Making School Safer
Q. Is it also possible that the school my child(ren) is in really does not have any bullying and is really a safe place?
A. Yes, it is possible that any school has a school climate that is so positive that all forms of meanness and/or bullying behaviors are just not acceptable and actually seldom or never are experienced there. You would learn this to be the case by talking with your child(ren), their teachers and administrators, as well as reviewing school conduct policies and rules. In addition, there may be public displays in the school that you and/or your child(ren) would easily see (murals, bulletin boards, showcases, posters, banners, etc.) that would be clear and visible reminders that the school is a safe place. Sometimes school student/parent handbooks also refer to creating physically, emotionally and intellectually safe schools through their stated mission as well as through their codes of conduct and the rules that govern the school.
Another sign that schools are working to create and maintain respectful schools would be if they are regularly assessing the quality of their school climate and that improving school climate appears in school and district improvement plans.
Q. What can parents/guardians do to reduce bullying behaviors and assist in making the school my child(ren) goes to a safe and positive place for learning?
A. The most important thing you can do is to talk positively with your child(ren) and with friends and parents/guardians of other children about these issues. Mean behaviors (physical and emotional) are never OK. Children do not have to be friends with everyone but they have an obligation not to hurt anyone else with words or deeds. It is also important for you to talk with your child(ren) about how real friends treat one another. Too often, children report that their “friends” are the ones that are bullying them. Real friends do not hurt each other. And, talk with your child(ren) regularly about how to treat all others and most importantly, be a positive role model for your child(ren) in your own home and community.
You should also support efforts in your school and community that target creating safe and welcoming environments. The ultimate remedy for bullying is to create learning communities in which bullying behaviors are simply not acceptable. Not only are targets of bullies at risk for long-term social isolation and depression, but also those who hurt others are at social risk. Bullies are at a far greater risk for getting in trouble with the law and being entangled in the juvenile justice system. Those who witness bullying are also at risk. Typically, as many as 85 percent – 95 percent of the school student population are part of the “silent majority” of bystanders who stand by with a great deal of anxiety and guilt as they watch peers hurt others and feel paralyzed to stop what they see on a daily basis. To create the kind of safe emotional environments where high levels of learning are experienced, these bystanders must become “allies.” Allies actively support and help others. Bullying behavior will end when it becomes “cool” to treat others respectfully. Children should be role models for each other as much as we need to be models for them. We are all models…we might as well be good ones.