A setting in which children are afraid for their physical safety is clearly not a good learning environment: Not surprisingly, schools with lower levels of bullying also have higher test scores. That's just one reason for staff, teachers and administrators to adopt an ongoing, comprehensive approach in order to reduce or eradicate bullying.
Workshops and anti-bullying lessons work best when there's a comprehensive program involving follow-up sessions, school-wide education and continued enforcement of the rules. Ideally, such a program should focus on everyone, not just the students most often perceived as bullies. The truth is that a school isn't made up of one group of really bad eggs and one group of helpless victims. Many kids pass through phases of bullying and being bullied -- year to year, or even hour to hour.
For example, children who are usually kind to their peers may become unwitting accomplices if their friends become bullies. Comprehensive programs can encourage these children to stop their friends from bullying rather than becoming bullies themselves out of fear. Similarly, a child who has been a frequent target may start to bully someone else in turn, especially if a younger, weaker or less socially adept student joins the class. An education program and consistent enforcement of the rules can help to break this cycle.
With a combined strategy, schools -- and students -- can reduce bullying in the hallways, in the classroom and at school events. It's an ongoing battle, but one well worth fighting.
For more information on bullying prevention, see the next page.