of the rules, and helping them develop skills and techniques for dealing with bullying
- Make a presentation, which parents are invited to attend, demonstrating their ability to recognize and respond to bullying behavior
- Are awarded a certificate acknowledging them as a PeacePal, and given a T-shirt with the PeacePal emblem and the four anti-bullying rules.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
KIDPOWER of Colorado Springs has partnered with Widefield School District to expand the district’s life-skills training program for developmentally disabled teenagers to include bullying protection.
KIDPOWER is a program that teaches young people – including those with special needs — how to stay safe from abuse and assault. The program involves role-playing real-life scenarios in an upbeat, supportive environment. Students learn to handle bullies and other threatening situations with positive results. This reduces their anxiety and raises self-esteem, which improves the safety and quality of their lives.
“Many of our students have a history of being bullied in school, and sometimes even in their own homes,” said Widefield’s district program coordinator Cindy Bowen. Students with cognitive disabilities, she said, typically lack the skills and confidence to cope with bullying, and to stand up for themselves without resorting to inappropriate behavior.
For example, one 19-year-old student with developmental disabilities and emotional behavioral problems gained enough confidence to ride the city bus on his own. “Before KIDPOWER, he feared a ‘scary’ person might approach him,” explained Bowen. “He now knows how to be safe and ask for help.”
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Summit County School District
In the Summit County School District, which serves 3,000 students in four Colorado mountain communities, parent volunteers are recruited and trained to help monitor the halls of the middle school.
The parent volunteers are easily recognized by students because of the gold vests they wear. This strategy connects parents to the school community, builds the skills of parents to intervene in situations of bullying and increases adult supervision in areas identified as “hot spots” for bullying.
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