October is National Bully Prevention Month. What started as a week long “Pacer Kids Against Bullying” in 2006 was expanded to a month, National Bully Prevention Month, in 2010. (Pacer is the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education Rights.) In 2007, Stomp Out Bullying was created by the organization Love Our Children USA. Both Pacer Kids Against Bullying and Stomp Out Bullying are non-profit organizations created with the goal of preventing bullying--helping kids and teens deal with and stop bullying. Orange is the color for Pacer’s bully prevention program; blue is the color for Stomp Out Bullying’s bully prevention program (just as red is the color for heart disease or pink is the color for breast cancer). October 7, 2013 is World Day of Bully Prevention--Stomp Out Bullying’s day to show your support for ending bullying by wearing blue and October 9, 2013 is Unity Day—Pacer’s day to show your support for ending bullying by wearing orange, (just as February 1 was the day to wear red or October 25 will be the day to wear pink).
Of course, one month is not enough to put a stop to bullying, let alone one day, but if schools, organizations and even communities don’t have a bullying prevention program in place, it is a good day to start one! World Day of Bully Prevention or Unity Day can be the day(s) that everyone becomes aware of what bullying behavior really is. Children associate being mean with being a bully, but may not be aware that excluding someone, or starting rumors, or nasty texts are also forms of bullying. World Day/Unity Day would be a good day to start the education process, or continue it.
START A PROGRAM
The next step in starting a bully prevention program is to assess the bullying activity in your school, organization or community. You need to know if you are tackling a gnat sized problem or an elephant sized problem. The true size of the problem is often underestimated because most bullying goes unreported. In addition to learning the size of the problem, you will need to determine the trends and type of bullying that exits. This will allow you to develop an appropriate resolution plan.
The assessment should be confidential (so that the bullying will be reported), completed in a reasonable amount of time, and have easily measurable results. The best way to achieve this is with a survey. It is important that the survey is age appropriate, and addresses the areas you want to measure (for example, frequency and type of bullying, location of bullying, perception of safety, if help was requested was help given, attitudes of adults and peer groups). Scannable survey forms or scannable survey answer sheets are an effective tool for the assessment process, whether your assessment is for school climate, community environment or organizational/workplace attitudes. Scannable survey forms allow for confidentiality, can be designed to be completed quickly, and offer a variety of data reporting methods.
A school climate survey should be administered at least once a school year, preferably twice. If no program exists, a school climate survey or bullying survey can be administered early in the year—on or right after Unity Day as an assessment. It should also be administered at the end of the school year to track progress and enable program planning for the next school year. Community bullying assessment surveys can be handed out at community functions, distributed by a direct mailing, included in community magazines or stuffed in community newspapers. These could be annual or even every two years since more time will be required to allow citizens to complete the survey and return it. Workplace or organizational assessments are more easily scheduled, similar to the school assessments.
A large variety of reports are available for scannable survey forms. The information/findings should be analyzed to determine what you just found out—what does it mean? Distribute the findings to those who will be involved in creating/implementing the bully prevention plan or program. This group should include any number of representative “stakeholders”—students, teachers, administrators; or law enforcement, neighborhood associations, mental health specialists, faith based organizations, local businesses; or representatives from every division within a company or organization.
The group then needs to:
• Create and publish an Anti-Bullying policy, if one does not exist.
• Analyze the findings, and determine how to deal with the findings.
• Report back to the larger group--those who participated in the
• Prepare and implement a plan for prevention as well as intervention.
Every one of us needs to be involved in building an environment where our children feel safe; a culture of tolerance, where every one belongs, and is respected as an individual, and encouraged to succeed. Recent studies echo the fact that childhood bullying is not simply a rite of passage; it has definite, long term affects on the victims as well as the bullies. In addition to the fact that childhood bullies tend to be adult bullies, studies have shown that bullying (victims as well as bullies) have long term negative consequences on health, job prospects and relationships. Bullying in the workplace not only impacts employee productivity, creativity and quality, but often results in loss of valued employees due to the added stress and environmental dissatisfaction. Bullying in the community can have similar socio-economical impacts as it does in the workplace and in the schools, but on a larger, and at times, more dangerous scale.
This October is a good time to reflect on what our individual responsibilities are.