Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bullying in Schools: A National Epidemic

No Bullying sign - School in Racine, Wisconsin
No Bullying sign - School in Racine, Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Tonya Featherston

It is clear that bullying is one of the most pressing issues facing schools today.

A simple internet search quickly reveals a barrage of articles and videos showing the various forms of bullying taking place in our schools.

Youth and young adults are bullied for being perceived as gay or lesbian, girls are bullied by other girls for social power, unruly teens bullying elderly bus monitors, and special needs students are bullied because of their disability.

In many ways, bullying is becoming a national epidemic that we must work to eradicate from our schools.

There are a number of proposed solutions to addressing bullying that include developing anti-bullying programs, focusing on empowering the victims and bystanders and reforming the bullies.

The one aspect that most researchers agree on when it comes to bullying is that schools must do two things: 1) establish clear policies and procedures for responding to bullying when it happens and 2) engage in activities that will prevent bullying from occurring.

I would like to suggest a strategy that can be used as both a preventative measure and an intervention. I propose that schools spend more time teaching all students social and emotional learning skills, regardless of whether bullying is a pervasive problem in your school or not.

Research on bullying prevention indicates that the most effective efforts in schools to prevent bullying are those schools that take a multifaceted approach. In order to truly prevent bullying, schools should implement a 3-tiered approach that includes a school-wide component, a classroom component and an intervention component.

The school-wide component focuses on training, awareness, and monitoring, the classroom component focuses on building social and emotional skills such as social problem solving and the intervention component focuses on working with students who are frequent victims or perpetrators of bullying. There are four key SEL skills that children need in order to deal with bullying:

1. Self management skills - the ability to recognize and manage emotions in order to respond to conflict in a calm and assertive manner.
2. Social awareness - the ability to be tolerant and appreciative of differences and interact empathetically with their peers.
3. Relationship skills - ability to initiate and sustain friendships and other types of relationships
4. Responsible decision making skills - the ability to think through and resolve social problems effectively and ethically.

In order to reduce bullying, schools need to provide students with instruction and practice in applying these skills in a variety of situations.

The Restorative Discipline Program uses a restorative circle process to create a sense of community and belonging, to build relationships and repair harm, and to teach key social skills such as communication, managing anger and tolerance. For more information on how to use SEL skills to reduce bullying visit Urban Education Services or the Restorative Practices Resource Center.

For more information on how to use SEL skills to reduce bullying or the Restorative Discipline Program, visit Urban Education Services at or the Restorative Practices Resource Center at

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