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jca's avatar

What do you think can or should be done in schools to effectively combat bullying?

Asked by jca (28672 points ) February 15th, 2012

I ask this as my daughter is about to enter kindergarten in a few months. I know that children of kindergarten age don’t usually get involved in serious bullying, the kind that causes teens to commit suicide. I am just thinking about how I hope her school years will be pleasant for her as she grows up. The school district I live in is a very nice one, but bullying takes place in good schools as well as bad. It might be worse in a nice area, maybe for kids that don’t have the best designer clothes, or the latest phones.

When I think about kids that are victims of bullying to the point where they can’t bear it and they commit suicide, often they are kids that look no different from any other kid. The girl that was from Ireland who killed herself was a very pretty girl. She’s just one I can think of offhand. She was pretty, and she was not heavy.

I was talking to a friend of mine about it last night. He said he thinks the key is for kids to be secure enough that they feel comfortable reporting any bullying they experience. I agree, but I also know that another kind of bullying is exclusionary. You can watch kids and make sure they don’t call each other names or make fun of each other, but you can’t make kids say hello to each other, or make them include someone in their activities. Girls have a reputation for being very mean to each other. I know a tactic that girls sometimes use is to exclude a girl from the group, so she feels like an outcast.

What do you think can or should be done in schools to effectively combat bullying?

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39 Answers

saint's avatar

The only thing the school can do about bullies is throw them out. Since they won’t throw out kids who cut class, skip homework and flunk tests (the real function of school) it is unlikely they will throw them out for being bullies.
The best and most predictable way to deal with bullies is to teach children how to deal with them. There are many techniques, and one of them is learn how to physically fight back if indeed it actually gets that far.
Speaking only for myself, my dad taught me a lot about how to handle people who might be inclined to “give me shit” (as he so eloquently put it) and I did the same for my children. Lo and behold, none of us ever had a problem.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Personally I think the training should start at home prior to Kindergarten.

Children entering school should know what friendship feels like, sounds like, and looks like.

When a playmate uses harsh language, or uses their hands instead of their words, the child should know what to say & what to do to put a stop to it before it escalates.

One of our little friends was punched the first week of Kindergarten. The teacher handled the situation by making the puncher apologize. When my son’s friend told him the story, he was shocked. He then told it to me. I then felt the need to discuss the matter not only with the little girl but also with her mom. One, she never told her mom. Two, the teacher never told the mom. Three, the little girl thought that since the puncher apologized they were now “best friends”, even though the puncher was still speaking harshly and not at all being friendly.

The schools need transparency on this. If your child gets hit or is being picked on and the teacher or school staff knows about it, the parent should be informed.

In my home, we do role playing. We act out what we should do if:
-you’re pushed off a swing
-someone takes an object from you
-you’re called a name
-you’ve been hit or pulled

It helps the child have a sense of what acceptable behavior looks like. It also gives them tools to use should a situation arise.

TexasDude's avatar

Personally, I think zero tolerance rules that forbid kids from defending themselves lest they face disciplinary action should be removed.

My bullies in middle school didn’t stop bullying me when they were forced to go to counseling or when their parents were called. They stopped when I choked them out.

janbb's avatar

A lot of school systems do have diversity tolerance or anti-bullying training programs in place. You might contact the school and see if they are doing something like this.

chyna's avatar

I think they should have cameras in the class rooms and in the hallways as well as on the playground. There should be zero tolerence of bullying. First time they should be expelled for a week, 2nd time they should be made to go to counseling along with the parent and if the counselor feels that the kid is getting it, allow them back to school for a probation period. After that, the parents would need to home school or find another school that will accept the kid.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@janbb Our school district does have this in place, yet there still isn’t transparency.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @SpatzieLover that early discussion at home is imperative, as well as early intervention by superiors that witness bullying at school. Thing is though, that most kids by middle school have an unspoken pact of silence when it comes to peer pressure or “ratting” out peers for certain behaviors. It’s really luck of the draw after a certain age.
I too was very proactive in teaching my daughter kindness, respect for others and promoting disclosure, but, there were a couple of things I had discovered about some of her peers in middle school and she was adamant about NOT “ratting” them out.

Kids loyalties to peers often takes precedence during these years.

