When Confronting Bullying, Public Safety Can’t Go It Alone

School security professionals and law enforcement must do a better job of communicating with administrators and non-security personnel about the importance of intervening when student-on-student social violence occurs

I recently attended the SMILE Conference on social media and law enforcement in which an entire day was dedicated to addressing traditional and cyber bullying among children. Although school police and traditional law enforcement were well represented, one very important group was missing: school administrators.

Considering these individuals are often the ones who see the bullying first hand, have the best opportunity to intervene and have so much influence, I find the fact that they weren’t in attendance highly troubling.

A former SRO for the City of Santa Monica, Dave Rynski, explained why it is so important for non-security campus personnel to be involved when dealing with bullying: “When you sit down with the bully, along with the principal, you have an opportunity to make a lasting impact. When you can have a one-on-one with the kid and explain where their choices could lead them and maybe even show them with a little trip down to the police station, it’s a very effective tool. That’s when you really want to work with the school site administrators and parents to get them involved early on.”

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why campus administrators might not be inclined to attend a conference like this. They’ve already got too much on their plates, and their primary mission is education, not student discipline. But everyone knows that abusive student behavior adversely impacts academic performance. Studies also show that it affects both bullies and the victims long after they leave school.

Erin Weed, founder and CEO of Fight Back Productions, put it best: “The school bullies of today are going to be the work bullies of tomorrow. We need to teach our kids how to handle this effectively. You wouldn’t throw your kids in the water without teaching them how to swim. You teach them how to swim so they will grow up and save themselves.”

The lack of attendance by administrators to this and some other school safety events I’ve attended makes it clear to me that those of us in the campus security, emergency management and law enforcement communities still need to do a better job of communicating the importance of safety with school and district officials.

We as campus protection professionals can and should also learn from them. The administrators, in turn, can pass on what they’ve learned about bullying to teachers and parents. Ultimately, it’s the teachers and especially the parents who will have the greatest influence on bullying.

This is not to say that school administrators and teachers aren’t trying to address bullying in their own ways. Some schools in Pinal County Ariz., for example, are trying some pretty interesting approaches. Santa Rosa Elementary School observed a national no name-calling week in January, reports TriValleyCentral.com. Others have peer education programs.

I applaud those districts that are taking these steps. Now if we could just improve the communication among all district and campus administrators, security directors, police chiefs, security offi cers, SROs, teachers and parents, we could really affect some positive change.

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About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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