Safety efforts on school and university campuses focus heavily on providing security to protect students, staff and property. But institutions have been paying more attention to the effect bullying can have in an education environment and how identifying and stopping bullying can prevent some situations from escalating into violence and tragedy.
The National Center for Education Statistics says that in 2011, 27.8 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school. Female students were more frequent targets (31.4 percent) than males (24.5 percent); suburban studens (31.1 percent) were bullied more often than rural (30.8 percent) or urban students (26.6 percent).
The reported bullying took many forms, including: being the subject of rumors (18.3 percent); being made fun of or insulted (17.6 percent); being pushed, tripped or spit on (7.9 percent); being purposely excluded from activities (5.6 percent); and being threatened with harm (5 percent). Sixth-graders (37 percent) were bullied most frequently; 12th-graders, the least (22 percent).
The Texas State School Safety Center, which works with schools to increase safety and security on campuses, has put together 10 cost-effective strategies for preventing bullying:
*Assess bullying at your school. “By using surveys or focus groups, school administration can gather information from the school community and act accordingly,” the center says. “School administrators can assess the effectiveness of current prevention efforts, student/staff perceptions of bullying, and teacher responses to bullying.”
*Target areas where bullying is most common. “The first step, and oftern the most difficult, is to idenfity where bullying incidents occur most frequently,” the center says. “This can be done through the formal assessment conducted at the campus or from input given by staff, students and parents.”
*Create a safe and supportive school environment. “It must be made clear both through policy and action that bullying is not tolerated,” the center says. “In terms of youth, it must become ‘uncool’ to bully others and also ‘uncool’ to watch others being bullied and not take action.”
*Engage staff, students and parents in prevention efforts. “By engaging all members of the community, individuals will gain a sense of empowerment and feel a level of responsibility to contribute to the prevention efforts,” the center says.
*Have a school safety and security committee coordinate bullying-prevention efforts. In Texas, school districts are required under the state education code to establish a safety and security committee. “this group should act as a clearinghouse for all bullying-prevention efforts for the district/campus,” the center says. “Having a diverse group handle all bullying-prevention efforts…allows for an organized, well-versed action plan to be created.”
*Teach and train students and staff about bullying. “Staff should be able to identify the various types of bulling, be aware of the effects bullying has on individuals, and have the knowledge to appropriately intervene when an incident occurs,” the center says.
*Create and enforce clear rules pertaining to bullying. “Rules should not only forbid bullying, but also encourage students who witness bullying to take action,” the center says. “Clearly stating what is required of students who witness bullying will ensure students know the appropriate actions to take when bullying behavior is witnessed.”
*Empower staff to intervene during a bullying incident. “Staff should have the skills to actually engage the problem and handle it in an appropriate manner,” the center says. “It is not enough to have a staff member call the office to request the presence of an administrator to handle the incident.”
*Incorporate bullying-prevention education into existing curriculum. “A short amount of class time dedicated to bullying prevention coupled with creative assignment ideas that pertain to bullying will allow necessary information to be delivered to youth in a cost-effective way,” the center says.
*Continue efforts over time. “These strategies should be built into the school culture over time,” the center says. “It is not realistic to think that in just one school year, all of these strategies can be accomplished to their full potential.”