Involving the whole community in bullying prevention ensures that not only the students and staff but also the parents and the larger community work toward shared goals of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance. This approach begins with parent education and moves to getting the community involved in the school. Finally, getting the school involved in the community promises a greater possibility for sustained change.
To begin, educate parents along with staff and students to ensure that homes and the school are working together. Parents need to understand the school’s norms for behavior and inclusive values. They also need to be able to support their children in being safe at school, in not engaging in bullying behaviors, and in safely intervening or reporting bullying to an authority. Parents should be given information about how to listen to and communicate with their children, notice shifts in behavior that may be caused by bullying, and ensure that siblings do not bully one another. Parents can greatly support school-wide events and efforts to prevent bullying, maximizing impact.
Getting the Community Involved in the School
If you don’t have strong community involvement in your school, you might start off with small steps like inviting a community leader to the school to speak about bullying prevention or seeking funding for anti-bullying activities from local businesses. Once you’re ready to expand your efforts, there are many ways to get the community involved in the school’s bullying prevention efforts. Here are a few ideas:
- Invite community members (e.g., local athletes, firefighters, veterinarians) to be part of an anti-bullying student assembly. Community members love to lend their voice, and it is motivating for students to meet special guests. In Oakland, California, for example, a Harley club came to a school and spoke against bullying—dispelling some stereotypes about bikers while providing a useful message.
- Ask the mayor and city council to release a proclamation in favor of bullying prevention. Getting a proclamation sets the bar high for the community to address bullying. It spreads the message throughout the town and teaches students about civic participation.
- Invite local music groups to perform at anti-bullying events—music always livens up the atmosphere. Most towns have bands who would love to be approached. Kutroc Records partnered with Not In Our Town and presented music at schools across the Boston area.
While bullying prevention campaigns do not need to cost a lot of money, local businesses can help provide funds when necessary. In Fremont, California, a local insurance agency supported a nearby school’s bullying prevention program. Examples of support include making donations of food, giving cash to cover a campaign’s banner printing costs, offering raffle prizes or auction items, and providing free space for an event.
Students at Watchung Regional High School in New Jersey called their campaign a “white-out to erase the hate from bullying.” After garnering support from the superintendent, students began a massive outreach to civic leaders, school principals, and community groups in four nearby towns. They distributed posters, stickers, and a how-to guide to the 13 elementary and middle schools that fed into their high school. They also offered mini workshops to train students at those schools to lead activities. This has become a yearly event in their community.
On the edge of the Mojave Desert in California, a middle school counselor in the Westside School District in Lancaster initiated an anti-bullying program for several districts with over 35,000 students. Youth leaders raised funds from local businesses and organized activities including pledges, assemblies, and class presentations on campuses across the area. The program culminated with a citywide event that included the mayor.
Getting the School Involved in the Community
Getting involved with the larger community can start small and grow. One way to begin is to have a table at a fair or farmers market. Members of an anti-bullying club can sponsor events in the community or join coalitions to create inclusion and respond to acts of bullying. They can also join leaders for an organized response when intolerance or hate occurs. Here are some examples:
● In Oak Ridge, Tennessee, members of an anti-bullying club marched with banners in a local parade. They also sponsored a Bullying Prevention Day in a park in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
● In Kentucky, a student leader went to the state legislature to promote anti-bullying legislation.
● In New Jersey, student leaders launched a Change.org petition to get the word upstander added to Oxford’s dictionaries.
● In Oakland, students partnered with the Golden State Warriors on an anti-bullying campaign.
All over the U.S., students have served as representatives in local coalitions against bullying and intolerance. They have worked within their schools and across their communities, contributing ideas, making their voices heard, and learning valuable skills for civic participation.
What have you done with anti-bullying activities that connect your school to the community?