School anti-bullying programs should be way more than just pointing fingers and labeling wrongdoers. Children labeled as bullies will not change their ways just because they have been accused of it. Preventing this type of behavior must also go beyond hanging a list of rules on a classroom wall.
In fact, the real goal of an anti-bully program should be to undermine bullying by fostering empathy in classrooms and have no student wear any type of label. One of the biggest challenges educators face is in applying anti-bullying theories so that they produce the desired outcome which is a decrease in bullying behavior.
This is important because over 13 million American are bullied each year. This figure makes it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. Moreover, the FBI has stated that, “Bullying remains one of the largest problems in schools, with the percentage of students reportedly bullied at least once per week steadily increasing since 1999.”
These statistics, coupled with the fact that most school bullying takes place in areas that are less supervised by adults including the school bus, the cafeteria, restrooms, hallways and locker rooms, as well as the increasing amount of cyber bullying that has afforded bullies with additional avenues through which to harass their victims, makes it imperative that each and every school have a non-violent communication program in addition to or as part of their anti-bully campaign.
Therefore, all teachers should not only have effective classroom management training, they should also be armed with a program that includes classroom activities and discussions that are related to bullying and violence, including the harm that they cause and strategies to reduce their incidence. However, this training should go beyond the classroom teachers and involve all adults with whom children come in contact with, from the bus driver to the lunchroom attendant, and everyone in between.
Cooperation and collaboration need to also be at the forefront of the curriculum so that students know how to assert without demanding. In addition, educators need to take immediate action when bullying is observed. Each and every teacher needs to let the children in their care know they support them and will not allow anyone to be mistreated. Furthermore, by taking immediate action, adults show advocacy for both the victim and the witnesses.
Understanding and kindness are feelings that everyone has. When students feel sadness, remorse, heartache, or empathy, they are expressing a form of caring regardless of what they are doing at the time. Therefore, when students are taught to care for something they also learn how to care for someone, and that lesson is what is at the heart and soul of acceptance.
Moreover, these lessons help because students may not know what to do when they either become a victim of bullying or see it transpire in front of them. Both classroom discussions and activities can help students learn several different and appropriate actions that they can take when they see or experience bullying.
While no program will completely eliminate bullying, even if the program chosen only changes the attitudes and behavior of a few students, it is well worthwhile.