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Adults' Role in Combating Bullying: More Than Just Students

Former President George W. Bush’s speech last week at a Bush Institute event in New York raised more than a few eyebrows for what many pundits perceived as an indirect critique of the Trump administration.

After listing several geopolitical needs, such as strengthening America’s cyber defenses, engaging in global economics, and battling the effects of misinformation, President Bush also identified another threat to democracy—one that isn’t often talked about outside the context of youth in schools: bullying.

As he said in his speech:

“We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

In other words, when it comes to bullying and harassment, adults—and especially parents—have to lead by example.

Coincidentally, on the same day President Bush made his remarks, Christine McComas was urging adults in the Howard County (Md.) Public Schools (HCPS) community to do more to curb bullying in their own lives, the Baltimore Sun reports.

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In 2012, McComas’s daughter, Grace, a sophomore at Howard County’s Glenelg High School, committed suicide after being the victim of months of cyberbullying.

Now, McComas is working with the school district to help implement a new anti-bullying strategy. That strategy includes adding anti-bullying information to health classes, appointing the district’s executive director of community, parent and student outreach as a central point of contact for all bullying-related issues, and a public service video featuring McComas and HCPS interim superintendent Michael Martirano.

In the video, McComas says, “Name-calling, rudeness, and bad behavior have become all too common today, and we need a cultural shift towards respect and kindness.” That cultural shift needs to occur not only in classrooms, McComas says, but at home and within the community.

For more, check out the full video below:

Yes, increased public awareness and better systems for reporting bullying are important to fighting student harassment. But, HCPS’ emphasis on the role that adults play in prevention sets it apart from other campaigns. “We need to recognize that many of our young people, many of our community members, adults, experience bullying on a daily basis,” Martirano said during Thursday’s event.

As National Bullying Prevention Month continues, school leaders might be wise to explore the important role adults play in bullying prevention. Engaging parents in discussions about the examples they set for their children might well change the way your community views and addresses the problem.

How does your school or district engage parents and other adults in your community in bullying prevention? What are some other important elements of a successful anti-bullying campaign? Tell us in the comments.