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Bullying Can Happen Anywhere – Online and Offline

leslie preddy headshotThe library is one of the safe places at school – where everyone can feel welcome and comfortable asking for advice and resources. Librarians are nurturers, caregivers and protectors.

We take this role especially seriously at our middle school, where 57 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and many are transitioning to the United States from other countries. This year we emphasized that it’s possible to overcome a reputation our students may not be proud of – online and offline. We can all have second chances.

We’ve built our school as a community. As educators, we have the greatest impact on our students when we help them develop both a sense of self and community.  We’ve found that a key piece of bullying prevention lies in helping students feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Our school builds many of these kinds of community-focused activities in our students’ curriculum. Engaging students in these kinds of activities will help them embrace thoughtfulness and awareness of others.

  • On the first day of school this year, our principal went on the student news and asked the students to nominate someone in school they noticed doing something nice. Soon we had 20 or 30 students nominated a day!
  • We have a Second Chances wall, where the students can anonymously journal about a moment in their lives when they had a second chance, turned it into something better, and how it impacted them.
  • Recently, we held a highly successful community service drive where our students donated over 3,000 items and raised $900 to give to folks in the community who didn’t have basic toiletries.

We must also instill a sense of community online, where cyberbullying can run rampant. Our young people are tech-savvy, digital natives, but they don’t necessarily know how to use digital platforms deeply and thoughtfully. How do we teach them that what they put “out there” is more permanent than they might think? We as adults and caregivers and teachers can teach them that awareness.

One way that we help our students to be more thoughtful digital citizens is by offering parents and students booklets, such as OnGuardOnline.gov’s Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online Site Exit Disclaimer, on back-to-school night to try to build their awareness around these issues.  StopBullying.gov provides resources on cyberbullyingwhat it is, how to prevent it, and how to report it. School administrators might find this user guide particularly useful in preventing bullying. Cyberbullying and online safety issues are new for us as adults, too – it takes a community to instill thoughtfulness in our students.

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