Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pennsylvania Schools Stand Up to Bullying

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By Kevin Hart

If educators could wave a magic wand and solve one problem affecting American schools, bullying would be high on the list. Teachers, support professionals and administrators are acutely aware that bullying can take a devastating emotional and academic toll on students – in fact, an estimated 160,000 students miss school each day because they fear being bullied.

While Pennsylvania’s educators may not have magic wands, a new study shows that through hard work and improved communication, they are helping to put a dent in bullying in the Keystone State.

According to “Bullying Prevention: A Statewide Collaborative That Works,” a report issued by the not-for-profit Highmark Foundation, bullying prevention programs that have been implemented across the state since 2006 are yielding positive results for students.

The foundation offered grants for hundreds of Pennsylvania schools and more than 17,000 educators to participate in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Olweus is an evidence-based bullying prevention model that has been implemented in several countries and focuses on a combination of in-school interventions and parental and community engagement.

“We all realize that bullying is an issue that extends well beyond the wall of schools,” said Lynn Cromley, director of the Center for Safe Schools, Pennsylvania.

Schools that elected to participate in the bullying prevention program received intensive training for teachers, administrators and support professionals. They learned not only how to handle incidences of bullying, but how to create a more positive school culture where bullying would be less likely to flourish.

And, according to the report, the results have been encouraging. The Highmark research found that only three or more months after implementing the Olweus program, bullying decreased by 14 percent among elementary students and 25 percent among high school students. After six or more months of implementation, 14 percent of middle school students said that they would try to help another student who was bullied.

Of the Pennsylvania teachers who participated in the program, 90 percent said that after the training, they were very clear or fairly clear on how to respond to bullying. Further, students’ perceptions of how their teachers responded to bullying improved.

Professional development focused on bullying prevention has become critical in schools, because bullies have more tools at their disposal than ever before. The rise of texting and social media allows bullies to torment their victims with push-button ease – and often out of the sight of educators.

But by engaging all stakeholders, including educators, support professionals, kids, parents and community members, schools can go a long way toward building bully-free cultures.

“We do not have to accept a school climate where bullying abounds,” said Yvonne Cook, president of the Highmark Foundation.

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4 Responses to “Pennsylvania Schools Stand Up to Bullying”
  1. jason says:

    Every year more and more children and teens are killing themselves. We hear about kids killing themselves because of bullying. It’s only after these deaths the schools decide to step forward and say bullying is wrong. Yet is that not to late? Where were they as this was happening? Could the teachers not see what is happening right in front of them? What type of support is being offered to a child who is being bullied in school?

    Every year schools spend a good portion of their budget on their sports program. By doing this we have formed an elitist class system within the school. If you are in the athletic program you pretty much have free run of the school. We see the people in the athletic programs starting riots during school events at all levels of education. When this happens the school turns a blind eye. How does this affect the minds of those involved? Do we really want to reinforce this type of behavior? Do we really want these kids and young adults to believe that as long as their in sports they can behave any way they want?

    When you setup a system where one child is placed higher then another, you setup a system where bullying is going to thrive. School is supposed to be a place to get an education, but how can you get an education when you live in fear and humiliation? With bullying being the problem it is in high schools across the country, why is not more being done to stop it before the death of a child? If schools across the country can spend a large part of their budget on sports, why can’t they spend a little on a support system for children that are bullied? We have all seen how kids in the sports program treat other kids. If you want to end bullying in schools start enforcing punishments that will teach the bullies a lesson. Say for example if you are caught bullying three times in a school year-

    1. If your in an athletic program you can not play for a full season.

    2. Out of school suspension.

    3. No admission at any after school functions; sports, school trips, homecoming and prom.

    One major problem with reporting a school bully is, the school will not let a child being bullied be anonymous when reporting it. By not allowing a student to remain anonymous the school setup the accuser as target for retaliation. What good is reporting a bully if you are both standing in front of a school official at the same time. You know if you say anything you just make yourself a bigger target. When a teacher or a parent report a bully the bully is told “We were told by this person that you are bullying this student” so you still become a target due to your name being involved.

    We need to setup a support system for children being bullied where

    1. They can report a bulling anonymously.

    2. Have a safe place to go if they feel threatened.

    3. Access to counseling in an anonymous setting if that makes them more comfortable.

    .

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