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By: Kimberly Monachino
As I walk down the halls of schools, I am always intrigued with the creative and empowering messages that appear on bulletin boards. Especially those messages that focus on inclusive school culture and creating positive learning environments. One tagline read, “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.” Another illustrated a colorful box of crayons with each crayon representing an individual child’s face with the caption “We are a box of crayons, each of us unique, but when we get together, the picture is complete.” Another bulletin board emphasized “Put a stop to bullying! Making others feel bad is never okay!”
I mention these observations in light of October being National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. This year’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month marks the 10th anniversary of its initiation by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. Since 2006, the event has grown to an entire month of education and awareness activities that are being recognized by schools and communities throughout the world.
I am going to provide a basic definition of bullying, along with specific tips for teachers to prevent bullying. The tips are intended for all students, but with an emphasis on students with disabilities. We know that children who bully others also often target children who seem “different.” Children with disabilities are sometimes more likely to be bullied than children without disabilities.
First, let’s start with the definition of bullying. The word “bullying” is applied to a lot of different situations that may or may not necessarily meet the definition of bullying. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The key in this definition are the words real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated over time.
Bullying is not when children have a conflict or argument. There are always going to be times when children do not get along with each other and situations of disagreement occur. This is part of healthy childhood development and teaches children the important skills of managing their emotions. It helps them develop coping skills.
Teachers play an important role in preventing true bullying and can create safe, bully-free zones in their classrooms. Teachers also are aware that students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than students without disabilities and often are the first line of defense. Here are some tips on ways teachers can be proactive in preventing bullying of all students, with an emphasis on the unique needs of students with disabilities.
Be a champion of preventing bullying by making sure you know your school and district policies on bullying and work to make sure they are implemented. Resources are available to help district develop their local policies.
Teach students who have disabilities how to advocate for themselves. Help students who struggle with social skills to recognize when someone is being hurtful, and give them language to use to help them respond.
Teach students self-awareness and empathy through literature. Books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka or The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt teach self-awareness and review multiple sides of a conflict in a story or scenario. Literature with protagonists who have disabilities, like Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Wonder by R.J. Palacio are wonderful for building students’ awareness of specific disabilities. These stories also build empathy that transfers into real-world scenarios.
Build positive classroom climate
Create a positive class climate that is predictable, consistent and equitable. Take time at the start of and throughout the year to model problem-solving and communication. Go out of your way to recognize each student for his or her unique strengths and talents.
Let your students know you care about and respect them. Show your students you are available to listen and you want to help them.
Activities to promote prevention
Develop activities that focus on identifying bullying in books, TV shows and movies. Use teachable moments from these to discuss with your students the impact of bullying and how characters resolved it.
During morning meetings, empower students to talk about bullying and peer relations. It is important to allow students to take leadership roles in planning and leading the meetings to help them gain critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Teach students to be “upstanders”
Students need to know that when they don’t stop someone from bullying, they’re contributing to it. Teach your students to be upstanders by showing them how to quickly recognize bullying and basic techniques to stop it — like not creating an audience or inviting the victim into their group.
Share experiences through multimedia
Challenge students to create multimedia projects that express their thoughts, opinions and personal experiences with bullying. The technology encourages creativity and individualism, and the ability to share their experiences builds students’ communication and advocacy.
Supervise hot spots
We know bullying is more likely to occur when teachers aren’t watching. Figure out your school’s “hot spots” for bullying — the places with less supervision and more students. It is important to ask others in the building, such as custodians, office assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers where they see problems.
These tips are meant to begin the conversation on how we can make each and every child feel welcome and accepted in our schools. The actions and behaviors you demonstrate contribute to the success of every child. Always remember the power you have as an educator to make a difference in a child’s life.
Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.
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By: Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. To highlight this important issue, we asked Corina Klies and Beth Malchus-Stafa, from the Ohio Department of Health, to share some advice for how adults in education settings can help young people form healthy relationships.
Think back to high school, college or your workplace. You easily can identify those relationships that are worth an A+ versus a D-. What makes up an A+ relationship? Many of the qualities needed in a healthy relationship are in the image to the right.
As a teacher, administrator, coach or parent volunteer, youth look to you to model qualities needed for healthy relationships. Positive relationships with youth create safe learning environments and reinforce examples of healthy relationships.
Often, adults feel they don’t know how to begin a conversation or have the skills to talk about dating violence. They feel more comfortable referring to the school policy or providing statistics: One in three girls and one in seven boys will experience dating violence before they are 18 years old. It’s easier to just put up a poster acknowledging Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month during February than it is to really discuss it.
While it is important that youth know the school policy for dating violence — and statistics, definitions and posters are great for raising awareness — it is more important for youth to learn the skills needed to maintain healthy relationships. These include mutuality, affection, courage, consent and accountability. These skills shouldn’t be relegated to a single class or learning session. These skills should be incorporated into daily experiences. In English classes, they can be part of book discussions, history classes can discuss conflict resolution, marching band teachers can provide tips on working together in a squad and student internships can teach good working relationships between supervisors and co-workers.
Adults also can demonstrate healthy relationship skills with teachable moments. A teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises when a teacher or adult has an ideal chance to offer insight. While adults cannot prevent youth from making hurtful comments or protect them from unkind behaviors all the time, they can stop youth from making hurtful comments or demonstrating unkind behaviors in their presence.
Using teachable moments is an easy three-step process: see it, claim it, stop it.
See it means telling the youth and possibly those around who witness the behavior what you observed. Claim it means stating why it was offensive and possibly against your school’s student code of conduct or classroom rules. Stop it means turning the situation around and suggesting different behaviors. This model of intervening and re-teaching behavior is a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports strategy.
