Bullying affects children and young adults in every U.S. state and jurisdiction. Across the nation, we’ve seen communities work together in response to this issue, investing their resources to increase bullying prevention efforts and create safer environments for youth. Whether through ongoing bullying prevention trainings for adults who work with youth using the guidance of StopBullying.gov resources, or a coalition to coordinate community efforts, local community members are laying the groundwork for successful long-term initiatives.
Data from the latest National Crime Victimization Survey are driving this effort. These data show the prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent in 2013, down 6 percentage points from 2011. While it’s promising that the needle can indeed be moved when it comes to preventing bullying, there is still work to do. No community is exempt from bullying.
In my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma we have long recognized bullying as a critical issue. In 2012, I mobilized a group of agencies and concerned individuals to discuss how we could join forces to combat bullying. However, we knew that a single meeting wasn’t enough. From this kick-off event we created the Anti-Bullying Collaboration (ABC), a group dedicated to promoting a safe, civil, and respectful community by preventing bullying among children, youth and adults.
Today, ABC is comprised of more than 30 multidisciplinary and community partners including The Parent Child Center of Tulsa, Family & Children's Services, Youth Services of Tulsa, the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice which have come together to promote a strong anti-bullying message for people in the community. We work with four school districts as well, implementing school-based prevention efforts.
Recognizing that too many youth feel unsafe in our schools, our focus for the next few years will be to better understand and improve school safety. To do this, we have three main goals:
- Reduce the number of bullying and negative social/emotional/physical incidents per year among students in Tulsa County by 25% in 5 years
- Increase sense of safety for students while at school by 20%
- Increase school attendance by 10%
In order to achieve these goals, ABC has worked hard to educate community members in Tulsa about bullying and encourage them to take action when they see it occur in their neighborhood. In just the last three years, ABC has hosted several town hall meetings, conferences and webinars, educating community members of all ages on the issue of bullying.
By cultivating a vast community-wide network and engaging multiple stakeholders, ABC has helped to spark a meaningful conversation on bullying in Tulsa – a conversation which continued during our third-annual Bullying Prevention Conference in October 2015 where educators, parents and students came together in an effort to move the needle on bullying.
To learn more about ABC and how to get involved in bullying prevention efforts in your community visit www.preventbullyingtulsa.org. Additional bullying prevention resources can be found on the StopBullying.gov Training Center.
Steve Hahn is the community education services manager at The Parent Child Center of Tulsa. He also directs the Anti-Bullying Collaboration in Tulsa, Oklahoma.