Peer bullying in schools is certainly not a new problem; the image of the school-yard bully is as old as schools themselves. In recent years, however, this devastating social issue has gotten increased attention. And, with the advent of social media, bullies now have access to a whole new level of 24/7 public humiliation for their victims.
Today, many schools and districts are turning to innovative anti-bullying programs in an attempt to eradicate traumatizing and systemic peer abuse.
For example, the White Pine School District in Nevada was recognized by the American School Board Journal for its simple “bully survey” program. The survey asked students four questions:
- Where does bullying occur?
- What time of day?
- What is the form of bullying?
- Who are the victims and who are the bullies?
Students identified as bullies by their peers are required to meet with administrators and their parents to discuss and work toward changing the negative behaviors. The program also sets up a reward system that is tapped when classmates no longer view the student as a bully.
A New Jersey high school took a different tactic. In conjunction with Princeton University, Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School piloted a program during the 2012-13 school year that identified the school’s most influential students and recruited those students to serve on a panel about the issue. The program was successful because it gave student leaders a sense of ownership and social responsibility so they were more invested in the process and its outcomes.
Boston Public Schools set up a bullying hotline. Students and parents can call or text a hotline number to report instances of bullying in cases in which they don’t feel comfortable approaching a teacher or school administrator.
One Call Now, SunGard K-12 Education’s Premier Solutions Provider for message notification systems, actively supports the mission of educators through partnerships with anti-bullying organizations. The company offers the Safe School Helpline, which is anonymous and includes direct and confidential access to a trained staff of crisis counselors who are available any time, day or night.
One Call Now is also hosting a Rally for Safer Schools, which will feature an interactive bullying discussion led by the international anti-bullying organization, Olweus. From now until to August 1, schools that purchase the Safe School Helpline will be entered for the chance to host the Rally for Safer Schools and a concert by the band, Sibling Rivalry, at their school. The winner, who also will receive customized training from Olweus, will be announced August 15, and the rally will take place at the winning school in October.
For education leaders who are looking to start their own or revamp a current anti-bullying program, One Call Now offers these six tips:
- Ensure program has buy-in from the top down. Systematic change can’t be achieved without strong leadership. A successful program depends on everyone’s commitment—beginning with leaders leading by example.
- Choose a program that is data-driven and proactive. For an anti-bullying program to work, educators have to know exactly what they’re up against.
- Implement the program school-wide. Lasting change requires altering the entire school culture.
- Clearly outline rules and consequences, and stick to them. It’s not enough to simply post the rules. They must be actively enforced.
- Keep the program strong with regular communication and feedback. Educators should be carefully coached and encouraged to refine their skills over time.
- Commit to change over the long term. As with any major issue, lasting change doesn’t happen overnight.
SunGard K-12 Education is helping two customers take a stand on this issue by supporting the nation’s largest and most ambitious anti-bullying rally ever attempted, the Million T-Shirt March. At recent User Group Conferences, we choose two lucky customers—Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Victoria Independent School District in Victoria, Texas (shown above to right)— to each receive up to 100 T-shirts to participate in the national rally.
During the Million T-Shirt March, students and educators across the United States will unite in wearing event T-shirts (shown above to the left) to raise awareness about bullying and encourage students to join in discussions of bullying and its consequences. Now in its third year, the event will be held May 1, 2014. Find out how you can get involved at THIS LINK.