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Bullying and School Safety
New: Read Create An Anti-Bullying Program With Resources You Already Have (pdf file download), Ken Trump's District Administration Magazine (November/December 2011) article on managing bullying without new programs or costs
Update: Also follow Ken Trump's Blog Series on Bullying and School Safety
Bullying has received a significant amount of attention following a number of high-profile school shootings and related incidents of violence in the late 1990 and early 2000 school years. We believe bullying to be a serious issue and worthy of reasonable attention, awareness and action. Schools, parents and most of all, our youth, need to be aware of appropriate behaviors for youth and how inappropriate behaviors should be addressed.
The issue of bullying has also become a hot topic of conversation in the school safety field. In fact, bullying has been focused upon to a point which some believe has become overkill. One news article described it as "all the rage in scientific research."
Bullying is one threat of many on a broad continuum of potential school safety threats. We believe bullying to be a serious issue and worthy of reasonable attention, awareness and action. We also believe that bullying is one of many factors which must be taken into consideration in developing safe schools prevention, intervention, and enforcement plans, and that bully-prevention efforts and initiatives are one of many strategies that should be included in a comprehensive school safety program. Bullying is neither a stand-alone, single cause for all school violence, nor is bullying prevention alone a panacea or cure-all for school violence.
We believe that bullying should be, and typically already is, addressed in school student behavior codes. We also believe that school climate strategies should include components which address the prevention of bullying. See additional comments below under the "anti-bullying legislation" section.
In a study conducted by psychiatrists at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, nearly half of elementary school teachers admitted to bullying students. Most attributed it to a lack of classroom discipline, according to one news report on the study.
"Although this approach will not completely eliminate bullying, research has shown that it would at least cut down on the areas where violence is likely to occur," he was attributed as saying. His recommendation: "This focus underscores the importance of viewing school bullying as both an individual- and organizational-level phenomenon."
We believe these studies reinforce that having firm, fair and consistent discipline enforcement in our schools reduces the likelihood of crime and violence. School climate improvement plans should also include anti-bullying strategies. Discipline and school climate strategies, combined with balanced and reasonable security measures targeting "hot spots" where bullying occurs, can create a safer and more secure climate. This can in turn reduce the likelihood of bullying, disciplinary violations, violence and school crime.
See Ken Trump's Congressional testimony (July 9, 2009) on bullying and comprehensive school safety planning:
For facts and resources on bullying issues, see:
American School Board Journal Anti-Bullying Policy Adviser
column August 2009
National Association of School Psychologists (NASP):
Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents
Bullying Prevention and Intervention: For School Principals
A number of state legislatures have proposed laws requiring schools to have anti-bullying policies and programs, and more recently a federal legislator even proposed national legislation on bullying.
"Bullying" often refers to verbal, physical, or other acts committed by a student to harass, intimidate, or cause harm to another student. The behaviors attributed to bullying may include verbal threats, menacing, harassment, intimidation, assaults, disruption of the school environment and associated disorderly conduct, and related behaviors. When discussing "bullying," the focus should be on the inappropriate behaviors rather than a generic, undefined label of "bullying."
The vast majority of schools in the nation, if not all schools, already have disciplinary policies to address these types of behavioral misconduct. The policies may not include the word "bullying" in some schools, but the behavior we refer to as bullying is typically addressed in school policies as well as possibly in criminal laws (assaults, threats/menacing, intimidation, disorderly conduct, etc.). Schools nationwide have also implemented prevention and intervention programs to prevent and address this type of behavior, especially post-Columbine.
However, it appears as if we are on the early end of a politically-correct trend of states creating mandatory anti-bullying laws. It also appears as if some in the school safety field are moving in the direction of over-emphasizing bullying as the cause of all school safety threats. Defining bullying beyond the aforementioned behaviors (which are typically already addressed in school policy and other laws) is extremely difficult to do legislatively and it can be argued that many forms of violence could be whittled down to be labeled as "bullying" depending upon formal definitions and those interpreting what is and is not "bullying."
Bullying is an important issue which adversely impacts school safety. But there are many other issues contributing to interpersonal conflicts, violence, and crime in our schools as well. "He said, she said" rumors, "boyfriend, girlfriend" issues, disrespect, gang conflicts, and many other factors can lead to school violence. Whittling all of these down to what some would like to describe as "bullying" is a far stretch and an over-emphasis on "bullying" is, in our opinion, an extreme and inappropriate approach to school safety.
Effective school safety planning requires a balanced emphasis on safe schools components ranging from prevention and intervention programs to security and emergency preparedness strategies. Legislative and programmatic emphasis of one safe schools strategy over the others which make up comprehensive safe school planning may be popular and politically correct, but it is not the most effective approach. A skewed over-emphasis on bullying issues is no more appropriate and effective than a skewed emphasis on security and emergency planning.
majority of schools have policies to deal with harassment
and disruption of the educational environment. Fewer
schools have funding to develop and implement anti-bullying
specific programs --- something not included in most
proposed anti-bullying legislation. While bullying is
certainly one issue challenging school safety, unfunded
state mandates and an overemphasis on any one component of
school safety will likely have minimal impact on school
safety and could potentially upset the comprehensive
approach to school safe recommended by most school safety
professionals. As noted at the onset
of this page, we believe bullying to be a serious issue and
worthy of reasonable attention, awareness and action.
Schools, parents and most of all, our youth, need to be
aware of appropriate behaviors for youth and how
inappropriate behaviors should be addressed.
Firm, fair, and
consistent enforcement of school discipline policies,
meaningful school climate strategies which include
anti-bullying initiatives, and balanced security measures
can lead to school climates with less bullying and fewer
safety threats to children.
For questions and comments,
Bullying and School
Safety in Context
As noted at the onset of this page, we believe bullying to be a serious issue and worthy of reasonable attention, awareness and action. Schools, parents and most of all, our youth, need to be aware of appropriate behaviors for youth and how inappropriate behaviors should be addressed.
Firm, fair, and consistent enforcement of school discipline policies, meaningful school climate strategies which include anti-bullying initiatives, and balanced security measures can lead to school climates with less bullying and fewer safety threats to children.
For questions and comments, email Ken Trump.