bully free

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly About Bullying Prevention in Schools

by Marsha Rakestraw

We’re fans of the pro-hero approach, rather than using an anti-bullying framework, but given that most educational institutions still think and act in terms of anti-bullying, this 2013 study by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) is relevant to anyone concerned about bullying in schools and universities.

“Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges, and Universities: Research Report and Recommendations” offers a series of 11 briefs addressing policy and practical strategies for the prevention of bullying in schools.

As the report says, “Bullying presents one of the greatest health risks to children, youth, and young adults in U.S. society. It is pernicious in its impact even if often less visible and less readily identifiable than other public health concerns. Its effects on victims, perpetrators, and even bystanders are both immediate and longterm and can affect the development and functioning of individuals across generations.”

Here are the topics of the 11 briefs:

1.  Looking beyond the traditional definition of bullying. (Bullying comes in many forms, and there is currently no clear consensus on what “bullying” looks like.)

2.  Bullying is a pervasive problem. (Bullying is everywhere and affects pretty much everyone in some way; it is greatly detrimental to health and well-being.)

3.  More targeted research is needed about bullying of certain populations. (Certain groups of individuals are especially vulnerable to bullying, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who identify as LGBTQ.)

4.  Gender-based bullying is growing. (Sexual harassment, homophobic and transphobic harassment, and harassment for gender non-conformity are on the rise and need to be addressed.)

5.  Knowing when bullying becomes legal harassment. (Types and forms of bullying cross the line into legal harassment. Schools need to know the legal implications and have policies and procedures in place to deal with such issues.)

6.  A positive school climate reduces bullying. (It’s important for schools to take steps to create a positive, safe school climate for everyone.)

7.  Everyone needs to be involved. (Schools where students, staff, and parents are all involved in addressing bullying are able to realize “sustainable reductions in victimization.”)

8.  Bullying at colleges and universities is “misunderstood and underaddressed.” (The unique elements of the structures of higher education lead to different kinds of bullying and harassment problems, which need to be addressed.)

9.  Schools should use evidence-based programs to help them. (It’s important to be able to assess how much bullying is occurring and how well it is being effectively reduced.)

10.  Bullying prevention should be a core part of teacher prep programs. (Programs to train teachers, administrators, social workers, etc., should “integrate instruction in harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) prevention and school safety education.”)

11.  Bullying prevention programs and research need state and federal support. (Current methods are fragmented; financial and other support from state and federal agencies is essential to learning more about and reducing bullying and enhancing school climate.)

Read the complete report.

While a lot of recommendations in the report are sound, we think it would be even more productive to reframe the entire issue to focus on helping nurture students to become compassionate, conscientious citizens throughout all stages of schooling.

Imagine if from the beginning, students were taught how to be solutionaries and ordinary heroes.

Imagine if humane education were infused throughout every subject at every grade level and were the overarching purpose of schooling.

As Matt Langdon says in his TEDx talk, “Ditching Anti-Bullying Programs to Build Pro-Hero Schools”:  “If you build a school of heroes, you’re not going to deal with kids vandalizing the toilets, you’re not doing to deal with kids beating each other up, you’re not going to deal with people insulting each other or calling people names or sending naked texts of each other. And that stuff is going to just disappear, because the heroes take care of it themselves.”

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