How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Between one-quarter and one-third of students in America say they have been bullied in school. Most bullying happens in middle school, but it also occurs in elementary and high school. As a parent, it can be devastating to find out that your child has been bullied. Bullying causes low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and, in severe cases, even suicide or violence toward others. While most schools should have an anti-bullying policy and a list of procedures to follow, oftentimes, parents, teachers, and school employees either don’t know what to do to stop bullying or they don’t follow the procedures as outlined by the school district. There are some things that parents, schools, and communities can do to stop bullying in schools. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you strive to make your child’s school bully-free.

 

Talk to Your Teen About Bullying

Many teenagers and preteens will not volunteer information about bullying that is happening in their schools. They might be friends with either the bullies or the people being bullied, and talking about it might feel like tattling. If your teen is bullying someone, it is unlikely that they will talk about it. If they are being bullied, they might feel ashamed or embarrassed and be reluctant to bring it up.

Talk to your child about what bullying is and ask whether they have witnessed it. Some teens might not know that certain behaviors are bullying. Bullying is when there is repeated, aggressive behavior when there is a power imbalance. It might be an older child being aggressive toward a younger child or a more popular teen verbally harassing a less popular teen. The power imbalance can be physical, social, or perceived. Talking to your teen about what bullying is can help them determine whether they’ve seen this type of behavior and allow them to look out for it in the future.

 

Know the Signs of Bullying

To stop bullying in schools, you must first learn how to recognize when it’s happening by educating yourself on the signs of teen bullying. Keep in mind that bullying can be physical, emotional, or social. Here are some signs that your teen is being bullied:

  • Unexplained physical marks (scratches, scrapes, bruises)
  • Missing expensive possessions like a cell phone, tablet, jacket, sneakers
  • Refusing to go to school or ride the school bus
  • Physical complaints like headaches, stomach aches, sore muscles
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Signs of depression
  • Signs of anxiety
  • Signs of suicidal ideation

If you notice any of these signs in your teen or if your teen notices them in a friend or classmate, it is important to get help. Your pediatrician or family doctor can do a screening for signs of depression and refer you to a counselor who has experience helping those who have been bullied.

 

Know the Facts About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place via electronic media such as email, texting, or social media. While it does not necessarily take place at school, it generally affects school life because the teens involved often go to the same school. As word of the cyberbullying spreads, it tends to be known among classmates, which is humiliating for the victim. As such, many schools extend their anti-bullying policies to cyberbullying as well as physical or in-person bullying.

It is important for both you and your teen to know that some forms of cyberbullying are illegal. Individuals might feel less inhibited online than they would feel when face-to-face with a classmate or peer. If inappropriate images are shared via email or text, that could be a sexual offense. Impersonating someone else can also be a crime in some cases. Educating your teen and your teen’s friends about these crimes can nip cyberbullying in the bud in some cases.

 

Find Out About Your School’s Anti-Bullying Policies

Each school should have an anti-bullying policy. It should include:

  • The definition of bullying
  • Which staff members have been trained in dealing with bullying
  • What types of prevention strategies are in place
  • The school’s policies for investigating, following up, and reporting bullying

You should be able to see this document on your school’s website or, if you cannot find it, you can ask the guidance counselor or principal for a copy.

If your child or another individual is being bullied, you can then go to the school with appropriate expectations regarding the anti-bullying policy. If you find that it is not being followed, you can escalate the situation to the superintendent or the school board to help stop bullying.

 

Teach Young People How to React to Bullying

Teaching young people how to react to bullying is vital if you want to stop bullying in schools. Many times, children and teens are told simply to “just ignore it and the bully will stop.” While this can work in some situations, it does not work in all situations.

Teach your teen how to de-escalate a situation where someone might be in danger until they can get help. They should also know that reporting bullying is not tattling; it can literally save lives. If your own child has bullied someone or is being bullied, taking them for the appropriate counseling can help a bullying teen to learn better ways of handling his or her strong emotions and can help a bullied teen to regain the self-esteem lost by being bullied.

Get Authorities Involved If Necessary

Finally, don’t be afraid to get the law involved where necessary to stop bullying. If the bullying is continuing despite having reported it to the school or it begins again after the school’s discipline has ended, it is time to contact the local police. They can tell you whether the specific behavior is against the law and can intervene as needed. There is no excuse for any child or teenager to feel afraid while at school; school is meant to be a safe place physically, socially, and emotionally for students and staff.

 

Conclusion

Talk to your teen about bullying so you can take prompt action if it is a problem at their school. Don’t be afraid to be the “squeaky wheel” in these cases; you might be saving someone from severe mental anguish, depression, and other issues that can be brought on by bullying.

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