Standing Up for Bullied Students
March 22, 2021
March 22, 2021
You Can Be an Advocate for Students Who are Bullied
We all want a culture in our schools (and elsewhere) where every individual is treated with respect and bullying is correctly understood and addressed. Here, from NEA, is some information on how to identify bullying, intervene in a bullying incident, and advocate for bullied students.
Be present and available to observe and listen. We know that bullying commonly takes place in areas on school grounds with little or no supervision (such as in the hallways between classes). Make an effort to be in those areas during transition times. Just your presence can make a huge difference. And, if something does happen, you are there to see it with your own eyes and intervene right away.
Students can’t learn in fear. Bullying is a huge deterrent to a safe learning environment. In education, we sometimes feel that there are many things that affect learning that are out of our control. Bullying is not one of those things. A student who is being bullied at school is being denied an opportunity to learn. We have the ability to change this, to stop the negative impacts to students’ well-being and their ability to learn, and ultimately, in some cases, to save their lives.
Bullying is a solvable problem. Expand your advocacy for bullied students by ensuring that your school has a comprehensive bullying prevention plan in place. A prevention plan enables educators to have a process in place for learning how to recognize bullying behaviors, how to intervene appropriately when it’s witnessed, and how to prevent it in the first place.
Educate students. Involve your students as peer advocates. Get student input when developing a bullying prevention plan. Integrate the topic of bullying and how to deal with it into your curriculum. Role-play with students on diffusing a bullying situation and engaging bystanders. Create opportunities for students to work together, such as assignments that require sharing and collaboration. An anti-bullying curriculum should encourage students to report bullying and harassment to an adult.
Stand up. Let your voice be heard with colleagues. Get bullying on the map; ensure that space is carved out to address bullying at your local’s meetings and at state conferences. Track changes to your state’s anti-bullying law. Also, review and revise state education agency and district policies related to bullying. Remember that parents of bullied students can be strong allies and advocates.
If it’s broken, it does need fixing. A large part of being an advocate for bullied students is to not accept the status quo. Be informed about measures you and/or your school may be using that are known not to work, or that can make a situation worse, such as zero-tolerance policies. Peer mediation and conflict resolution are valuable strategies that do work in other instances, but they are not the right fit for dealing with bullying. The message that both parties are partly right and partly wrong is inappropriate. Students who bully must receive the message that their behavior is wrong and won’t be tolerated. The fact that peer mediation exacerbates the imbalance of power between the student who bullies and their target also cannot be ignored. Speak up for changing the current way of addressing bullying. The research is out there; encourage your colleagues to be open to change.
Develop ESP-specific strategies. Education support professionals, such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and paraeducators are likely to be present where bullying tends to occur, so they need concrete strategies to use during an incident. Be sure to involve all school staff in the development of a comprehensive school-wide prevention plan as well as in all training. ESP-specific resources are also needed.
Bullying is a social justice issue. NEA and VEA’s vision and mission statements are rooted in social justice. Social justice includes a vision of society in which all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Bullying and sexual harassment are behaviors designed to oppress another person. It is our duty as educators to assure a safe learning environment and social justice for all students.