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Take Action Today: How Families and Students Can Take the Lead in Creating Safer School Environments

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Mary Pat King is the Director of Programs and Partnerships at the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). In this role, Mary Pat has helped develop new strategies for engaging parents and students as leaders in efforts to improve school climate, and as a result, prevent bullying in communities nationwide.

The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is committed to ensuring all children can learn in a safe school environment that is free of bullying. Research indicates that the most effective bullying prevention efforts build a culture of caring and respect throughout the school community, rather than focusing attention only on children who bully and those who are bullied. That’s why over the past several years, we’ve worked with StopBullying.gov and other partners in our Connect for Respect (C4R) initiative, which aims to help local PTAs take the initiative to build positive school climates full of healthy relationships.

Strong family-school partnerships translate into healthier school environments and better student outcomes. Families know that bullying isn’t an isolated problem, and they’re eager to find ways to work with youth and educators in bullying prevention efforts.

We recently ramped up our C4R initiative to ensure we were effectively mobilizing parents and students as leaders in creating healthy school climates where children can thrive. Our new “Connect for Respect Guide for PTA Leaders” and “Connect for Respect Guide for Student Leaders” outline five-step approaches and helpful tips for improving the overall school climate and prevent bullying. This includes:

  • Building a team. Invite students, teachers, community members and parents to work together in improving school climate.
  • Assessing the current school climate.  Use the StopBullying.gov Landscape Assessment to develop benchmarks, gain a better understanding of the perspective of students, families, teachers and other school personnel, and chart progress over time.
  • Engaging the school community. Bring student and school leaders together for a discussion and brainstorm on ways to improve peer environments for students. Present the findings from your assessment, as well as share the latest research and best practices from the StopBullying.gov Training Center. Our C4R digital toolkit at PTA.org/C4R also includes ideas for organizing your event.
  • Developing an action plan. Create a plan that educates and empowers families, students and the broader community about ways to create more positive school climates full of healthy peer relationships.
  • Empowering students, families and the community. Sustain your efforts over time by continuing the dialogue with students, families and the community so that all commit to a shared responsibility for a positive school climate and healthy peer relationships.    

Parents and teachers play an important role in mentoring students to make positive changes to their school and other peer environments that result in a more supportive student experience for all. Using our revamped Connect for Respect Guides, along with the research, materials and resources from the StopBullying.gov Training Center, parents and teachers can have a profound impact on students, schools and the broader community.

Take the First Step