Battling Bullying: A Whole-School Approach
Long considered just another childhood rite of passage, bullying has recently come under closer scrutiny. As increasing amounts of research emerge about bullying's effects on children—some of which can be devastating—adults are paying more attention to the problem. But too often, when teachers hear about bullying, they expect youngsters to work it out on their own.
"Telling the child to solve the problem himself doesn't address how powerless he is," says Debra Pepler, professor of psychology at York University in Ontario. "By the time the child who's been targeted is distressed or courageous enough to tell a teacher, the child doing the bullying has immense power."
"The problem of bullying is in all schools," says Wendy Craig, professor of psychology at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. "If schools don't acknowledge it, they inadvertently support it. If schools don't address the problem, we know it'll get worse. It's like an infection—if you don't take steps early to stop it, it'll grow."
Systematic Bullying Prevention
Committee for Children has developed a program to help schools decrease bullying and create a safe and respectful learning climate. Titled STEPS TO RESPECT: A Bullying Prevention Program, it is designed as a proactive, systemic approach for elementary schools to deal with bullying.
The STEPS TO RESPECT program is designed to rally an entire school community—students, staff, teachers, and parents—against bullying. Says Craig, "For programs to work effectively, the whole school needs to be on board…so you have a consistent approach in dealing with problems."
William King Elementary, a Nova Scotia school that piloted the STEPS TO RESPECT program, experienced a significant change in their school climate. "Students realized the impact of bullying on people, and its seriousness," says sixth-grade teacher Shirley Everett. "We've noticed a decrease in bullying across grade levels."
Reprinted with the permission of the Committee for Children. © 2007 Committee for Children.
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