I was bullied in middle school, and ultimately what finally put a stop to one girl that was constantly after me was to finally fight fire with fire. One day I shoved her off the school bus onto her face in a giant snowdrift, she got the message that the gig was up and never bothered me again. It’s a tough call and there are no easy and simplistic answers.
Most children are ashamed to admit they are being bullied and fear even more retaliation if they tell.

I am not a proponat of violence, but, I do feel in certain circumstances the best thing to do is to push back. The “victim” must take a stand and if in certain cases this means returning violence for violence than so be it.

JLeslie's avatar

I think you hit on a very important thing that is often overlooked, being excluded is a form of bullying also.

Honestly, I think if a bullying situation gets very bad parents need to be willing to move the child to a different school or some sort of alternative if the situation is not being remedied. I am not a parent, but I think if I had a child who was dreading going to school because of some form of bullying, I would first try to contact the parents of the other children. If those parents are not horrified by their child’s behavior, then probably nothing can be effectively done to change the situation. And, I do not mean the other parent has to immediately accept their child did something wrong, but the parent needs to agree if their child is doing what was stated it is unnacceptable.

The school itself needs to have some sort of mission where teachers are encouraged to stop bad behavior when spotted. If it is known to the school a specific child is instigating trouble, that child should be forced into some sort of counseling probably.

I also would encourage my child to stand up for himself, but when it is just being kept out of the clique, it is more tricky.

6rant6's avatar

@saint And you were the biggest kids in your class, right?

My son was a victim of bullying. I believe it was first grade when we ended up at a therapist’s office with him, not because he was bullying other kids but because he was getting in trouble. The story that came out – he was being picked on, he had told the teachers, repeatedly, who did nothing. Then he started teasing back – which the therapist said was the best approach. When they attacked him physically, he attacked them back. Only more effectively, I guess. He was small for his age, but fierce.

I think there are a lot of people here on Fluther who condone violence. I think of the recent question regarding the father shooting his daughter’s computer for disrespecting him on facebook. And there are many others.

As long as violence is treated as a legitimate road to power, or popularity or wealth, how can we not have bullies in the school? They are, after all, just modeling the successful behavior of people they see.

My son, by the way turned out to be a calm, gentle, happy man. Go figure.

chyna's avatar

I love how @Coloma and @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard eventually had to stop it on their own. Kind of like a TV show, but sadly, that sometimes is the only answer: to fight back.

JLeslie's avatar

@6rant6 It does seem to me for men, boys, it is very common to be physically competitive. Who is physically stronger? Almost like some sort of alpha dog thing? I honestly have no idea what it is really like for boys, I am a girl, I have a sister, and I have no children, but I hear stories of boys, bullying, hazing, and other rights of passage, and I am just dumbfounded. I think that sort of outwards physical bullying is much more common among boys than girls, and I just don’t get it. I remember being on a Q about hazing, which I think is very similar to bullying, and so many people thought it was just fine.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: Yes, it seems like with boys it’s physical bullying, and with girls it’s either verbal (including social networking like Facebook) or exclusionary bullying.

wundayatta's avatar

The good schools are very proactive about this. They teach kids how to use words instead of hitting people. They teach them problem solving techniques. They actively combat bullying and hazing and any form of prejudice they can imagine.

On the playground, the teachers are always watching out for bullying behavior, and they intervene and stop it instantly. Then they work on it in class. Bullies are taught how to behave differently.

On the internet, there is a school policy against it. If anything is reported, it is investigated and then the students are taught how to behave otherwise.

Vigilence is the key. Teachers and parents must be on the same page in terms of no tolerance. They must all take it seriously and actually do things about it.

6rant6's avatar

My SO is a teacher where a “Fight club” was recently broken up. Seems the fifth graders were pairing up fourth graders to duke it out in the restroom. One kid who’d been in trouble before – for bringing a knife to school to protect himself from a bully – was expelled for fighting. When asked why he fought, he said he was afraid he would lose the respect of his best friend and be all alone again if he didn’t accept the challenge. The best friend? The kid he was caught fighting.

It just makes me sick.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Where do they get it from? Just prewired? Or, they see their dads using physical strength to influence a situation? I can’t imagine if I had a son he would ever be like that. But, I do not mean “not my child” I am never that naive, I just mean it is so foreign to me, and my husband does not try to have influence with his physical strength. I guess, they pick it up from other kids though. It’s like a vicious cycle, if there are just a couple kids doing some bullying, and it is not taken care of immediately, then the other kids either follow along, or have to fight back.