Again, think back to high school, college or your workplace, how did you learn about A+ relationships? Maybe you didn’t and had to learn through trial and error. Healthy relationships are hard work, like learning to understand the Pythagorean theorem. Both take homework and repeated lessons over time. Here are some exercises for you to perfect the use of teachable moments.
Someone is texting Greg during class. His cell vibrates several times. Ms. Shankleton gives Greg a detention. After class, Greg and his friend Kallia approach Ms. Shankleton to talk about how he received 35 texts this morning from his girlfriend. He doesn’t know how to tell her to stop. Greg shows Ms. Shankleton his girlfriend’s texts. They are about who he talks to; what he’s wearing; and why he’s late to walk her to her class. Ms. Shankleton follows the training she received on her school’s policies for anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying and teen dating.
What would you say to Greg? What would you say to Kallia, the upstander,? What does your school policy say you should do for Greg? How does your school policy use the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports strategy of intervening and re-teaching behavior to address the young woman’s (Greg’s girlfriend) texting? How does your school policy address electronic and technology in the context of teen dating abuse? What type of training is provided at your school to promote upstanding behavior? Does your school work with community agencies to provide referrals? How are parents involved?
Here are possible, responsible ways to respond to this scenario:
- To Greg: “Thank you for telling me. I am sorry I didn’t understand what was happening. Repeatedly texting someone over and over like this is a form of dating violence This is a serious situation; can I go with you to the guidance counselor?”
- To the upstander Kallia: “Thank you for being a concerned friend and coming with Greg to see me.”
It’s Friday night and the band parents’ concession stand is winding down. Mr. Kepperly is grilling the last two hamburgers. He watches Adam single out a girl next to the wall of the concession stand. Adam calls her an offensive, derogatory name and asks why she is talking to Jackson. The girl is distressed and keeps saying: “It’s about our English project.” There is a crowd of youth growing around the two.
What would you say to Adam? What would you say to the crowd? What does your school policy say a parent volunteer should do to help Adam’s girlfriend? How does your school policy train parent volunteers? How does your school policy address teen dating violence at public events?
Here is a possible, responsible way to respond to this scenario:
- To Adam: Mr. Kepperly goes up to the two and says: “Adam, I just heard you call her a name. In our school, we find this language offensive, and we don’t use that kind of language with each other. That behavior needs to stop, and you need to walk away.”
- To the girlfriend: Mr. Kepperly asks if she is okay.
Mentally practicing these scenarios can help make us more comfortable addressing these situations in real life. As adults who interact and work with youth, we must accept the responsibility to do more than memorize statistics and put up posters. We have the power to intervene when necessary and guide young people to forming positive, A+ relationships. The next time you witness inappropriate relationship behavior, don’t be afraid to see it, claim it and stop it.
Corina Klies works for the Ohio Department of Health overseeing a grant that focuses on providing culturally specific services to sexual assault survivors in the African/African-American, Asian/Asian-American and Latino/Hispanic communities.
Beth Malchus-Stafa is a public health consultant at the Ohio Department Health. She is a content expert in the area of bullying, teen dating violence, and sexual and intimate partner violence prevention.
Beth and Corina are members of the Ohio Department of Education Anti-Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Initiative.
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By: Guest Blogger
Off to a great start is the theme the Ohio Department of Education is promoting for schools and students throughout Ohio. To prevent and address bullying behavior, we are promoting four strategies that create a positive school climate and a safe and supportive teaching and learning environment in Ohio schools. Promoting a positive school climate, along with implementing bullying prevention practices will help staff members, students and families be off to a great start this school year.
The first strategy is for every district and school to have an Anti-Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy that outlines how schools identify bullying behavior. An active anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying policy ensures all staff members, students and parents know how bullying behavior is defined and addressed in your school. School staff members should be trained to respond to bullying behavior when it occurs.
Second, school staff members should be trained to recognize and respond to bullying behavior. The Department requires educators to take Safety and Violence Prevention training every five years. This training gives school staff members skills to recognize, reach out and refer potential problems before they escalate. The Safety and Violence Prevention Curriculum reminds school professionals of the important role they play in the early identification of critical issues affecting students. It also attempts to raise school staff members’ awareness of the warning signs for mental, emotional and behavioral problems among students and advises educators on ways to reach out to these students and refer them to appropriate assistance. Through identifying student needs and providing appropriate interventions, educators can ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed at school.
The third strategy to support your school community is to implement a schoolwide safety plan. Using the PBIS framework and schoolwide safety strategies, all school employees, social workers and mental health partners can create a culture of respect to prevent bullying behavior. Positive school climate and bullying prevention practices are the product of a school’s attention to fostering trust and safety; promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment; and encouraging and maintaining respectful and caring relationships throughout the school. Feeling safe and supported at school is fundamental to success for staff and students.
Finally, to address the individual needs of students, we recommend the development and implementation of a Student Action Plan. Bullying behavior undermines a student’s sense of security and distracts from a student’s ability to be successful in school. A Student Action Plan provides students involved in bullying behavior (either the target or perpetrator) with supports before, during and after the school day, as well as interventions for identified behavior needs.
October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, prepare to be off to a great start by promoting a positive school climate and bullying prevention practices this school year. This will promote healthy relationships, school safety, increased school attendance and greater academic achievement. October is a good time for administrators and staff to discuss how they can update their anti-bullying policies and practices to make them even more effective. Explore the tools available here, including a nine-minute video, the Department’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy and a guidance document that outlines everyone’s role in addressing student incidents and strategies for developing individual Student Action Plans.
Jill Jackson is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education where she leads the Department's anti-bullying efforts. She can be reached at Jill.Jackson@education.ohio.gov.
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Last Modified: 6/1/2016 4:16:44 PM