A 2013 estimate by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that 20–40 percent of elementary and high school students have reported being bullied or having been bullied at one point in their school lives. That was around 4 years ago. Four years past, we could only reflect on and contemplate about how serious the problem about bullying really is.
Just about 4 years ago, the numbers presented by APA are already alarming. An added cause of distress is that the survey only indicates the percentage of students who reported being bullied or having been bullied. This could lead to the presumption that there may still be a significant percentage of students who did not report or were afraid to report that they were being bullied or have been bullied. If the numbers here were gathered from almost four years ago, then chances are the numbers of bullied students today are rising.
But let us not lose heart. This serious matter has come to the awareness of our educators and school administrators even before the time this survey was conducted. Actions may have already been taken to address the prevalent problem of bullying especially in schools and classrooms.
Most of the reported incidents of bullying take place in school. This is because students spend a considerable amount of time in school, and they are frequently around and more exposed to their classmates and peers and to other students from different levels. As students spend an average of 6–8 hours in school on weekdays, the task and responsibility of guiding and monitoring the students lies on the educators, especially the teachers. What can the educators do to address the problem of bullying and the bullies?
Effectively addressing a bullying problem requires a change of the school culture. A true culture change takes time and effort. Here are a few key steps that can help educators, especially principals and teachers, address the problem of bullying.
- Assess the extent and prevalence of the problem. Educators, school staff and parents should work hand in hand to find out how much and what type of bullying is going, as well as where and when, to target prevention efforts. This can be done through a school-initiated survey.
- Develop a school-wide CoC. This is not the popular online game I am referring to. This is the Code of Conduct. Principals should develop one that reinforces school values, emphasizes good behavior and clearly defines unacceptable or bad behavior and its consequences. Teachers and especially students must undergo orientations regarding the CoC and must be trained to identify and respond to inappropriate behavior in order to help enforce the CoC.
- Increase teacher visibility and adult supervision. Most bullying happens when adults and teachers are not present. Teachers, school staff, guards (if there are), and even parents should be visible and vigilant to instances of bullying especially in hallways, stairwells, canteens or cafeterias, as well as around comfort rooms and the way to and from school for students who walk.
- Conduct bullying awareness and prevention activities. School administrators and educators should initiate activities such as school assemblies, information drives, communication campaigns or art contests highlighting school values to bring the community together and reinforce the message that bullying is wrong.
- Be good examples and practice what you preach. This requires the combined effort from the school administrator (i.e., the principal), the educators and the entire school staff. Everyone, especially the administrator, should be open to dialogues, discussions and suggestions; each should be active participants and should jointly decide on the policies or courses to pursue regarding the matter of bullying and the proper handling and reformation of bullies. All educators and persons involved must give due consideration to these matters before reaching a decision. All educators, administrators and staff must be transparent in their drafted and implemented policies and must be fair, just and consistent in implementing them. Most importantly, the educators should be dedicated and have a strong connection to their schools in order to effective and exemplary enforcers of the school’s campaigns against bullying.
There are no perfect and fool-proof guidelines for school administrators and educators. Nevertheless, this should not stop them from expending their best efforts and initiatives to address, mitigate, and ultimately, eliminate bullying. Teachers are after all dubbed as the second parents of students and the youth. They are also the molders of a growing individual’s character. That’s why it is imperative for them to ensure the development of the students by safeguarding them from developmental stumbling blocks, especially bullying.