I think very few kids go right to their parents, especially boys, and especially older children and teenagers won’t.

@wundayatta That does sound like the best solution, all adults need to buy into the policy, unfortunately it seem that does not happen in a lot of communities.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if countries that are much more antiviolence oriented have less bullying among their children?

Blackberry's avatar

Birth control.

marinelife's avatar

1. I think that kids should be taught from their earliest years to appreciate and honor their differences.

2. I think that from their earliest years kids should be taught non-violent conflict resolution.

3. I think teachers and school administrators should be alert for signs of bullying and put a stop to it immediately.

missingbite's avatar

I think all kids should follow the Andy Griffith Show technique. It worked for Opie! A black eye won’t kill you and a bully won’t be a bully if he knows you WILL stand up for yourself!

jca's avatar

Like I said in my discussion last night with a friend, you can punish a kid for calling another kid names, but you can’t make a kid or kids be friends with each other, or include another kid in an outing or occasion. So it might be easy to say “you get punished for calling names” or “you get punished for being mean” but it’s a lot harder to say “you must include Janey in your outing” or “when you guys go to lunch, you have to include Janey.”

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Yeah exactly, I am right there with you. A very close girlfriend of mine just switched her daughter’s school. It was very very difficult for her. She had been sending her to Catholic school, she is very religious, she herself attended Catholic school K-12, and a religious education is important to her. At the particular school her daughter was going to, she had transferred there in 4th or 5th grade I think? And, never quite fit in with the other girls. The other families had more money, they were competitive with the backpacks they carried and other little things (this dissappointed me, because I think porochial school should eliminate this sort of competition, and they do try with uniforms and dress codes, but it seems the kids still find a way). At one point one of the other mothers asked to buy a gift for my friend’s daughter of the bag they all carry. It was that big of a deal. My girlfriend actually does have enough money to buy it, although it is more money to her than the other moms, but did not like that it was so important. Anyway, she allowed the gift. Other little things happened that were upsetting like the girls decorating each others lockers for birthdays, but not the lockers of the girls not in their “group.” My friend talked to the teachers and the principals and the other parents when things happened, and people were very nice, but the girls still never really accepted her daughter. I don’t get it, her daughter is attractive, friendly, and brilliant. She was not always overtly ostracized, but she knew she was on the outside.

Anyway, my girlfriend burst into tears one day during the decision process to move her child to the public school. I see know just how stressful it can be for parents to make educational choices for their children, especially when they have held firmly what they always thought was the “right” way to educate their children.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: exactly. They might not have made fun of that girl, but they excluded her, and that’s hard to discipline. They can’t have made the others decorate the lockers of those not in their group, but yet having that meant being in the inner circle. It seems there is no rhyme or reason as far as looks, weight, etc.

digitalimpression's avatar

I don’t think bullying can be stopped entirely. I’m also of the persuasion that bully’s can teach kids some vital lessons in life that they would have to wait till later to learn otherwise. Certainly it should never be so bad that a kid commits suicide.. but a little adversity can potentially make them stronger imho.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Send her to karate school so she’ll have the knowledge and confidence to defend herself.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Jeruba's avatar

I agree with @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard. My son was suspended for raising his hands to defend himself instead of standing there limp and taking it. By raising his hands he came in for an accusation of sexual assault because his hands touched the chest of the girl who was shoving him backward.

The principal told us a kid who is attacked must not defend himself.

jca's avatar

@Jeruba: That really irks me to hear, and I am going to post a separate q about it, to see what others think. It makes no sense. If I were you, in that situation, it would really piss me off.

TexasDude's avatar

@Jeruba I hope you raised all kinds of hell over that one. The absurdity of that situation and others like it bewilders me.

linguaphile's avatar

I might be a cynic right now, but I think the only way to get rid of being a continuous target is to leave and move away to a different place.

Often once someone is a target, it takes a lot for the group around them to stop targeting them- so if there’s a choice between suffering or moving and starting over, I’d move.

