George Lucas Educational Foundation

Bullying in the Schools Will Not End Until We Change Our Pragmatic Strategies.

Bullying in the Schools Will Not End Until We Change Our Pragmatic Strategies.

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During OPB's Think Out Loud Program, a student from the Student Government at Grant High School in Portland, indicated that students are afraid to be alone in the locker rooms.. Further, the Principal Vivian Orlen shared that due to an incident involving the basketball team, the issue of hazing, bullying, and harassment has become a topic of conversation n and concern. Bullying has become an epidemic in Oregon! A surveyed conducted in 2009 by the Oregon Students of Color Coalition found that, “ 41% of eights graders in Oregon reported being subjected to name-calling, bullying or other embarrassment at school with the highest rates among the students of color, girls, and gays.” The problem come to the attention of the federal government, and President Barack Obama in a white house conference to deal with the phenomenon of bullying in the United States declared that, “ As parents and students, as teachers and members of the community, we can take steps—all of us-to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong.” The phenomenon of bullying is a problem that has existed since the schools were created, and it is not going to improve from one day to another. Many solutions directed to prevent bullying focus in raising awareness, school policies and procedures, mediation, and short term training. These approaches are too pragmatic, and they don't work. Research that from emerged from the Center of Behavioral Research from the University of Stavanger in Norway in the 1990s ad later from several Universities such as Clemson in the United States support that the best known solution to preventing and eradicating bullying is the whole-school approach. From this perspective there needs to be a systemic change where students, teachers, school management, parents create a plan with attainable objectives, and activities directed to achieve the reduction of bullying. Whole-school approach programs are about 12-18 months, and both human and financial resources are needed. The main objective is to create an environment where everyone is confident that bullying will not be tolerated and the creation of an emotional environment conducive to learning and the development of healthy relationships. On a 2009 report, Experts from UNICEF argued that positive emotional environments tend to increase academic performance. It is only when we decide as a society that education is a real priority, and we allocate the resources accordingly that issues such as bullying will disappear from our schools.

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Nini White's picture
Nini White
Educator, Author, Consultant, Founder-Developer of Kids' Own Wisdom

Let's provide kids, as early as 4 and 5 years of age, with the direct experience of how much they actually feel similarly about a wide spectrum of life situations. Bullying happens when one person treats another person like an object, totally separate from his or her self.... something that cannot happen when kids consistently experience the dissolution of the illusion of isolation with which they usually grow up. Minds and hearts spontaneously open up when the reality of the human bond is illuminated ... not because a teacher or a parent gave some arbitrary instructions, but because direct experience reveals all that is so naturally shared between all humans. Ask the right questions, let kids look inside themselves for the answers that work for everyone.

Rurik Nackerud's picture
Rurik Nackerud
Middle/High Educator & Technologist from Portland, Oregon

I understand the frustration with bullying. These last two weeks I have had to deal with two major instances of cyber-bullying as well as the normal milieu that you expect to see in a virtual school. (Actually - this week I found myself knowing far more about student vs student abuse than I ever wanted to know). This frustration leads to strong responses but...I have some philosophical and other objections to corporal punishment that I think need to be reviewed.

--An abused child will see the corporal punishment scheme as proof that hitting someone weaker and smaller works.

--Kids get hurt. Even in the most controlled circumstances kids get hurt. Add the allowance for school-based corporal punishment and this is increased. Even killed.

--Minorities end up the recipients of corporal punishment over other groups. Also children with disabilities, poor children, and boys tend to be the recipients.

--We do not legally sanction hitting in prisons, in the military, or in mental hospitals. While these things may occur they are not legal in any other institution besides schools. Also - a lot of the bullying that I have had to deal with is between high school students. I can't imagine anyone taking someone that age over their knee. There are more appropriate ways of dealing with this issue.

--Schools using corporal punishment have lower academic achievement:

There are alternatives. Seriously. Simply talking with students and families in closed and then open forums has done a lot. Both those who bullied and those who were the target of attacks responded well and indicated improved school experience when the entire school and local community worked together. We emphasized positive behaviors, set realistic rules that are consistently enforced, teach all our students, have conferences and implement restrictions on student movement and interaction if needed (suspensions from certain events - etc).

I think the biggest mistakes made by schools and teachers when dealing with issues of bullying in my opinion relates to NOT developing a method for transparency. Often students and parents do not see the results of intervention. It is hugely important that we involve students and take a team approach to handling these issues - involve parents, staff, and community members!

Ms.Togs's picture
Robotics, Family Consumer Science, RTI,Physical Science

corporal punishment was never done well!!!!!!!

