HRC Blog

How NOT to Combat Bullying

Post by Rohmteen Mokhtari, Former HRC Coordinator, Family Project

This month an elementary school in Lincoln, Neb., made headlines when some 5th graders came home with a flyer with some very problematic "rules" for addressing bullying, including:

Rule #7: "Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?"

The school has since apologized to the school community and emphatically stated that the flyer does not represent the school's approach to addressing bullying.

But the incident is a reminder that when it comes to addressing bullying, it helps to be aware of what does and doesn't work.

Some of it might seem obvious (ie: discouraging students from reporting bullying is generally a very bad idea) but some of it is more counterintuitive.

To be clear, we should not let the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing prevent us from taking action to address bullying.

But with a topic as complex as bullying, doing a little homework can help ensure that our good intentions translate into positive results for the students we are working so hard to support.

Here are a few best practices in bullying prevention and intervention identified by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and some Welcoming Schools resources to help:

1) Garner staff and parent support for bullying prevention.

To be most effective, bullying prevention efforts require buy-in from the majority of the staff and from parents.

Resources: Family Education and Community Building and Professional Development Tools

2) Increase adult supervision in hot spots where bullying occurs.

Bullying tends to thrive in locations where adults are not present or are not vigilant. Once school personnel have identified hot spots for bullying from the student questionnaires, look for creative ways to increase adults’ presence in these locations.

Resources: Student School Climate Survey and Name-calling and Feeling Safe in School Lesson Plan (PDF) 

3) Focus some class time on bullying prevention.

It is important that bullying prevention programs include a classroom component. Elementary teachers (with the support of administrators) should set aside 20-30 minutes each week (or every other week) to discuss bullying and peer relations with students.

Check out: Welcoming Schools Lesson Plans

See the full list of HRSA best practices and many more Welcoming Schools resources.

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