With millions of students returning to schools across the country over the coming weeks, dedicated educators and concerned parents must work together to find a solution to the U.S. bullying epidemic in order to establish safe learning environments for all students.
According to the 2011 nationwide youth risk behavior survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of high school students reported being bullied on school property over the course of one 12-month period. Sadly, the presence of a school-based bullying prevention program is not enough to protect the nation's students. With the research examining anti-bullying programs showing mixed results, discerning parents and schools must continue to work in unison to face growing concerns about digital and school-based bullying. By comparing the characteristics of effective and ineffective programs, anti-bullying advocates may take the first step in conquering an age-old problem prospering in U.S. schools.
Characteristics of ineffective bullying prevention programs:
- School systems that designate harassment and relentless teasing as "normal" childhood behavior foster a climate where negative peer relationships thrive. Ineffective programs leave room for interpretation when it comes to "girls being girls" and "boys being boys."
Characteristics of effective bullying prevention programs:
- Effective anti-bullying programs target the entire school climate rather than just specific peer interactions. These programs not only work to teach students how to communicate appropriately and demonstrate positive social leadership, they redesign school hallways and classrooms to create materials and spaces focused on community and acceptance. Programs such as Steps to Respect, as well as the less bully-specific Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), are designed to attack school climates where individuals are victimized and negative behavior flourishes.
No one-size-fits-all approach exists to bullying prevention. What is clear, however, is that schools must do more to foster an environment of tolerance and respect for children. Analyzing existing supports and addressing challenges with up-to-date strategies represents just one phase of the long and difficult battle for the safety of the nation's students.
For more information on the devastating impacts of digital harassment, see also Textual Harassment Another Form of Bullying