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Dealing with Bullying: A Case Study

Dealing with Bullying: A Case Study

by Jerry Bohren, NAPSA Trustee

The subject of bullying can be found in one professional educational journal or another nearly every month. Articles and websites on the topic number in the hundreds and continue to increase. It has been a roundtable discussion topic at several conferences. Obviously, it is a very timely and important concern and is deserving of our attention. A school’s failure to deal effectively with bullying allows a hostile school environment to interfere with teaching and learning while endangering the safety of all its students.

Unfortunately, bullying can be found in every school. All too often it is part of the way students interact. While I knew this to be true about my school, I suspected the severity of the problem was low and that we were handling it effectively. However, after several discussions with students, parents and staff I began to question this assumption. I realized I needed to determine the actual scope of the bullying problem in my school and determine the best way to respond to it. To do this I decided to survey the parents, students, and staff separately and then compare these results. The information gathered in this survey is being used to develop a customized solution to our bullying problem. We are in the process of looking at several anti-bullying programs for ideas and strategies that best fit our needs. Since the results of the survey and our subsequent plan for dealing with bullying are unique to my school it is not necessary to include that information here. However, this process did uncover a couple of useful points that are worth exploring further.

First, the survey helped identify weaknesses in our approach to dealing with bullying. The many staff members who deal with bullying do so in the best way they know how. However, the wide variety of these well intended methods being used to deal with bullying, combined with the bullies’ craftiness, have been ineffective at truly curtailing bullying in our school. The bullies often had several verbal reprimands before any substantial consequence was applied. One conclusion from the survey is that we needed to develop a better method to communicate with each other about who was bullying and what we had done about it. We also recognized that in order to improve our effectiveness in dealing with this problem we needed a coordinated and comprehensive set of responses.

Second, the survey revealed that bullying was happening in places where staff were present, yet it wasn’t being recognized as bullying. Because we come from diverse backgrounds we don’t share the same sensitivity to bullying. Work with your staff to develop a common understanding and definition of bullying. Educate them about the nature of bullies and bullying. A well-informed staff will be more prepared and more effective when dealing with bullying.

Before you spend time and resources looking for a solution I urge you to take the time to understand the nature of the bullying problem in your school. Conducting a survey is certainly quite labor intensive,. but it is an excellent way to gauge the scope and severity of the bullying problem in your school. Doing so will enable you to select the right solution that fits your unique needs.