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«Tackling School Bullying: What you need to know about bullying and cyber bullying legislation, prevention, and best practices “Empowering Today’s ...»

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“I am an 8th grade teacher at a middle school in Nebraska, and our school has addressed bullying numerous times,” says L. Fricke. “We have a ‘Citizenship Boot Camp’ at the beginning of the year to address school rules, classroom conduct, bullying, and digital citizenship. Students meet in the auditorium for a welcome and general information for the first day. Then they go to assigned ‘Boot Camp’ rooms to discuss ‘above the line and below the line’ behaviors, social issues that affect students their age, grading systems and GPA, what is required for particular classes, and bullying. These classes rotate every thirty minutes, so all students receive the same sessions that first day. Throughout the year, all of these areas are reviewed in some way.

“Last week, our school lawyer gave a presentation about cyber bullying, bullying, and sexting. She gave [students] actual examples of what had happened in schools and the legal consequences students received because of some form of inappropriate communication on cell phones, Facebook, MySpace, and the internet. In order for behaviors to change, students need ‘training’ to learn how to behave and specific strategies to avoid caving in to peer pressure. It can’t be a one-time shot; it needs to be an ongoing process throughout the school year.

69 eSM STAR Tackling School Bullying “Right now, I have a group of students who have written several short plays about bullying. We will discuss the messages in the plays, select parts, practice, and then go to the local radio station to record them with sound effects and music to be used as PSAs that will continue to air throughout the summer. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents need to be a part of the anti-bullying process in order for this process to be successful. Student involvement can be in the form of role playing, creating iMovies, PowerPoints, posters, and other means of communication that can be ‘visible’ in some way throughout the school year. Do we still have bullies in our school? Yes. However, the communication we have created throughout our school has definitely improved student behavior.” “The federal Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights have sent out two informative directives to all school districts across the country in the past six months.

These directives focused on Section 504/Equity Compliance and School Bullying. The problem of school bullying is ever changing, and with today’s technology it gets easier for a child to be bullied and harder for schools to regulate bullying activity,” says R.

Stellmaker. “My company has worked hard to develop a tool ‘EquityÇTM’ that helps schools manage all forms of bullying along with their bullying policies. This system also helps school manage and maintain compliance with Section 504/Equity Compliance. To view a demo of this system, please visit www.rdeducationsolutions.com.” “Web Wise Kids crime-prevention games teach youth digital citizenship in schools and after school programs,” says marjieg. “‘It’s Your Call’ is our newest game for tweens and teens and effectively addresses cyber bullying and empowers youth to make wise and respectful choices in their digital lives and in society. 10 million youth, throughout the nation, have experienced our programs.” “The Center for Civic Education’s School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program has a great visual/critical thinking activity that gets students to draw the connection between bullying/bullying prevention and concepts like privacy, justice, authority and responsibility,” says marcofp. “Go to http://democracymosaic.net/.” However, some readers pointed out that bullying prevention in schools could lead to negative consequences if not handled correctly.

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“No parent supports cyber bullying, but with the record of zero tolerance I would not support our schools getting involved and have concerns with the local DA’s overzealous prosecutions toward children,” says F. Borakove. “If common sense were the norm, than I would be approaching this differently. For example, a recent YouTube posting of a student being bullied and physically hit multiple times followed by his defending himself resulted in the bullied victim being suspended for five days because of the zero tolerance policy in schools. If the schools cannot effectively defend the students, then … what right do they have to punish the children for defending themselves? It is the school administrators who ought to be ashamed of themselves.” 71 eSM STAR Tackling School Bullying 10 tips for educators on preventing bullying This fall, there are new and revamped laws in many states that address K-12 bullying and cyber bullying. In Massachusetts, we have one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching laws in the country. As in many states, K-12 teachers in Massachusetts have new responsibilities to respond to, report, and address bullying and cyber bullying. Here at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), we’ve developed 10 tips to help faculty cope with what can seem an overwhelming task.

1. Keep “responding” and “reporting” separate in your mind.

What behaviors do you have to report for possible formal discipline? Also, how should you respond when you see inappropriate (possibly bullying or definitely bullying) behaviors? Always respond by making it clear that you are disturbed by what you saw. Should you respond to a behavior that you might not normally report (such as laughter at a child’s expense)? The answer is yes. Remember that even if it’s not a “reportable” behavior—respond to it. Ignoring even mild bullying behaviors is essentially the same as endorsing them.

2. Focus on the small stuff.

It’s useful to understand the difference between “gateway” behaviors and blatant bullying.

Gateway behaviors facilitate or reinforce bullying—they make disrespect seem normal (which facilitates bullying) or even rewarded (like laughing along with a bully). The difficulty is that there are usually no solid rules against gateway behaviors, so adults often ignore them. But research shows us how toxic they can be. In 2009 and 2010, MARC researchers found that it was the gateway behaviors that dominated victim reports.

Focusing on the small stuff means understanding that we need to educate kids about the impact of even small behaviors and react when we see them happening. How to respond? Explain that even small behaviors really affect others. Tell the child that you don’t want to see behavior that might be interpreted as rude, and instruct the child to stop. Make it a classroom rule. Then, repeated instances become insolence towards you— which is a possible matter for school discipline.

