Prevention: the poster child for anti-bullying efforts in America’s schools
By Tomás Monzón
“In school, I was bullied so much for being smart or just knowing answers … that I had to switch out [of] classes several times,” said Claudia Garcia, a 2011 graduate of South Miami Senior High in Miami who said she had been bullied since middle school. “Once the teacher sided with the students who were trying to make me help them cheat,” she added.
While much attention has been given to alleviating active bullying, the question of how to prevent it from happening in the first place remains.
Stan Davis, an educational consultant for greatschools.org, explains that clearly worded rules and policies defining expected student behavior are one of the keys to building a bully-free school, such as, “No teasing. Teasing is name-calling, starting rumors, gestures, or other actions that are likely to make students feel bad about themselves.”
Other experts, teachers and school officials say “bullying policies are never as important as what actually happens in school,” according to a Minnesota Public Radio article by Tom Weber, published in May 2011 after a six-month investigation on bullying in Minnesota schools.
The investigation revealed that many schools are indeed taking action – having students make posters attacking bullying and holding student-led and adult-led assemblies.
But even these efforts may not prove effective.
Garcia, who is now a student at Miami Dade College, said, “What schools can do is pay more attention, not ‘heighten’ security because that never works. Just be more aware of what happens outside like in the field and cafeteria.” Faculty in particular need to actually listen to students’ complaints instead of shrugging them off, insisting that they’ll “handle” it. She explained that faculty do not spend much time talking about bullying in a serious manner, opting instead for “hip” pep rallies to glorify the subject.
Commenting on the problem of cyberbullying, Garcia said, “Kids are so private these days and parents refuse to think of their Billy as nothing less of an angel. As parents, they have a right to question their Internet history and stuff.”
She said prevention starts at home. “If you’re taught from an early age that making others feel inferior is wrong, then it will most likely sink in.”