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Awareness is a key ingredient for stopping bullying in our schools. However, anti-bullying policies as well as programs that involve the children are equally important.

Benefits of an Anti- Bullying Policy

In talking to parents over the past years, it is clear that what they want most for their children is to know that they are safe at school. When a child does not feel safe at school, it effects everything else that goes on in that child's life. Many schools have an unofficial reputation for tolerating bullying. This reputation is usually common knowledge throughout the student community. In these schools more children tend to feel anxious about their personal safety and as a result many are reluctant to attend. By the time a school has a public reputation for being a "tough school", many victims have suffered in silence.

Once the issue of bullying is brought into the open by the school, and the community is made aware of the "No Bullying" policy, the school gains a reputation of being safe for all children and is seen as an active partner in taking care of children.
The benefits to students are significant as well. When children know that the school they attend actively works to make the learning environment a safe environment, and that bullying is not tolerated, they can afford to relax their guard and divert more of their attention to learning rather than staying safe. Even students who cannot be categorized as victims or bullies, but who witness bullying, feel more comfortable when they know that the school community, students, staff and administration stand together against bullying.

Regardless of what kind of school environment students have previously encountered, when they enter a school with a Zero Tolerance for bullying, students who have bullying potential usually test the policy. For this reason, it is important that the school maintains the active teaching of non-bullying behaviors, and publishes school-based bullying statistics ( Appendix E). Students need to know that this is not just a 'shot in the dark', and that the policy will be reviewed and maintained each and every year.

Although it is best to have the entire school working toward a reduction in the number of bullying incidents, in situations where this cannot be achieved, classroom teachers can adopt individual programs. This is not as desirable for obvious reasons, but it is a start to tackling the bullying problem.

What Administrators Can Do
A major cause of stress at school for children is the fear of being taunted or bullied. Kids who are bullied are two to three times more likely to have headaches or other illnesses. (ABC News, Sept. 22, 1996)

Schools need to establish a social climate where physical aggression and bullying are not used to gain popularity, maintain group leadership or influence others to do what they are told to do. No one deserves to be bullied. Once the 60% of children who are neither victims nor bullies adopt the attitude that bullying is an unacceptable behavior, schools are well on their way to having a successful bullying program.

Schools need to advertise the fact that they have adopted a Zero Tolerance policy for bullying, and that they have a working Anti-Bullying plan in force. School faculty must maintain a high profile in terms of the behavioral expectations of their students in order to gain support from the community and send a clear message to the families of present and future students that bullying will not be tolerated.

Once a school has established itself as a safe place for all students, school personnel will need to continually work at maintaining that reputation. It is a difficult task that requires the school faculty to put student safety at the top of their priority list. Remember, students who do not feel safe at school are unlikely to perform as well academically as they are capable, thus possibly impeding their future opportunities. A commitment by the staff to no-bullying in the school must be a long term undertaking. When a new school year begins, staff should be sure Anti-Bullying policies have been included and discussed in the yearly goal setting process.

Schools can create support groups where victims can concentrate on developing the skills needed to change their place within the social hierarchy of the student body. The goal is for the victim to become a part of the group of students who do not bully and are not bullied. Such changes requires a great deal of time and effort, but it is possible, given the necessary support.

Students are Key to A Successful Anti-Bullying Campaign

Students are key to a successful Anti-Bullying campaign primarily because they usually know who the bullies are long before the adults do.

When it comes to discipline or punishment issues, most students strongly believe in fairness and therefore welcome Anti-Bullying policies that encourage treating others with care and respect. However, students are more likely to support an Anti-Bullying campaign when they have been directly involved in determining the need for such a program, and deciding on its implementation. This includes developing Anti-Bullying policies and subsequent school-wide or classroom activities. It is necessary for students to promote the concept that caring for others is a valued quality, one that they accept and encourage.

Teachers need to be sensitive to the fact that the level of student participation in the Anti-Bullying campaign will vary. Once students are mobilized to take action against bullies, they must feel secure that teachers understand their need to stay safe. For some students this means ensuring that the information they share will not cause them to lose status in their peer group.

Confidentiality must be maintained in order for the program to be viewed by the students as credible. As well, to help students actively participate and take on the challenge of reducing bullying, it is very important that they learn the difference between "ratting" and "reporting". "Ratting" occurs when a student tells about an inappropriate act with the idea getting another student into trouble with the administration. "Reporting" happens when a student tells to protect the safety of another student. Once students have an understanding of the difference between the two, reporting bullying incidents becomes much less of a social taboo.

For more information contact:
Bully B'ware Productions
1421 King Albert Avenue
Coquitlam, British Columbia
Canada V3J 1Y3
(604) 936-8000

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