Committee for Children Blog

Wall-to-Wall Bullying Prevention

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by Jill Ramsay

Many schools and districts are faced with increasing state and district mandates to implement bullying curricula and lessons for all students. But more importantly, educators want to foster a learning environment free from bullying, and the best way to do that is to implement a bullying prevention program schoolwide. Finding a research-based curriculum that provides direct instruction to students and training for staff can be challenging at best. Lessons teaching students how to recognize, report, and refuse bullying can be taught systematically at each grade starting in kindergarten, and the lessons need to be developmentally appropriate and engaging at each level. Consistency in language and instruction for students, when combined with training for every adult in the building and tools for teachers, can make a schoolwide bullying prevention program effective.

Consistency for students

Consistency in language and messaging to students schoolwide helps increase the likelihood that students will report or refuse bullying when it happens. Having bullying prevention taught in each classroom ensures that all students receive the information they need and that it meets state and district mandates. When information is only given at certain grade levels or in certain classes, bullying situations can go unchecked and school safety can be jeopardized. When students can’t recognize that a situation is bullying, it often continues, and the student being bullied feels that he or she has no option but to fight back, thus escalating the situation.

Training for staff

I have seen bullying situations that could have been avoided if all staff knew how to recognize the situation as one-sided, respond accordingly, and support all students involved. Often situations at recess or other unstructured times start out one-sided, but the student being targeted just gets fed up and feels he or she has no other recourse but to fight back verbally or physically. In the same manner, students who try to gain peer attention through acts of bullying will continue to do so if an adult or other student doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to recognize the situation and get it to stop. Having staff trained to identify these situations and appropriately aid students who are refusing or being positive bystanders can reduce fights and other types of conflicts immensely.

Any effective staff training for bullying prevention needs to be applicable to administrators, teachers who are teaching the lessons, and to all other staff at the school. It can be wearisome for staff to sit through training that is not applicable to the job they are performing. But just like the lessons taught to the students, the training needs to be informative and appealing to adults. This is much more preferable than a dry PowerPoint presentation at a staff meeting. Without rigorous and pertinent training for staff, reports and situations of bullying could continue to happen, taking away the students’ feeling of safety and impeding their learning.

Tools for teachers

Effective bullying prevention also involves community-building activities to promote positive classroom climate. Bullying prevention lessons can be taught, but if the classroom climate is not perceived as safe, it means nothing. When teachers have formats for class meetings and activities to give students opportunities to have and show empathy for one another, it encourages respectful behavior and promotes emotional safety.

Having all of these facets together in one easy-to-use curriculum can save a lot of time, as opposed to creating a system that complies with state and district directives about bullying. Providing teachers with clear instructions and lessons ensures opportunities to create positive class environments. That, in turn, fosters a school climate of personal and emotional safety, which is the ultimate goal for all our schools.

 

Jill Ramsay is a school counselor at Midway Elementary School in Des Moines, WA, where she teaches both the Second Step program and the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit.