Guest post: Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

Jill Vialet is the founder and CEO of Playworks. Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, during which she focused her entrepreneurial skills on conceiving of and growing two successful nonprofit organizations.

For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as  the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and  is often repeated over time.. And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.

When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.

The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

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A Tragic First Day of School: Tools to help students

Monday, the first day back to class for Perry Hall High School students, a 15-year-old student bought a gun to school and allegedly shot another student, who remains in critical condition.

As we’ve discussed before, community and school violence can do more than injure a child physically. The damage exposure to violence can do to children mentally and emotionally can have long-term effects and hinder their development.

A guidance counselor wrestled alleged gunman Robert Wayne Gladden Jr. to the floor, protecting surrounding students.  In the days and weeks to follow, students may need help coping with and understanding what happened. Our new toolkit, which includes an easy to understand infographic full of suggestions of how to help, is for teachers who may find themselves in the same situation as Perry Hall teachers.

Our thoughts and hopes of healing are with the injured student, his family and the young shooter who the media reports had been bullied previously.

Here are some other Safe Start’s resources in an effort to assist adults and children who may have witnessed this event.

Healing the Invisible Wounds: Children’s Exposure to Violence – A Guide for Families

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Awareness: the Link Between Bullying and Suicide

This past weekend, a family and community got together to remember 12-year-old Payton Ruth Anne Richardson, who shot herself six months ago. In her memory they are working to raise awareness about bullying because they believe that it contributed to her suicide. More of the story is available here.

More and more, stories like Payton’s have been seen in the news in the last year, and it isn’t just a problem in the United States. Just a few months ago, a 13-year-old Japanese boy jumped to his death after having been forced to regularly “practice suicide.” A report from the BBC shares a video about a study conducted by a bullying prevention charity, Beatbullying. It found that possibly more than 40 percent of suicides among 10- to 14-year-olds may be bullying-related.

There is also a growing number of statistics on the link between bullying and suicide. BullyingStatistics.org shares a list:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Victims of bullying are between two  to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
  • 10- to 14-year-old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above.
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

Suicide is the worst potential consequence related to exposure to bullying. It is important that children, parents and communities are fully aware of both the signs and symptoms of bullying and suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center recently shared an issue brief on Suicide and Bullying that frames the issue and provides some great ideas for prevention. You can check it out here.

For more resources and information on the issue of bullying and prevention, checkout the Safe Start Center Bullying Resources page.

USA Today’s Bullying Article Is Brutally Honest

Bullying Stories

Bruce Kugler, a contributing writer for USA Today wrote a very strong article on bullying titled “Bullying in USA: Are we defenseless?” In this straightforward article, Mr. Kugler brings up the latest victims of the bullying issue and asks the question to us all in his article title.

What’s the answer? At one point in the article, his daughter, after he tells her of a recent tragedy tells him that “It’s Not Going To Get Better”, changing the current catch phase of the anti-bullying movement. It is a sad, but honest article of  some of the current cases of bullycide and victimization due to bullying.

In the article, Mr. Kugler shares a story of Amanda Cummings, who recently committed suicide due in part to bullying. He shares:

“On Dec. 27, a 15-year-old high school sophomore named Amanda Cummings walked onto the main boulevard in her neighborhood and, according to witnesses…

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Suicide and Bullying: A new issue brief discussing the link

News From the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:

“The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has released, “Suicide and Bullying,” a brief on the relationship between bullying and suicide, especially as it relates to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth. The brief describes the extent of the problem and identifies strategies for bullying and suicide prevention.”

The brief is free and available online.

Resources:

Download “Suicide and Bullying” at www.sprc.org/library/Suicide_Bullying_Issue_Brief.pdf

“It takes a community”

 

It Takes a Community

By: Safe Start Center

Over the past month, we’ve highlighted what bullying means, heard the stories of countless people, covered what others are saying about it, and provided ways practitioners, teachers, and parents can help. In this, our last post, we would like to talk about the common wisdom, “it takes a community.” As can be seen by the variety of topics we covered this month, the effort to end bullying must a combined effort, everyone working TOGETHER.

In order for you to take action, look into what your state and local laws are about bullying. Many states, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, are not only creating new laws to increase enforcement but are also instituting their own Bully Awareness campaigns and curriculums to equip their schools to deal with the growing problem. Likewise, school administrators and teachers must first take part by enforcing these policies through role modeling and encouragement, and ask the same of their students. Second, they must become aware of the signs and symptoms of bullying and seek to eliminate them on the spot. This could include knowing the “hot spots” around the school and posting teachers in them during break times.

However, bullying doesn’t just happen in school – it happens in parks, in malls, and now on the Internet – any and everywhere there are children and youth. This means that parents must also be vigilant in helping their children cope and deal with bullying under a variety of circumstances. Parents also need to be aware of and take responsibility for their children’s actions when they are the “bullies.” Awareness is the first step, and like teachers, parents need to be both role models and to teach their kids to respect themselves and others.

Most importantly, putting an end to bullying is about equipping children to deal with problems when they arise by creating safe and encouraging environments for them at home, in school, and their communities. It is also about empowering them to confront or respond to it in their own individual ways. We’ve seen this happen because of the kids that have started support groups, awareness events, held town halls, and supported their classmates who have been bullied. When students feel safe in being who they are and learn to deal with others in a respectful way, that’s when bullying will really begin to stop. And this is what we must do – work for and with children to become the best they can be.

The Safe Start Center, along with many other partners in the field, will continue to call attention to the problem of bullying. For decades, there have been ebbs and flows in bullying awareness, but today there is a new and more dangerous tool for bullies – the Internet. But as we have seen this month, the Internet can also be used for good to help address bullying, raise awareness, and showcase the different gifts and skills of those who seek to lend their voice to the movement. Each of us – policymakers, teachers, parents, students – need to take a stand at every level and across sectors; to empowering students to start legislative campaigns, PSAs, stories, documentaries, dances; to be innovative and work together to address bullying and help those involved.

Writer Charlzetta Drive said it well. “Let’s teach our children that different is not a bad word, this will help them understand first they don’t have to change for anyone and second no one has to change for them. Being comfortable in his or her own skin, children are less likely to submit to major transgressions due to peer pressure. Different does not mean alone, bringing our differences together makes for a huge palate of enriching colors.”

Thanks so much for all of you who have followed us throughout this month as well as all those who have conducted their own campaigns, hosted events, made videos, wrote articles and many other things to raise awareness and stop bullying!


 

Bullies and the Bullied: Stopping the Cycle

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