Can Schools End Bullying?

“Bullying in school is prevalent. You may believe that your child’s school has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, but you would be wrong. . . . The school system is so afraid of lawsuits that they will do anything to prevent punishing a student for bullying, fearing an angry parent will sue.” Anonymous Public School Teacher
But Izzy Kalman in Psychology Today takes a different tack. Kalman says it’s a “false assumption” that “bullying would be stopped if schools would intervene.”
He continues: “Researchers have been finding repeatedly that the most highly respected anti-bullying programs, developed by university-based psychological researchers, barely make a dent in the bullying situation in schools and often result in an increase. Several meta-analyses of school anti-bullying programs have been published since 2004, and they all find that at best they result in a 20% reduction in bullying and often result in an increase. One large-scale study found that children are more likely to be bullied in schools that have anti-bullying programs than in schools that don’t.”
The lack of response is specific to each case. The anti-bullying effort is general to each student body. That’s the problem.
Schools are reluctant (perhaps an understatement) to pursue accusations of bullying–even those involving violence. Undeniably, anti-bullying programs have not succeeded in ending the persecution of so many kids.
It’s unlikely that schools can ever completely end bullying. Kids have always been kids. But telling young people to be nice to each other just is not enough. And bullying is more brutal today. Social media makes what used to be more private taunting much more public–and much more humiliating. And bullying sometimes becomes sexual assault.
There is a common perception that kids are safer in smaller schools rather than larger ones. But it’s less a matter of size and more a matter of the kind of environment any school, large or small, has created.
“Better schools control stress environments better. Schools that are ‘safe’ always have faculty in the corridors when kids are. Not just there, but ‘actively there,’ engaging the kids around them.” Ira David Socol
It seems like a no-brainer. The degree to which adults are interacting and engaging students affects the amount of bullying that happens.
It also seems like a simple fix. It involves more than teachers standing outside their classrooms and interacting with students. Perhaps it also involves more adults–in bathrooms, locker rooms, and stairways. Or smaller but more engaged schools.
I taught in a very small high school that implemented small group participation to encourage Christian discipleship. But that didn’t mean there were no incidents of bullying. It did mean such incidents were easier to identify. And once identified, they were easier to stop.
We learned that one student had been tormenting another. An adult group leader intervened with a clear message that the behavior had to stop. Later, the two students became good friends. Authentic friends.
School is more than math and English. Even more than computers and telescopes. School is where kids learn how to become citizens. And kids learn best when adults are involved.
Big school or small school–kids need micro-communities that include engaged adults showing them the way.
Effective anti-bullying isn’t posters and assemblies and looking the other way to avoid lawsuits.
It calls for involved adults–parents, teachers, coaches, mentors–who show the way.
But it can only happen in a school with the right kind of environment–the kind that makes zero tolerance of bullying a very high priority.

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26 Replies to “Can Schools End Bullying?”

  1. Hi Nancy!
    Can Schools End Bullying?
    A good question, and a good blog post title.
    Loved your comment about the school system and lawsuits.
    I believe that’s true.
    It’s a harsh world our children meet in today’s schools.
    It’s interesting and thought-provoking reading about these programs developed by scientists.
    I believe you’re right when you say bullying is more brutal today.
    As always I respect you for finding blog post topics with great potential for conflict.
    It would be much easier to take the path of posting bible verse lists, but you don’t do that.
    I like your approach.
    My favourite sentence in this particular blog post was:
    “. . . kids learn best when adults are involved.”
    On my way to Twitter for a share!
    God bless,
    Edna Davidsen.

  2. Very current issue in our culture, but not as much in my generation. Yes, kids are kids, and humans are humans. Maybe this is why the greatest commandment is to love one another. Is there any greater need than this in any society?
    I was bullied in school and occasionally was the bully. I think it is one of the things God redeems in the life of a Christian. Being picked on gave me more empathy for the unpopular kids. It made me stronger. Bullying taught me how to deal with pain. Physical and emotional pain. It also taught me how to forgive.
    There is no way to stop Bullying. It is (fallen) human nature. I do think your main point of adult discipleship is a key. In some public schools, good luck. Public schools have become too beuracratic and institutionalized. And teaching Christian values is no longer “acceptable” in some school systems.
    The more influence good parents and teachers have, with the authority to do something without the fear of legal action, the better. Today everyone is more concerned about their “rights” rather looking after the interests of others.

    1. Sorry to be so long replying to your wonderful comment. It was in my spam. Don’t know why. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. God bless!

  3. A great piece of material Nancy, on how to address bullying in our children schools. I would agree with you that all adults being engaged with our youth will help to control bullying in our schools rather they are small or big. In my opinion this piece you wrote is award winning material. Continue to reach and educate my Sister.

  4. Bullying has been around for ages, but it seems, as you said, more brutal today than ever. It’s so true, kids are more exposed to social media. Children have been hooked into social media and they are drowning in the false self-esteem it promotes. (Many adults are also in this predicament.)
    In addition to the schools needing to take a stand and social media being a prevalent problem, parents are not home, or they are too busy to teach their children how to be socially loving and kind to others. Many kids are left on their own to figure this out and sadly like you said, they need to be shown the way.
    Yes, I agree, schools need to take a tougher stand; likewise, parents need to slow down, and put the time in helping their kids learn what is right and what is wrong. Our families are in desperate need of help, today.
    Very good post!

  5. Sadly, teen suicide rates are up, too, especially among girls. It does seem that the social media phenomenon may be fueling this awful fire. Bullying someone online is easier when you don’t see the person face-to-face.
    Thanks, Nancy, for the reminder that we need to be actively engaging our kids at all levels. Let’s hope that adults will kick it up a notch!

  6. Hello Nancy
    A tough subject. It saddens me to see and hear the statistics painted about our future hope.
    The family is a personal responsibility and only the active will make headway in this awful situation.
    Institutions can come up with ideas but at the end of the day we have to use them, not everyone is happy with life so they take it out on others.
    Your heart shows where your treasure is.

  7. We’ve been told the family is the smallest unit of society. And that it takes a village to raise a child. Our parents must have known something this present society is missing because a lot of what is common in families and villages today would never have been tolerated in their days. For example, where I come from, they didn’t spare the rod…. Ever!
    Thanks for this post, Nancy. Blessings to you.

    1. Our parents didn’t think we should be happy all the time–even at the expense of others. And the schools taught us the Golden Rule. Thanks for commenting! God bless!

  8. Such an important issue to address that, for some reason, doesn’t seem to be addressed at all. You’re right in that it takes more than the school, but also parents, teachers, etc to take a stand and teach kids from an early age how to treat others with love and respect.

    1. Thank you for commenting, It does seem that people simply wish the problem would go away on its own. It won’t unless we tackle it. God bless!

  9. This is such a good reminder to get involved! I love volunteering at my daughter’s school because I’m getting to know her classmates. Of course, things happen but engaging with the kids helps them feel heard and seen. Thanks for this!

  10. Methinks involved parents in the home are critically important. Parents need to train their children not to abuse others. Schools are not set up to raise one’s children, but rather to educate them.

    1. So true. But maybe kids weren’t meant to spend most of their time with each other receiving minimal adult supervision. Whether schools are as effective as they could be in educating kids is another topic for another day. Thanks for commenting! God bless!

  11. It takes a caring community to build a community that cares for each other. Such an important message Nancy. It struck me too, that smaller does not mean better chances of not bullying. No matter the size, it’s the interaction between the adults and the students that matter.

    1. That piece of information actually surprised me. I think our schools are too big. But that isn’t the key factor about bullying. Thanks for commenting. God bless!

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