Much of the media spotlight in 2010 was given to bullying, cyberbullying, bullying legislation, bullycides, bullying lawsuits and more. However, most of the attention was focused on reacting to problems and consequences.
In 2011, rather than continuing to discuss how to address bullying once it occurs, reading about young children driven to suicide after countless years of bullying and debating over states implementing anti-bullying laws, perhaps school and community leaders can work together to prevent and mitigate this escalating challenge?
In 2011, hopefully schools will be focused on solving bullying related problems, preventing bullying and preventing bullying consequences.
The OCR “Dear Colleague” letter in October 2010 made it clear that Schools are responsible for responding to incidents of bullying and discriminatory harassment under the civil rights laws. Once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible student harassment, it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate and mitigate. If harassment has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and prevent its recurrence.
Following the publicized Phoebe Prince tragedy, all Massachusetts schools were required to submit their updated anti-bullying plan to the state Department of Education by December 31, 2010. A rush of plans submitted on the 31st resulted in 99% compliance. But once the schools filed their plans, Ok, Then What?
Once their bullying prevention plans are approved, schools should follow these next 5 steps to ensure prevention efforts are ongoing.
1) Communicate updated policy to staff, faculty, third-parties, etc. and ensure all individuals have read and acknowledged their individual roles and responsibilities for preventing, mitigating, reporting and responding to bullying.
2) Communicate updated policy to students and parents so all parties involved are aware of the new requirements for preventing, reporting, and responding to bullying and cyberbullying.
3) Train all staff and faculty on how to prevent bullying, recognize bullying, respond to situations, report bullying and document incidents ongoing. All individuals should understand that ALL reports must be documented in order to build a culture of trust and safety.
4) Review reports of bullying and identify red flags, at-risk students and respond accordingly.
5) Review and update bullying policy as risks, threats, requirements, consequences, etc. change on an ongoing basis. Ensure all parties involved are aware of their responsibilities to report incidents and acknowledge ongoing updates.
School and community leaders must work together to empower all individuals (staff, faculty, students, parents, law enforcement, mental health, etc.) to report incidents of bullying and inspire bystanders to become heroes. Bullying prevention programs must be ongoing. A once-a-year general training session or speaker is not enough. An approved policy that is stuck in the student handbook or employee binder is not enough. Students, parents, staff…all individuals need continuous reminders to build a safe learning environment and a culture of awareness, trust and prevention.
Solutions for solving bullying related problems and preventing bullying related consequences are clearly revealed in lessons learned, but it is discouraging to see people doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.
Five lessons from 2010 clearly reveal the following:
- Better tools are needed to help school leaders and community leaders replace reactive tools
- Better situational awareness is needed for all appropriate individuals
- Better accountability is needed for all appropriate individuals
- Better measurability is needed for management, compliance, legal defensibility, etc.
- Better sustainability is needed to ensure prevention now and into the indefinite future
Upcoming blogs will discuss each of these five lessons learned from 2010 in more detail and help school leaders, associations and community leaders solve and prevent bullying and bullying consequences.