Bullying Prevention: Can Students Make Kindness Cool?

By Maza, Cristina | The Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Bullying Prevention: Can Students Make Kindness Cool?


Maza, Cristina, The Christian Science Monitor


When Casey Waletich, the director of safety and operations at the Hillsboro School District in Oregon, decided to launch an anti- bullying initiative in his district, he knew he had to get the students on board.

"We knew based off of research that this had to be a student-led effort. The days of having schools initiate things without the buy- in of the students are over. We had to capture the students' voice," Mr. Waletich says.

So he got a group of students together and asked them how they would like to do things. The resulting campaign, "Re-think, Redefine, Where Do You Stand?" launched in October 2014 to coincide with National Bullying Prevention Month.

The Hillsboro campaign is just one example of how schools nationwide are increasingly turning to students to develop and implement anti-bullying initiatives designed to not just discourage bullying, but also to empower students to intervene on each others' behalf. Bullying prevention experts say student intervention is often the key to stopping bullies.

But the key getting that message across is getting students and teachers to collaborate, says Stan Davis, a former social worker and guidance councilor who runs the Stop Bullying Now initiative.

"Overall, the best initiatives are a partnership. Student-run initiatives have the energy and the buy-in, but students aren't always well versed in prevention. Meanwhile, kids don't usually listen to top-down programs. They roll their eyes because it doesn't fit with their reality. A true collaboration understands which things kids and adults do best," he says.

In 2013, some 20 percent of high school students reported experiencing bullying, according to federal data compiled on StopBullying.gov - the figure jumps to 28 percent when middle school students are included. Some 70 percent of young people say they have witnessed bullying. Those are the kids that anti-bullying campaigns are ultimately trying to turn into first responders, because research has shown that bullying stops in a matter of seconds if someone intervenes.

The federal data also suggests that most bullying takes place during middle school and involves verbal bullying or social bullying, such as name calling or spreading rumors about the victim. And while cyberbullying has received a lot of attention in the media in recent years, most bullying takes place on school grounds. Cyberbullying only makes up around 10 percent of all bullying.

Bullying can affect the entire education process by impacting both the mental and physical health of students, says Julie Herzog, director of the National Bullying Prevention Center at the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER).

"When we think about bullying, it impacts education, it can cause school avoidance, loss of concentration, absenteeism," in addition to physical and mental health, she says.

Moreover, research has found that kids who are bullies in elementary school are six times more likely to commit a crime by the age of 24. …

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