The Kansas State Department of Education’s slogan for this year’s Anti-Bullying Awareness Week (Oct. 8 – 14) is “Choose Respect.” This is relevant to individuals who demonstrate bullying behaviors, as well as victims and bystanders.
Bullying exists in our society, places of work and our schools. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 20.8 percent of students reported being bullied in 2016. U.S. News and World Report reported that 31 percent of respondents to a recent survey indicated they have experienced being bullied as adults.
The organization “Safe Schools” defines bullying as a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behavior directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.
In USD 113 schools, we strive to fight against bullying by teaching students strategies through our Positive Behavior Instructional Support program. These strategies help encourage students to be leaders against bullying, especially when they find themselves as “bystanders.”
Bystanders are the individual(s) that are not the bully or the victim in a situation, but are those on the periphery who are able to intervene or report so that authorities can intervene. The bystanders during a bullying situation are the ones with the power to help.
There are misconceptions about bullying. The State of Kansas “model policy” provides the following examples of bullying:
• Direct physical contact, such as hitting or shoving;
• Written threats;
• Damaging a student’s property as a means of intimidation;
• Verbal assaults, including but not limited to threats of violence, name calling or teasing;
• Social isolation or manipulation;
• Cyber-bullying, which may include, but is not limited to the use of computers, hand-held devices and cellular telephones to commit harassing behavior by the following means: text messaging , e-mail, instant messaging, internet based social networking websites, blogs, or digital photography.
It is our responsibility to create learning cultures that promote positive interactions. We educate and encourage USD 113 adults to be vigilant and address bullying. Unfortunately, we will not stop all bullying. Most bullying behaviors are subtle and difficult to detect.
Bullying is a very real issue for students, as well as adults. By promoting leadership behaviors with our children as well as with adults, we can positively impact our world.