The old adage “kids will be kids” may be a dangerous falsehood.
Now, national media attention on children driven to suicide by bullying has helped raise awareness, change attitudes, and put anti-bullying laws on the books in 47 states. Schools must comply with their state laws, which may include changes to policies, curricula, and classroom practices.
That’s where EDC comes in.
EDC recently launched the Bullying Prevention and Research Institute (BPRI), pulling together decades of research, program development, and insight in this area. Boston Public Schools will be the first school system to benefit from the new institute.
States take a stand
In 2010, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying bills in the country.
The new law makes acts of bullying illegal—whether on school grounds or through use of social media technology, such as Facebook and texting—and requires schools and teachers to play a proactive role in identifying, reporting, and preventing bullying. To comply, schools were required to develop detailed bullying prevention and intervention programs.
This summer and fall, Boston Public Schools (BPS) and EDC teamed up to support educators in their efforts to stop bullying in its tracks. EDC is helping over 5,000 Boston school personnel to not only identify and intervene with bullies and victims, but to teach compassion, acceptance, and inclusion in the classroom.
Teachers can learn to recognize the signs of bullying so they can intervene. “We often overlook bullying until it’s too late, or we fail to see it because we don’t know what to look for,” says EDC’s Kim Storey, who developed the landmark Eyes on Bullying program with EDC colleague and national bullying prevention expert Ronald Slaby. “If we know what it is and how to see it, we’re better able to stop it, or prevent it from happening in the first place.”
Storey is leading the team from BPRI—which includes Ed Donnelly, BPS’s point person on bullying—to enhance bullying prevention efforts for Boston schools, with a special focus on students with disabilities. This initiative includes trainings, guidebooks, student programs, and online education modules, designed for school personnel, parents, and students.
Two online modules will provide professional education: Creating a School Climate for Bullying Prevention and Bullying Prevention and Students with Disabilities. Guidebooks for teachers and students will include one that helps K–12 teachers embed bullying prevention messages in their core curriculum.
“Teachers have a responsibility to recognize bullying behaviors,” explains Storey. “How adults respond can either prevent or escalate bullying. Teachers need to be prepared to effectively intervene in bullying situations, and help students develop the skills and strategies they need to prevent and stop bullying.”
An eye on bullying
Some signs of bullying that teachers can learn to spot:
- In preschool, bullies often rely on direct verbal bullying and physical power to control material objects or territory.
- In elementary school, bullies are more likely to use threats and physical force, combined with direct verbal bullying, to force victims to do things against their will.
- In middle and high school, bullies rely on direct verbal bullying such as name-calling and making threatening remarks, as well as physical bullying such as pushing and hitting. Although both boys and girls engage in physical bullying, girls are more likely to participate in indirect, relational bullying, such as rumor-spreading and social exclusion. They often use the Internet or cell phones to send these hurtful messages.
For years, EDC has taken a leadership role in developing research-based bullying prevention programs, such as Eyes on Bullying and Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders. These resources provide effective activities and strategies that challenge adults and children to recognize and respond to bullying in its earliest and most preventable phases.
Establishing the Bullying Prevention and Research Institute increases EDC’s capacity to help school districts across the United States and—as bullying is a global problem—even internationally.
“The face of bullying has changed,” Storey says. “Children see more violent behavior on TV and in the world around them. Cyberbullying means bullies are constantly in their victims’ faces, including off school grounds. Bullying is a damaging behavior with long-term effects. So it’s important to realize that it has to be dealt with early and up front.”
Originally published on October 26, 2011