Dedicated Efforts

Bullying on school campuses is reaching epidemic levels. Here are just a few recent chilling examples.
  • An Arizona teenager was arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot other students at school.
  • An Ohio boy had his hair set on fire while riding a school bus.
  • A 15-year-old Connecticut boy posted “Stop the bullying, stop the pain” on a social media site before taking his own life.
Things are so bad on some campuses that, according to several studies, nearly 10 percent of students say that they occasionally stay away from school or extracurricular events to avoid being bullied.

Obviously, bullying is not a new phenomenon — it likely has been with us throughout time. But with the addition of new means of communications, students can no longer even escape into the safety of their own homes. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and text messages give bullies the ability to follow their victims almost anywhere.

There is not much educators can do to monitor off-campus, after-school bullying, but there are some very real steps they can take to help control the situation at school.

First, gain an understanding of just how much of a problem bullying is on a campus. Since students are the best source of information in this case, consider creating and administering an anonymous survey to learn how they feel about the situation.

Then schools must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. A committee of administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students should be formed to develop clear and concise rules and consequences for violations. The consequences may include suspensions or bans on the offenders participating in or attending sporting events, dances or other extracurricular events. Make sure to share the new policy with students, staff and parents. Posting signs around campus can remind students of the consequences of violating these regulations.

This committee should continue to meet regularly to review the plans and make adjustments when necessary and continue to report on progress to all campus stakeholders.

Spend time training staff to know how to respond to bullying and let members know how they can work with students to help prevent it. Do not allow adults on campus to ignore observed bullying and insist that they react in a manner as prescribed in their training sessions.

Consider weaving anti-bullying themes throughout the curriculum and allow regularly scheduled class time for teachers and students to talk about the subject. Look for ways to improve relationships among young children and teenagers.

Make sure adults, preferably teachers and/or administrators, are present in the lunchroom during mealtimes, on the playgrounds during recess, in the hallways during passing periods and at bus stops at the end of the school day — all times and places where bullying is likely to occur. Also, it is a good idea to have adults periodically check student restrooms.

Bullies are most often cowards that will not act up if they know they are being watched and will face repercussions for their actions. For those times that adults cannot be watching the campus, consider installing video surveillance cameras to monitor areas where bullying is most likely to occur. Bullies and their parents may deny any wrongdoing, but it is difficult to argue when presented with the irrefutable video evidence.

Finally, do not start the process of combating bullying and then fail to follow through. New students and staff constantly come and go, so make these changes permanent and ongoing. Bullying prevention is a task that requires continued diligent efforts by all campus stakeholders

Bullying will never be totally eradicated, but it can be controlled through dedicated efforts.

Mark Bomber is director of Marketing, Education for Boca Raton, Fla.-based ADT Security Services.