What can be done…?? I ask myself that as a teacher. First, I think schools need to start with their own teachers and look at the adults before they even start talking to the kids. I think any anti-bullying lesson will be absolutely moot if there are any teachers being bullied by other teachers. Kids learn from their role models, whether it’s at home or school.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile I basically said the same above, change schools, or even move to a different town if the problem does not seem to be able to be resolved within a reasonable amount of time. A neighbor of mine was teased horribly for years in elementary school. Finally the family moved when she was in 6th grade for work reasons, and when I saw her a year later her whole life was different. She was so happy to move to a new place where no one ever knew the names she was called. I think it changed her life most likely.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, moving really does work for certain situations Some people are afraid it is “running away,” but if it gets to the point where the target really can’t fix it or the school can’t do anything about it, then I agree, move the kid out. Groupthink takes too long to overturn. I have no qualms about moving my kids if they need to be moved for their mental health. Glad we’re on the same page here :)

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile It’s tough when the family is in a small town with one school, and the family lives on family land passed down through the generations. Maybe they even work the land for their income. But, that is an extreme example of course. I never thought the parents might see it as running away, but I bet you are right in some cases. I had assumed some parents just maybe don’t have the means to move, or maybe not have the means to pay for their child to go to private school when the public one is a bad situation. Hell, I know people who will not consider moving for a job when they have no job and are running out of money, forget about a few bullies in school. I think many people don’t think about moving being an option in general.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie It’s really hard for me to truly understand not being able to move. Like I said on other threads, I’ve lived in 7 states, lived in 25 places by the time I was 25, etc… so the concept of staying put, especially through something like that, is as foreign to me as wearing a hijab. I can cognitively understand their perspectives and reasons for staying, but emotionally I wouldn’t understand.

If someone was not able to move, then it would take the consistent involvement of many, many people to stop groupthink and group-to-individual bullying. If that wasn’t possible, then lots of therapy, both proactive and remediative.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile I get it, believe me. I have lived in many states, and many houses and apartments. But, there are a whole bunch of people in America who stay put.

JLeslie's avatar

@linguaphile I was just thinking…I wonder why parents would think their kids need to stick it out in the school for years with horrible people torturing their lives when adults in bad work situations look for another job if their boss or a coworker is difficult to deal with or out to get them? I think maybe bullying is many times discounted as part of growing up, or not as serious as it might be. I don’t think it is the parents fault necessarily, because I think kost of the time children don’t tell how bad it is. Some jellies above basically said the same, that the kids fear the parents will make it worse.

A jelly about 6 months posted about his son who basically had a breakdown because he was so miserable at school. The dad, our jelly, had no idea it had been going on or how stressed and depressed his kid was. They did take quick action to get the child help, talk to the school, the school did respond well, and address the situation, but it demonstrated how kids don’t tell right away, or may never, or may not tell the whole story. If the parent doesn’t know how bad it is, they may not do anything extreme enough to really help their child.

jca's avatar

I was bullied as a young teen and I know I didn’t tell my mom because it was very embarassing.

wundayatta's avatar

There is plenty of adversity in the world to cope with. I don’t see how having to cope with bullying adds anything useful to your skill set, especially when you’re not going to need it any other time in life. And even if you did need it later, it seems to me it would be best not to learn it until you absolutely have to. Allowing childhood bullying is indefensible.

linguaphile's avatar

@JLeslie I agree… and I think, also, many parents don’t realize that bullying today is 24/7—there’s no safe place anymore and don’t understand it from that point of view. I didn’t realize this until last month, but when I was a kid, when there were problems at school, home was my safe place and escape from whoever was giving me trouble at school. I could go to the mall with friends and be safe there, I could go to Grandma’s and not have to deal with my bully. That’s not true today—technology ensures that bullying can follow the kid literally 24/7… to Grandma’s, to the mall, to anywhere there’s cell-phone coverage. They’re trapped in ways that adults can’t begin to really understand and aren’t telling their parents.

Combine the adults’ naivete with a belief that it’s something the kids have to figure out, without punching back… ouch.

It does make it worse when parents get involved—when I tried to help my son in 9th grade, he endured 4 months of “Run and Cry to Mommy, Waa Waa” taunts.

What I don’t understand is why, just why is cruelty such an issue with today’s kids? How have we gone from the Love+Peace 70’s to this?

wundayatta's avatar

My kids’ school offered workshops in cyber bullying for parents. So we would know what it was, not so we could do it!

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