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Dealing with bullying

Bullying is a serious problem in our nation's schools. Approximately 15% of students in the U.S. are either bullied regularly or are, themselves, bullies. This translates to approximately 5 million students. Bullying and harassment occur in almost all schools, regardless of school size, the racial composition of students and staff or setting (urban, suburban or rural). Bullying has very serious negative consequences. Victims of bullying often withdraw from school and experience physical and emotional symptoms that can extend into their adult lives. In some cases, victims of bullying turn to substance abuse and even suicide. Children who are chronic bullies appear to remain bullies as adults and are significantly more likely to be engaged in criminal activities than their non-bullying peers. If left unchecked, bullying can make schools unsafe and negative environments for both students and staff. Yet, research consistently shows that teachers and principals underestimate the amount of bullying that occurs in their school. And, more tragically, students consistently report that teachers and principals often fail to intervene or prevent bullying even when they know that it is occurring.

As a principal, you play a critical role in ensuring that all students, faculty and staff in your school are safe to learn and work. It is your job to make sure that your school has a bullying/sexual harassment policy, that the staff, students and families know what that policy is, and that they all contribute to its enforcement. Preventing bullying requires both immediate intervention to stop such incidents and long-term, on-going efforts to educate and support staff, students and families.

The following tools can help you inform and equip beginning teachers to understand, identify, respond to and prevent bullying and harassment in your school:

Forms of bullying

Consequences of bullying

Identifying bullying

Responding to bullying and harassment

Working constructively with parents

The whole-school anti-bullying approach

Bullying resources and references