Student Bullying

Predatory kids are a problem for both school administrators and police officers.

Parents and Principals

The first thing you have to do is recognize the resources that are available. There is strong evidence that the degree of the principal’s involvement has an effect on the extent of the bullying. There is also evidence that student witnesses can be a positive force in stopping bullying.

Stopping bullying and creating a safe learning environment requires a multifaceted, comprehensive approach. Hopefully, bullying will not become another social problem that is thrust into the lap of law enforcement, with all other parties abdicating responsibility.

The school principal must be the main force in eliminating bullying and must create a schoolwide policy clearly showing that bullying will not be tolerated. Work with the principal to provide moral and technical support.

With your assistance, the principal will provide guidelines and training to all teachers and staff. The guidelines should spell out specific actions to be taken if an incident of bullying is observed. There should also be a structured response if a perceptive teacher gets wind of bullying but does not actually observe it.

Parents should become educated and involved. They must understand the extent and consequences of the problem and know how to intervene appropriately. Parents should be aware of sanctions the student will receive if the student acts as a bully.

Work with the principal to locate specific spots where bullying occurs. Most bullying occurs at the school rather than on the way to the school. Bullies thrive on privacy where they cannot be observed by teachers and staff. Anonymous surveys can be distributed to determine the location of acts. Principals should work to eliminate these bullying hot spots. This may involve trimming back some hedges, making certain rooms inaccessible at certain times, the re-deployment of staff, or the installation of surveillance cameras.

The principal must encourage student witnesses to come forward. A student population has very few bullies and a small pool of victims. But there are a large number of student-witnesses. These students do not bully, nor do they do anything to intercede on behalf of the victim. The student-witnesses facilitate the bullying in two ways. First, they provide an audience for the bully. They may laugh, cheer, or merely watch. But they empower the bully by providing a stage. Second, student-witnesses provide tacit support to the bully by not interceding or not reporting the incidents. It is estimated that over 85 percent of students have observed bullying; only between 10 and 20 percent of non-involved students provide any help.

Again, you can work with the principal to get these student-witnesses involved in the reporting process. Studies show that the vast majority of students know tha
t bullying is wrong. Getting them to report the acts can be done by setting up anonymous tip lines either by drop box, phone, or online.

Reduce the number of unsupervised areas around the school. Though it is obviously impossible to station police in every corner of the school, you can coordinate with trained volunteers (parents, retirees, upperclassmen, student-athletes, honor roll students, etc.) to stand by in various hot spots. Research has shown that the mere presence of a disapproving party reduces bullying.

The school can buttress this enforcement by staggering class dismissals. Allowing underclassmen to depart 15 minutes early greatly reduces the interaction between bullies and potential victims. If this cannot be arranged, work with the school to identify chronic bullies. Once the bullies are identified, they can be assigned to a particular location or a particular chore during times when they would cross paths with the younger students.

Bullying is now recognized as a major problem in schools. The frequency and consequences are too immense for the police to overlook. You must address this problem head-on with a proactive response and work with school administrators to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with student bullying.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March issue of POLICE Magazine, a sister publication of Campus Safety Magazine.

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