National Safe Schools Week & Bullying Prevention Month: Who Cares?

Posted by on October 19, 2010

In case you didn’t know, it is National Safe Schools Week.  It is National Bullying Prevention Month.  It is also National Ally Week (for LBGT students)….

So in the month of October, and this week in particular, schools should be the safest place in the world, right?  Maybe — or maybe not.

The intentions behind a “National” XYZ day or week are mostly good.  The general point is to “raise awareness” as many of the promotional descriptions say about such events.

But such days, weeks, or months associated with a lot of hoopla around school safety have always made me wonder:  What about the rest of the year?

It is like posting signs with the words “Drug Free Zone” on one particular block of a city.  Does this mean the next street over is a “Drug Filled Zone”?

“National” whatever days and months give activists and advocates an opportunity to try to get some media coverage and public attention for their cause.  For a few, it may even mean a few extra bucks in their coffers from grants, donations, or other sources of external funding.

My point is not to slam these organizations or their intentions. Yet the real challenge is not to focus on school safety on one particular day, week, or month.  The greatest challenge is to have an equally strong, if not stronger, focus on school safety day-to-day as a part each school’s day-to-day culture.

Enjoy and celebrate your “National” whatever day, week, or month.  But six months from now, make sure you are just as enthusiastic, passionate, and committed to being a school safety advocate and evangelist when there is not a special label or name attached.

So who cares if it is National Safe Schools Week or National Bullying Prevention Month?  We all can care. 

Leadership on an issue doesn’t last only for one day, week, or month.  It is ongoing. Six months from now when the “national” spotlight on the day is gone, make sure you care as much, if not more, about school safety as you do today.

Ken Trump

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One thought on “National Safe Schools Week & Bullying Prevention Month: Who Cares?

  1. M.Njaga says:

    Lets address the real Problem: why we are missing the mark on bullying.

    By Mucheru Njaga
    Author of Patch: Assumption is a crime.

    I was a bully.

    I didn’t plan on being one. In fact, before then, I was a victim of bullying. As a freshman in a all boys boarding school, I along with all of the junior students served at the behest of the “Prefects”, a small group of senior students. They ruled our school with a heavy hand and had more powers than the teachers. They bullied us physically and mentally , once we had to jump on our knees, other times they banned us from wearing pants and limited us to shorts to serve as a constant reminder to who we are. Verbal humiliation was an everyday occurrence as well.

    Four years later, I became a “prefect”, a bully and part of a system I once despised. We would raid the freshman area in the middle of the night and make them follow whatever we ordered them to do at 2am or face severe punishment. We called them names in front of the dinning halls and used them as practice dummies during rugby games.

    All of this was acceptable – condoned by the school faculty at the time because the “Prefects” were seen as the guardians and mentors of the young students. Today the danger of bullying and its impact on our society is finally shaking many people awake. Many groups and organizations have made significant steps in our fight against bullying but there seems to be a growing number of bullying related deaths in America and the world.(STATISTIC)

    So where’s the disconnect? Why are we letting this happen?

    Where does bullying start?

    In our efforts to address this growing problem, we tend to focus more on the end result of bullying rather than why it starts. The kids we recognize as bullies and vilify as the aggressors could easily be our very own children or next door neighbor. In other words, for every victim, there is a perpetrator, and I set out to find out what turns a lovable kid or teen into a bully. For the last couple of years, I compiled a case studies I believe could be a catalyst in our bid to stop bullying.

    Throughout my entire experience, I noticed the common motivation behind bullying is fear. As a victim, I was afraid to fight for what I knew was right and as a bully, I feared loosing the tight grip of power I held. It is this fear that keeps things status-quo and continues the cycle.

    The same basic principle plays out in schools today. Bullying is almost always a direct or indirect by product of fear. “Fear” of being labeled, “fear” of being uncool, fear of being seen as weak. Most of not all instances of bullying are rooted on fear. Sadly, it is this fear that prevents kids from living a free life, where they are free to be different, to be gay, to love a certain kind of music or activity, to be themselves.

    So how does true change take place?

    Define bullying with your kids and talk it out: For teens public perception has a substantial influence on their daily decisions. We need to clearly explain to kids what bullying is, how to spot bullying tendencies within themselves and how to avoid acting them out.

    Take away the cool factor:

    Show kids that bullying stems from fear, and we could effectively render bullying as an “uncool” deed. The largely successful anti-smoking, “Truth” campaign and the anti-drug, “Rise above the influence” campaign ads help significantly reduce those habits among young people. A well executed marketing campaign endorsed by a popular teen celebrity that showcases bullying as an unacceptable act can help garner attention for the cause.

    Be aware of tendencies towards bullying developing in kids:

    Educators, parents and children alike must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying before the problem gets out of hand. If there is a widespread understanding that fear is the underlying emotion perpetrator of the bullying cycle, those who observe a child who exhibits signs of fear and insecurity can spot a problem early on and raise concerns.

    Encourage self reflection:

    Talk with children who are bullying others and encourage them to consider their behaviors. Often, another problem is bubbling beneath the surface and it is necessary to determine the rot of the behavior in order to fix it. Since this self-examination can prevent those problems form manifesting into something more harmful, the earlier it takes place, the better.

    Promote open communication about bullying problems:

    We have to change the way kids view talking to adults and authority figures about bullying issues. Kids are often worried about “snitching” and the negative perception of telling adults when they are having these types of problems. We must convince them that it is brave courageous and admirable to put an end to the situation instead of remaining silent.

    Mucheru Njaga is the author of “Patch: Assumption is a crime”, a young adult novel based in his personal experience with teen bullying that encourages debate and discussion among teachers, parents and students.

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