Addressing the PROBLEM OF BULLYING

Article excerpt

AS MANY AS HALF OF ALL CHILDREN ARE BULLIED at some time during their school years, and at least 10 percent are bullied on a regular basis, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines bullying as aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength, and HRSA notes that this behavior is usually repeated over time.

Bullying can be physical or verbal and is done by both boys and girls. And now it has entered cyberspace with bullying being done through e-mails and online chat rooms. While bullying is often thought of as the bigger boy beating up the smaller one on the playground, when it comes to cyber bullying, HRSA says that, in a recent study, girls were found to be twice as likely to be victims of cyber bullying as boys.

Creating a school culture based on tolerance and free of bullying is not an easy task, but it is one that school administrators must take on. The Basic 4-1-1, a publication of George Washington University's Hamilton Fish Institute, notes that it is important to develop and implement a plan to cope with the problem. First define what behaviors are considered bullying and what the consequences for that behavior will be. Administrators should meet with all school employees to make sure the policy is understood, and all reports of bullying should be taken seriously. They should also follow up with students who have reported being bullied.

HRSA notes that effective programs require strong administrative leadership and ongoing commitment. It has information specifically for school administrators, including steps to address bullying at your school. Among these are assessing bullying at your school and your staff's commitment to addressing the problem. This might entail forming a committee to explore the problem and the possible solutions. The committee could include an administrator, a teacher from each grade, a member of the non-teaching staff, and a counselor or school-based mental health professional. HRSA also suggests administering an anonymous student questionnaire about the nature, extent and location of bullying problems in the school.

Your committee may find a good bullying prevention program, but if you don't have the resources to fully implement it, HRSA advises providing in-service training to your staff so that they can learn more about the issue. Also, develop clear rules and consequences related to bullying, distribute these rules, and discuss them with students, staff and parents.

You may already have a great program at your school if you have a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter. FCCLA's STOP the Violence-Students Taking on Prevention is a national program that empowers youth with attitudes, skills and resources in order to recognize, report and reduce youth violence. The STOP the Violence Toolkit includes a unit on bullying as well as a peer-to-peer training section and scripts for advisers and chapter members.

Bullying does not just take place in schools. …