Towards a Bully-Free Culture
“Bullying exists when an environment supports it. A culture is a collective agreement about what behaviors are accepted, expected, or considered normal…School, community, and family cultures overlap.” (p. 102)
This chapter helps parents understand how bullying prevention works in schools, where their children spend their days. It identifies how different bullying programs operate within “the three tiers of prevention” and explores anti-bullying policies. Finally, it shows how building a culture of respect is the solution.
“There are three tiers to prevention that, when understood by families and society, can save a lot of ‘tears’ down the road.” (p. 102) The primary prevention examples given in this book are OBPP, Harlem Children’s Zone’s Baby College, Tribes, Safe & Caring Schools, Squash Circles, Roots of Empathy, Reading Buddies, school clubs and enrichment, and community programs like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Secondary prevention examples are Bully Guards, Safe School Ambassadors, Trauma-Sensitive Schools, and the tertiary example is Restorative Justice. (See more resources on our School Programs page.)
Q: Do you now understand the difference between the three tiers? Have you seen any of these programs in action? Have you seen others? What about programs like Squash Circles that were made up by teachers? Give examples of the three tiers of prevention in your community or school culture. Perhaps attention to one or more tiers is missing. This identifies where anti-bullying work needs to be done. You can approach school staff using this language and ideas from these programs.
“Dan Olweus…his work has played a key role in the mindshift occurring in many countries—from seeing bullying as a natural part of school life to seeing it as a solvable social issue.” (p. 104)
Q: Have you seen this shift occurring as you have grown up? Where is your school, family, or community in this process? Is bullying still seen as ‘natural?’
“If your school does have an bullying policy, read it and…find out if it is effective.” “The ideal school is a place where all teachers see all students as ‘my students.'” (p. 114) and “Unbalanced power relationships are the cornerstone of bullying.” (115)
Q: How do teachers interact with students, and with each other, at your school? Do you know who the counselors are in your child’s school? Have you talked to teachers or the principal about your school’s anti-bullying strategies? Is the staff unified on procedures? Do adults use good manners with each other? Are there expectations of respect? Is there a culture of respect?
“Children who learn assertiveness skills in elementary school enter middle school less likely to be bullies, victims, or passive bystanders.”
Q: What did you think about the misconceptions of respect? Did they surprise/inspire you?
Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?
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