Ray Mathis's picture
Ray Mathis
Retired Health Ed Teacher certified in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

Most approaches to bullying prevention are what I call outside-in approaches. People try to get those doing the bullying to stop, often with little success. That's something we have to do. We have a professional, moral and ethical obligation to do everything we can to provide a safe environment for each student in which to grow. However, I like to take what I call an inside -out approach by teaching young people "tools" as part of what I call a "Mental and Emotional Tool Kit for Life". I actually teach a grad class for teachers called "Mental and Emotional Self-Defense against bullying" on how to teach young people these "tools" to help them protect themselves (for those times when we can't protect them) from bullying and other forms of abuse. The beauty of this approach though is that in teaching the "tools", you target the underlying causes of all those things that go wrong in and outside of classrooms, now and later in the lives of young people, that being what they think and feel, and then say and do because of that, in response to their life events.

I invite you to go to to learn about the "tools"

Bobbie K.'s picture
Bobbie K.
middle school teacher

I have been a classroom teacher for fifteen years, and I do not tolerate bullying in my classroom or on the playground. I take a proactive approach to bullying, and therefore need less of a reactive approach in my classroom. I always discuss the topic during the first days of school, along with the school rules and procedures. I have taught preschool through eighth grade, and I have addressed the topic in different ways for each grade level. I clearly explain what is, and what is not accepted. We also talk about how to react when a bully approaches you. Bullies have insecurities, jealousy, inner struggles... I tell the older kids that. Not sure if that is the right thing to do?!... but it has helped in my middle school classroom. We talk openly in my middle school classroom about dealing with "difficult" people. That is a life lesson everyone needs to know!

Tahlia Newland's picture
Tahlia Newland
Teacher at Kiama High School In NSW Australia

Trouble is that teachers who hit kids are basically school sanctioned bullies. They provide a negative role model that encourages bullying not helps prevent it. Note that research is quite clear in indicating that those who are bullied, eg hit by adults, are more likely to become bullies themselves.

Tahlia Newland's picture
Tahlia Newland
Teacher at Kiama High School In NSW Australia

In Australia, all schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy in place. Something that includes clear systems for dealing with the problem. This is the only way to begin to change a culture where bullying is permitted. All Australian public schools have a stated zero tolerance to bullying stance. How well that is enforced depends on the school. My school has a teacher who deals with all reports of bullying, but it is up to every teacher to enforce that policy in their class room. I do and the kids know it.

Joellen Wolfson's picture
Joellen Wolfson
Ret. Speech Therapist with Drama Cert.; taught drama in performg art center

M. A. Hauck has hit the nail on the head! I call the wimpy parent mentality the "Rodney King Syndrome" NOT MY BABY! Such indulgence regarding children's behavior leads to whiny, entitled children and losers later in life. There is abuse and there is corporal punishment. Huge difference! When respect for authority went by the wayside so did the respect that students had for other students. Community/school involvement would be the best method but unfortunately the parents who need to come to PTA meetings or diagnostic team meetings for that matter don't. The ones who attend these meetings are the ones whose students generally don't have severe problems in school that endanger the emotional and physical health of other students. Also time and money are in very short supply and both are essential for the planning and success of these types of programs. Grants would have to be pursued I would think. Good luck to all of us who deal with this on a daily basis. The laxity of discipline is not serving the students in any way and especially when they have to figure out how to live in the world with others.

Stace's picture

We are the models for our children---do we want to work with students? We need to build internal assets in our children---we need to help guide them make better choices through modelling effective problem solving thru restorative practices and finding them opportunities to demonstrate their passions and interest

I am Bullyproof -Lessia Bonn's picture

Turn on the TV and witness kids who are always more clever than their parents. Then get on the internet and read threads full of adults bullying each other with mean comments. What have we created? Shame on us. And now we scratch our heads and ask "Why such an epidemic of cruelty?'
We (at IABPM) get thanked daily by kids for helping them find more truth and less hooky pokie--we help them sort through the muck. And as kids get more insightful, they get more brave, they stand more tall and they do better in math. We witness this over and over again. They become happy nonconformists. They don't become bullies and they don't attract bullies. It's an attitude of "Oh, hello, get a life" they begin carrying around when anyone, even a sloppy parent, comes at them crooked. Wisdom soaks in. The village messed up the world, now the village has to clean it up. one kid at a time.
For starters, please paint parents on TV less like silly baffoons and more like adults a kid can respect. And when hanging with kids? Humor works like a charm. Just be one step ahead of the kid. For pete's sake, we've been on the planet longer! Remind them of that. WHEN did we all stop doing that? No wonder they feel overwhelmed and act out.
I do believe an entire schools need to have a clear, stronger intent. We have to stop catering to kids who just got to this planet. We are their guides, not the other way around. And also, let's set the tone. Be nicer on internet threads. Let's clean up our own act. Even with politics. This is a very thoughtful thread. Gets a person who cares going haha. Sorry I wrote so much, this territory is just so where I live :-)

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