72 eSM STAR Tackling School Bullying

3. The cyber stuff: Approach and coach.

Although kids are comfortable with technology, they are not necessarily knowledgeable about it—don’t confuse the two. We all need to talk with kids about technology. Don’t worry about how much you know or don’t know. Ask kids what’s happening online with them. Ask them to tell you (or show you) what they’re up to online. And keep in mind that even if you might not know how to do a particular thing, you do know that even online they should watch what they say and be civil to others. Don’t hesitate to make that message loud and clear.

4. The Rumor Mill is still the leader in social problems.

Online and offline, rumors today fly at an incredible rate. In our research, bullies tell us that spreading rumors online is the by far the most common thing they do to others. So if we do anything to stop bullying, let’s be sure to focus on the rumors.

5. Talk to kids about how to handle things when they get mad at each other.

Kids today often vent electronically when they’re mad, instead of trying to resolve the problem. Faced with the choice between a difficult face-to-face conversation, versus the ease of venting online, they might often conclude that it makes more sense to go electronic. The problem is that by doing so, they usually escalate the conflict instead of resolving it. In bygone days, kids didn’t need to be coached on the benefits of talking face to face when they’re upset—but today they often do. In our research, girls particularly showed a tendency to do this.

6. Don’t neglect elementary school students.

Both bullying and cyber bullying start young. Although we tend to neglect these topics until middle school, the fact is that the seeds of bullying are sown at a young age. And that includes cyber bullying: In a study conducted in 2008, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting found that 72 percent of all first graders used the internet at least once a week during the summer. Anecdotally, at MARC we have seen cases of cyber bullying involving second graders.

The good news is that young elementary students are very willing and able to internalize rules about behavior. Thus, it is important to teach them that being a good person on the computer is just as important as being a good person on the playground. MARC offers a

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curriculum on bullying and cyber bullying for grades K-5. You can read about it on our web site and request a copy online.

7. To get the kids to report, you must connect with them emotionally on some level.

We’re not saying you should be best friends with your students; only that your students need to know that you care about them and their welfare. Kids today are still reporting bullying to adults at very low levels. Boys particularly, in our research, are not reporting to educators. Why aren’t kids reporting? More than 80 percent of the boys and girls in our research revealed that when they did report, no action was taken as a result. They took a big risk in “telling,” but as far as they knew, nothing was done.

Of course, confidentiality laws (both federal and, in many states, local) prohibit educators from telling a person specifics about any action taken against another student. But these laws don’t prohibit you from telling a student, “We’re not ignoring your report. We are working on it,” and that’s exactly what reporters need to hear.

8. Girls might need particular attention, socially.

In our research, male cyber bullies tended to attack strangers, acquaintances, or kids who were friends long ago. Girls, on the other hand, tended to attack their friends or those with whom they were recently friends. This is a finding of particular concern, because it means that girls are attacking the very foundations of their social support.

Adolescence is a time when kids are learning how to form the long-term friendships they will depend upon as adults. So be aware of the girls you teach: They might need your help in learning to appreciate and protect their social infrastructure—not attack it.

9. Take a moment to reinforce patient, kind, and friendly behaviors.

We all know that the carrot works better than the stick. When you notice a child being particularly good-hearted—especially in a potentially difficult situation, like when helping a classmate understand something, or sticking up for another child—be sure to let them know that you personally appreciate and admire their behavior. Better yet, use a classroom recognition system for the students who behave so well.

10. Enlist the kids in your efforts.

Although adults can be key players, it’s the kids themselves who are the ultimate arbiters

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of their group’s social behavior. Ask your students what kinds of bullying problems they notice, and what rules they believe should address those problems. Then sit back and watch them enforce their own rules with enthusiasm!

The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center is an academic center at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. We offer K-12 schools in Massachusetts free programs and services by running a training program for graduate and undergraduate students in higher education. Everyone benefits: Future educators receive unique field training, and K-12 schools receive high-quality, no-cost programs and services. Our web site (www.MARCcenter.org) offers many free downloads, games, tips, and curricula for all schools, and parent downloads that are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

75 eSM STAR Tackling School Bullying School security expert: It takes technology to stop bullying, too Data indicating that more children are being bullied in and out of school, along with news that a 15-year-old girl committed suicide after being bullied by classmates, have prompted new laws and school rules. Here are some important steps that school leaders and security officials can take to stop the bullying in schools Last fall, the American Public Health Association reported that 43 percent of American middle school students were bullied within the previous 30 days. Since then the topic of bullying has moved to the front pages of newspapers and led television newscasts–both locally and nationally.

Much of that recent interest was fueled in March by the tragic story of a 15-year-old Massachusetts schoolgirl who committed suicide after being unrelentingly bullied in person and online.

The state government took quick action and earlier this month the governor signed a bill designed to prohibit bullying on school property and at school-sponsored events. It also prohibits cyberbullying by eMail or social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

The new law requires school staff to report incidents of bullying to the principal, who must then investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action. Principals must also notify the parents of both the victim and the bully. Schools will also be required to add bullying prevention programs to the classroom, as well as provide training to faculty and staff.

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Those are all good steps that should be followed in the other 49 states. But there are a couple of things missing here.

First, all schools should have hotlines that allow anyone to anonymously report incidents of bullying or violence. And schools need to make sure they have surveillance cameras in hallways, stairways, lunchrooms, locker areas, playgrounds and outside restrooms, where bullying is most likely to occur.

Often, charges of bullying get down to a “he-said, she-said” situation. Having recorded evidence of incidents can break that potential logjam.

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