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Appreciating Diversity and Keeping Schools Safe

Dec 19, 2016|By: Maureen Perkins, Public Health Analyst with the Health Resources and Services Administration and StopBullying.gov Ed Board member
Posted In: Specific Groups

Media coverage of social issues has a profound impact on how communities understand and address problems. Research and expert opinion suggest that certain trends in media coverage of bullying have the potential to do harm. In fact, an analysis of media articles has shown that certain elements of bullying stories are often missing key information, which can lead to misrepresentation of the facts. And, news stories may not be an indication of a trend--journalists are often reporting local incidents.

In light of recent news coverage, it is important to revisit what science has shown regarding bullying, how to prevent it, the impact it has on those who bully as well as those who are bullied, and what to do when bullying happens.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Look beyond differences in beliefs and cultures to appreciate the person.
  2. Understand how creating a healthy school climate that is safe and supportive can prevent bullying.
  3. Ensure that kids understand what bullying is and what to do if it happens.
  4. Realize that bulling doesn’t only happen in the classroom – it can happen elsewhere in the school, on the school bus, or during extracurricular activities. And cyberbullying can happen anywhere.Know which groups might be at higher risk for bullying –be aware and build protective factors to prevent bullying.
  5. Understand the warning signs that someone may be experiencing bullying.
  6. Engage school resource officers to prevent bullying and keep schools safe.
  7. Know the federal and legal obligations that school districts have to respond to harassment and bullying.

Schools throughout the United States have been integrating practices that improve school climate and reduce bullying and violence such as social emotional learning and trauma- sensitive approaches. School districts recognize the importance of building empathy and understanding at a young age.  This is something whole communities can support and reinforce with children.

While this positive cultural shift is taking place in schools across the country, there are other things schools can do to promote a safe and supportive learning environment. Classroom meetings, for example, can give kids a forum to discuss issues and concerns. Teachers can address anything that could lead to bullying or compromise safety. Classroom rules can also be reviewed as a reminder to students about what is acceptable and what is not.

For teachers, parents, or caregivers who struggle with how to start a conversation about bullying, the free KnowBullying app can be helpful. The guided conversation starters explore different aspects of a child’s life where bullying might become a concern.

And, by following suggested media guidelines, journalists can ensure that the news they are reporting on important social issues, including bullying, accurately reflects the complexity of the events. This will help ensure

Talking with children about acceptance and looking beyond the differences in others can only help in the bigger conversation of prevention. When kids appreciate the benefit that stems from learning and living in a diverse community, there is less interest in labeling what might be different or calling it out to others. It’s in that place that prevention occurs and schools stay safe.

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