National Bullying Prevention Month - Making a Difference

October 1 2015

Author

  • William Grace Frost, Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters
    William Grace Frost
    Former Director of Strategic Relations, Community Matters

As we recognize National Bullying Prevention Month 2015, we can take heart in knowing that shifts continue to take place and that many schools are committed to school climate transformation. While there is still much work to be done, more and more schools are taking positive actions to ensure that their students feel welcome, safe and connected.

We know that we can make schools safer and achieve better educational outcomes. This can be accomplished by focusing on transforming school climates utilizing an “inside-out approach”. This relationship-based approach is built on a foundation of social norms change and a discipline model that utilizes restorative practices. It emphasizes the power of student voice and the importance of youth and adult relationships. Given our experience in providing support, training and consultation to more than 2000 schools across the country, we know the following actions are the keys to success:

  • If we want our students to be compassionate, respectful of differences and courageous enough to speak up, we must begin by finding our own courage first – it starts at the top. Educational leaders, from school boards and superintendents to building administrators, must be willing to make an honest and comprehensive assessment of their schools’ strengths, weaknesses, gaps and opportunities for improvement. Starting with a “deep dive” analysis will go a long way in ensuring that school climate improvement planning is built on accurate data and leads to measureable and sustainable results.
  • It takes strong organizational leadership to change the culture and climate of a school. Discipline procedures and practices are effective when all key stakeholders, from the administration and school board to the students, parents and staff, are included in the development and implementation of behavioral policies.
  • Increasing student voice and utilizing a peer to peer role-modeling approach is the quickest, most cost efficient and effective way to change the social norms on campus and reduce bullying, cyber-bullying and harassment. By identifying and training the socially-influential leaders in each of the campus cliques to set an example of courage and compassion in their words and actions towards others, over time the social acceptability of bullying can be eradicated. This is the model employed by our Safe School Ambassadors® Program.
  • Successful teachers and staff put relationships first – taking the extra time to greet students by name, offering a kind word or smile, being “hall-friendly” and cultivating authentic connections with students. These actions pay off in students developing a stronger sense of belonging, less staff time spent disciplining and more time for teaching and learning.
  • Discipline needs to be focused on restoration rather than punishment – restorative practices include powerful tools and strategies that maintain connection, restore relationships, repair hurt, and ultimately reduce discipline incidents; disagreements can also be diffused well before they get to the point of altercation and harm when restorative practices are used effectively.

Community Matters offers programs and services that can assist schools in each of the areas outlined above. For more information, please see the Programs and Services page on our website or contact us at outreach@community-matters.org.

We also encourage you to visit the PACER National Bullying Prevention Month website for activities, videos and other resources that can be used in the classroom to engage students in learning about bullying and its consequences, including this month-long schedule of events from the North Carolina School Counselor Association.

We applaud the educational leaders, school boards, administrators, teachers, parents and community members who are taking responsible, well-informed steps towards creating school environments where our children can maximize their learning while becoming caring and responsible citizens. And most importantly, we are grateful for the thousands of students who day-in and day-out express their courage and speak up when they encounter meanness, intolerance and injustice.



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