October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This topic has been covered extensively locally in the media, especially in light of the release of a documentary about a former Sioux City student featured in the film, “Bully.”
While these activities have been happening for decades, the behavior and its unfortunate ramifications are not tolerated like they once were. The National Bullying Prevention Center has sponsored National Bullying Prevention Month since 2006. The National Bullying Prevention Center was founded by the PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) Center, whose mission is “to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.”
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center’s website, the month “provides an opportunity for you to share your plans to recognize and share current strategies for minimizing and preventing bullying.”
They ask, “What are you, your organization, or your community currently doing (or done) to minimize and or prevent bullying behaviors? How are you involving families or guardians? Let’s share the most concrete practical strategies possible.”
Northwest AEA has been responding to this call for many years by providing training for schools to create positive supports through bullying prevention programs, like Olweus; “Committee for Children’s Second Step” curriculum; Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS); learning supports initiatives; and classroom management support.
A recent success story comes from the Sioux City Community School District where Northwest AEA employee Pat Heisterkamp, special education strategist, worked with a group of middle school girls. The girls were frequent visitors to the office and were consistently mentioned in witness statements as being instigators of fights between girls.
It’s is important to understand that girls bully differently than boys and are more likely to use social exclusion and rumors to hurt each other. The key to intervening with this middle school group was understanding the pressure girls of this age feel to be accepted by their peers.
“We spent a lot of time examining why girls at this age are so tempted to put other girls down and how misplaced loyalties to some friends can prevent one from seeing an incident clearly,” said Heisterkamp. “When I first started working with this group, the girls were surly and wanted me to know how tough they were. As I got to know them, I began to appreciate that their ‘toughness’ was partially in response to rejections that they had experienced.”
As the group progressed, they made fewer trips to the office. Heisterkamp reported that “girl dramas” still occurred but less often, and the girls started demonstrating the ability to resolve difficulties in a respectful manner on their own.
She used the “Owning Up” curriculum; some “Second Step” materials; with “Why Try” lessons on changing entrenched behavior; and supplemented with some bullying videos that she downloaded from Dateline NBC. She also read a helpful book titled, Why Good Kids Act Cruel. She would role play and videotape the girls so they could see how they did. The girls began to see themselves differently, and they made vast improvements over several months.
“I believe that developing student-adult relationships where the student knows that they are valued by the adult makes all the difference,” Heisterkamp stated.
For more information about bullying prevention, here’s a list of additional resources for teachers who may need extra assistance with this issue:
Owning Up by Rosalind Wiseman
Why Good Kids Act Cruel by Charles Pickhardt, PhD
What can be done about name-calling and bullying – some best practices
Zero Indifference: A guide to stop name-calling and bullying
Ten things students wish teachers knew about name-calling and bullying
Tips on how to respond to cyberbullying
Responding to Cyberhate: A Toolkit for Action
BullyBust (National School Climate Center)
“Bully Free Classroom: Over 100 Tips and Strategies for Teachers K-8” Author Allan Beane
Peer Advocacy Pilot and Results
To reduce bullying of students with disabilities by engaging, educating and empowering designated peers to become advocates on their behalf.
National Bullying Prevention Month (October)
Whether you are an educator, student, family, or individual, you can take an active role during the month through many events and activities.
Safe and Supportive Schools
CASEL is a partner of the Safe and Supportive Schools TA Center; the TA Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Responding to bullying
When you suspect bullying
When you confirm that bullying happened
Monitor and report