Thoughts on Bully Prevention

By Karen Tarbell; principal at Cimarron Middle School in Parker
Posted

Bullying is nothing new. In fact, it's something that has been in our schools for a long time. 

I remember being bullied as an elementary school student when two boys chased me and pulled my hair every day as I was getting on the bus.  No one saw it; I was afraid to report it.  Finally one day, I started crying and a teacher asked me what was wrong.  I broke down and shared my experience with her and that I was afraid to go to the bus.  I must have been very upset because I remember the teacher even started crying.  I can’t remember what happened to the boys but I do know that the bullying stopped. 

Bullying hurts;  it hurts all involved one way or the other. 

Our new school opened in the fall of 2010.  It was a wonderful experience and we were so pleased with our new school.  But shortly after opening, we started having reports of bullying. 

Bullying of 6th grade students by 8th grade students, bullying on the bus, bullying in the locker rooms.  I found myself in a state of denial. 

How can there be bullying at our new school?  What is happening?  I had not planned for this; I found myself very frustrated.  We needed a prevention program and we needed to learn about bullying.  I began reading about bullying and during the annual CASE Summer Leadership Conference, I attended every bully prevention program I could. 

Here is what I have learned:

By definition, bullying is recognized as interactions between students where there is a perceived imbalance of power and an intent to harm that occurs over time. 

In every bullying situation there are three participants: the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.  Boys tend to bully with physical behavior and girls bully through gossip and spreading rumors. 

So what happens when a student is being bullied at Cimarron?  We have taught our students to remember these steps:

○     Tell the student stop

○     Walk away

○     Tell an adult

When bully behavior is reported, we act immediately.  We talk to the bullied student and do not call this student the “victim,”  but rather refer to this student as the "target."

It’s important to let this student know there is nothing wrong with her or him; the bully has the problem.  We meet with the bully and identify their behavior as “mean.”  We are very direct in these meetings and notify parents.  We also teach the bully about how to positively interact with peers. 

The third player in a bully situation is the bystander.  Most people think that the bystander will eventually become the bully, but actually, that is not what happens.  Over time, the bystander begins to take on the behavior of the bullied, the targeted student.  The bystander will begin to feel powerless, and may begin to feel if he or she speaks up the bully will instead begin to attack them. 

To be able to prevent bullying from happening, it’s important to understand the facts of bullying, who the players are and their roles.

Recently, an increase in student suicides due to a new form bullying, called cyber-bullying, has also led to an increase in media attention on the subject. 

Social media, like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and other sites have provided a forum for individuals to say or write whatever they want as an anonymous participants.  This is devastating to the targeted student because there is no way to get away.

That's why it's more important than ever that parents monitor student internet use.  If your student is being bullied on the internet, report it to law enforcement and let the site provider know as well.  Parents need to be involved!

Our reports of bullying have dropped significantly but not completely. I know we still have work to do and will continue to address bullying. I do not believe that bullying is something that “all students need to deal with” or “that this part of growing up.” 

Bullying is wrong and we can stop it.  We need to take a stand.  Please know there are school district policies that address bullying and there are significant consequences for bullies that can include school suspension and even expulsion in continuing cases. 

Colorado School Law is very direct in dealing with bully behavior.  We do take this seriously.  Every time I have worked through a bully situation, the behavior has improved for all involved. 

Many times, people are afraid to report bully behavior out of fear for retaliation; I get that. But I have never seen a case of retaliation once we have addressed the bully's behavior.  I am not saying retaliation could not happen, but I have never experienced it. 

Remember, my experience has shown that the bullying stops once addressed directly and firmly.  We can stop this!