Top Ten Ways to Address Student Bullying

November 17th, 2016 | By Jules Halpern Associates | Education Law, Student Bullying, Student Safety

Bullying in schools continues to be a significant topic of debate for students, parents, educators, and legislators. Although there currently is no federal law against bullying, all 50 state legislatures have enacted individual anti-bullying statutes for schools. While these laws acknowledge the importance of addressing bullying in schools, they provide little advice on how to prevent bullying in general and how to respond when an incident has occurred.

Bullying can happen anywhere, at anytime; therefore, it is important for any institution that cares for children, not just schools, to take a strong stance against this unacceptable behavior. Here are some tips we recommend to prevent and respond to bullying:

  1. Have an anti-bullying policy in place. Any institution that cares for children should have age-appropriate anti-bullying rules in place. An official policy will help create a climate of respect and communication within the facility. Anti-bullying policies should address what bullying is, where it can happen, what duties faculty and staff have, reporting procedures, and what consequences are possible if the policy is violated. Furthermore, the anti-bullying policy should designate a staff member to serve as the point person and main investigator.
  2. Define bullying clearly. Bullying can take many different forms, from name calling to physical violence. It can also take place anywhere, including school grounds and online. Providing a specific definition of bullying can help staff, parents, and students recognize behavior. Additionally, a definition will enable students to better understand what behavior is considered unacceptable.
  3. Educate staff, parents, and students on recognizing signs of bullying. Everyone plays a role in preventing bullying. Schools can elect to implement awareness campaigns that focus on teaching everyone in the community about how bullying can affect others and what they can do to help prevent it. Educating staff, parents, and students on recognizing signs of bullying can help schools take action quicker and prevent situations from escalating.
  4. Encourage students to report incidents. Schools should strive to create an environment where students feel they can safely communicate with faculty or staff about incidents of bullying. Students should be reminded that their feelings are important and that their complaints are taken seriously. No complaint about bullying or similar behavior should go unacknowledged.
  5. Address situations quickly. Most anti-bullying laws emphasize the need to handle reports of bullying immediately. Responding to bullying sends a message to all students that the behavior is unacceptable. Additionally, it reinforces the notion that reports are taken seriously.
  6. Speak with both the victim and the accused. Once a complaint has been made, the designated staff member should set up a meeting with both the victim and the accused. Initially, these meetings should take place separately so that the staff member can get each side’s account of what happened without interruptions. During these meetings, the staff member may discover underlying issues of why the accused is behaving in an unacceptable manner. Once the individual interviews have occurred, the staff member may decide to have a meeting with both sides present in order to give them an opportunity to reconcile. Having a joint meeting may help mitigate the accused’s behavior in the future, and provide the victim with a feeling of empowerment.
  7. Support the victim. A victim should never be made to feel as though he or she is being punished. If corrective action involves separating the two parties, then it is the accused whose schedule should be changed, not the victim’s.
  8. Weigh consequences for the accused. Bullying can cause immense harm to others, and therefore, must have serious repercussions. Corrective action should be taken immediately in order to lessen the possibility that the same student will bully others in the future. Conducting reflective interviews with the accused can help uncover underlying issues at the bully’s home, such as a chaotic lifestyle or abuse from family members. Even if there are issues at home, a school should never condone a student behaving inappropriately.
  9. Provide counseling when appropriate. Schools can recommend or arrange counseling for both victims and bullies. The effects of bullying can often stay with victims for years after they have escaped their tormentors. Providing counseling early on can offer victims much needed support and help them understand that they have done nothing wrong. Furthermore, counseling sessions may help bullies express themselves in healthier ways, and enable the facility to be on alert for worsening situations at home. If the school deems it necessary, students may be referred to outside therapists for on-going assistance.
  10. Involve parents and guardians. Because of the time spent with children, faculty and staff are able to notice signs of bullying first. Working with parents and guardians and encouraging communication at home can help schools reinforce their policies against bullying. Schools can keep parents informed of their children’s friends and behavior so that any issues can be picked up as quickly as possible.

It is important to remember that bullying can take place anywhere, and that it is up to schools and the members of their communities to take a firm stance against unacceptable behavior. Continuous efforts need to be made in order to help prevent bullying and create healthier, safer environments.

This blog post was written by Elizabeth Driscoll, a law clerk at Jules Halpern Associates LLC.

Jules Halpern Associates LLC

Workplace and Education Law Advisors

Jules Halpern Associates LLC
JULES HALPERN ASSOCIATES LLC is a boutique law firm committed to serving our clients in all facets of their workplace issues. We provide personalized, practical advice that resonates with our clients’ business objectives.
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