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What to do about Bullying

Name-calling and Bullying in Schools

by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
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Bullying used to be considered a rite of passage by many, something harmless that may even serve to toughen young people and prepare them for life after school. Research has led us to a very different understanding of bullying - one in which the reality can be quite the opposite. Bullying can negatively affect children's performance at school, harm their mental well-being, and have a lasting impact on their education and life. Recent media coverage has helped raise awareness about the need to do more to address bullying, but what can we as parents, educators, and students do to help?

Bullying IS an Issue

From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 Harris Interactive Report commissioned by GLSEN, found that 65% of teens were verbally or physically harassed or assaulted in school in the past year. Students reported that they were bullied for their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expressions, race/ethnicity, disability, or religion. These types of bias-based bullying are far too common among our students. How are children and teenagers left to feel when they are teased and tormented because of who they are?

What Can be Done?

While addressing bullying may seem like a daunting task, there are simple steps we can all take to help end name-calling and bullying in schools, making a safer environment for our children.

The Role of Parents

As a parent or guardian, you have a unique responsibility to help your child deal with name-calling and bullying. Far too often parents are left feeling overwhelmed and unable to see the warning signs, or deal with the effects. These are a few tips to keep in mind:

Children frequently do not tell their parents that they are being bullied because they are embarrassed or frightened. If your child tells you about being bullied, keep in mind it has taken a lot of courage to do so.

Some possible warning signs that a child is being bullied:
  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
  • Has few, if any, friends with whom he or she spends time
  • Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs)
  • Takes a long, "illogical" route when walking to or from school
What to do if your child is being bullied

Focus on your child. Be supportive and gather information about the bullying.
  • Never tell your child to ignore the bullying.
  • Don't blame your child.
  • Listen carefully to what your child is telling you.
  • Learn as much as you can about the bullying tactics being used.
  • Sympathize with your child.
  • Do NOT encourage physical retaliation.
  • Check your own emotions.
Contact your child's teacher and/or principal.
  • Keep your emotions in check. Give factual information about your child's experiences, including who, what, when, where, and how.
  • Emphasize that you want to work with the school to find a solution.
  • Do not contact the parents of the other child.
  • Expect the bullying to stop. Be persistent - talk with your child and the school to see if the bullying has stopped.
  • Keep a record of your conversations with the school.
The Role of Teachers

Bullying in schools must be handled head-on, directly, and without hesitation from school staff. We all hear the remarks made by students, we see the shoving, pushing, and tripping, and we know why the students sitting by themselves are crying. But how many times do these things lead us to action?

The Role of Students

Students are often left feeling confused and scared during bullying incidents because no one has spoken to them about what to do. Make sure you speak with your child about how they can stay SAFE and informed.

If you are being called names or bullied, remember the four ways to stay SAFE:
Say what you feel
Ask for help
Find a friend
Exit the area
What Bystanders Can Do

The sad truth is that even though some students may not bully others, they still can be a part of the problem if they fail to be a part of the solution. As bystanders to bullying, students have incredible power to change the culture around them simply by intervening or showing support to those who are being bullied. Sometimes, all a student needs is someone to talk to, and sometimes they need someone to tell bullies that what they're doing isn't cool. A simple act like helping pick up a student's belongings after a bully has knocked them on the ground can have a lasting impact on the student being bullied - and the bully.

Teach your children, students, or classmates to be allies to their peers. Showing a little respect goes a long way toward improving the school climate for everyone.

What Schools and Districts Can Do

Individual schools and their districts need to take a stronger approach when dealing with bullying and name-calling. While there are a variety of ways schools can go about this, we wanted to highlight a few key tactics for ending name-calling and bullying in schools.

Comprehensive anti-name-calling/bullying policies:
Naming the problem is crucial in creating an effective anti-bullying policy. The most effective policies define bullying and specifically enumerate characteristics most often targeted, such as a student's perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expressions, race/ethnicity, economic status, ability, religion, or any other distinguishing characteristic. Policies should also require reporting of bullying, and staff should be trained on how to intervene, particularly with bias-based bullying, and support students who are being bullied or who are bullying others.

Educating about bullying and comprehensive anti-bullying programs:
The best way to combat name-calling and bullying is to talk with students about it. Make sure all students know how to report name-calling and bullying, and how they can combat it. Educators setting aside classroom time to speak with students will show them that the school means business when it comes to bullying. Throughout the school year, students should receive messages from the staff that bullying is not accepted, and also be reminded how they can stay safe in bullying situations. A supportive staff will help students come forward and report bullying, and deter those that would target other students.

GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational and creative activities aimed at ending all types of name-calling and bullying in schools. The program provides a wealth of free resources for educators, parents, and students to combat bullying and name-calling in their schools, including the Creative Expression Contest. This contest is an annual opportunity for students, grades K-12, to submit their original artwork expressing their experiences and feelings around name-calling and bullying in schools. Students can enter the contest even if their school is not participating in No Name-Calling Week.

Typically celebrated on the last full week of January, No Name-Calling Week 2011 is January 24-28th. Help bring it to your child's school.

Name-calling and bullying in schools is an issue that students are more than familiar with. They know what it's like to be the target, to be the bystander, and to be the bully. This issue needs to be dealt with on a community-wide level with efforts made by school staff, parents/guardians, and by the students themselves. As a community we can put an end to this behavior, or as individuals we can remain stuck in the cycle of bullying.

About GLSEN
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org
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GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
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