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Want to beat a bully? Start with teamwork

You’ve seen the numbers. Nearly one in three students aged 12 to 18 has been bullied or cyberbullied. Every student is a potential victim. And now, with the explosion of social media, school-based bullying persists long after the bell.

Even more unsettling, the advocacy group DoSomething.org reports that 67 percent of students believe their school responds poorly to bullying.

By now, you have undoubtedly confronted the tragedy of bullying in your district. But are you doing everything you can to make your students feel safe?

A recent study published in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences recommends that schools take a ”multi-tiered” approach to combat bullying.

Engendering mutual respect among students and teaching the dangers and risks of bullying is important. But so, too, is giving students an outlet to report abuse without fear of embarrassment or recrimination.

“The fact that there are so many ways to intervene provides hope for stopping bullying and its negative effects,” writes the study’s author, Dr. Amy Bellmore. But, “we still face many challenges to implementing these changes, as the most effective approaches are likely to require action on many fronts.”

It takes a village
As Bellmore’s research points out, putting an end to bullying and abuse requires a sincere commitment from your entire community, from students to teachers to parents to business owners and community role models.

Want to stop bullying in your district? Here’s a look at three areas to focus on right now.

Empowering students
Research shows that when students intervene on behalf of fellow students, instances of school-based bullying plummet. Fellow students can help their classmates simply by stepping up and speaking out, whether that happens in a public forum or anonymously through online reporting.

Writing in Forbes, sports agent Leigh Steinberg points to school athletes and students who command respect from their peers as obvious resources against school-based bullying.

“If an athlete has lunch or puts their arm around a student who is being bullied…students will quickly see that bullying as not acceptable,” Steinberg writes.

It makes sense, especially considering that students often find out about bullying well ahead of teachers or parents.

A survey by the National Center for Education Statistics found that adults were notified in only 40 percent of bullying cases. In cases of cyber-bullying, that number dropped to just 23 percent.

The message for students should be clear: if you see it, report it. Some schools are taking steps to make that process even easier by placing special buttons on their website, or on social media, where students can report incidents anonymously.

Safer schools start at home
Parents have a role to play too. Dr. Bellmore’s research finds that students who are close to their parents are less likely to be involved in bullying at school, either as victims or as bullies themselves.

Bellmore encourages schools to provide training for parents about how to communicate the negative effects and consequences of bullying to their children.

Schools need to do more
In-school programs are also effective. Bellmore’s research indicates that schools that attack bullying from different angles tend to report the best success. A couple of ideas to consider:

  • Review and update antiquated school-based codes of conduct
  • Put in place steeper disciplinary actions
  • Provide better playground supervision
  • Invest in training for teachers and parents

While the report acknowledges that a lack of resources prevent some schools from implementing stronger anti-bullying campaigns, it suggests that schools consider the long-term benefits of bullying prevention, such as the creation of  a more positive school atmosphere, when investing  in new strategies.

Leverage the power of social media
Social media is constantly evolving – for better or worse. While some blame social media for an increase in school-based bullying and cyberbullying, others point to new safeguards, features, and policies aimed at helping parents and teachers curb instances of abuse in schools.

Preventing bullying in schools is and will always be a challenge. But through proper planning, training, and engagement with students and families, schools can begin to fight back.

How does your district deal with bullying in its schools? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for a way to encourage anonymous reporting of bullying incidents? Want to receive instant notifications when abuse occurs online? Check out Let’s Talk! and ask about Critical Alerts.