Educating students to prevent bullying
Education is essential to preventing bullying/harassment. It will
have a much longer and deeper effect than punishment alone. Research
indicates that schools that adopt a school-wide approach to preventing
bullying with clear policies and on-going educational efforts have
reduced bullying incidents in half. The power of education is illustrated
by an exemplary curricular project designed and implemented by a
teacher and students in Michigan.
In 1998, Maria Kopicki, a teacher in Avondale Middle School in Rochester
Hills, Michigan, assigned students in her criminal law class to
identify an existing problem in their community, find out whether
an existing policy addressed that problem and determine whether
the policy was effective. A group of students in Maria's class investigated
the district's sexual harassment policy after an incident had occurred
at their school. The students had been troubled by the harassers'
failure to understand their actions as harassment, even after the
harassers had been punished. Maria's students decided to rewrite
the district policy. Complaints of sexual harassment declined significantly
after the students' revised policy was put into place, from 40 cases
reported in 1998 to just a handful in the 2001-02 school year. The
students' policy was adopted by the Michigan State Board of Education
and became a national model.
The following are some ideas that your teachers can use in their classrooms
to educate students about bullying/harassment and to empower them
to take action. Remember, open communication between teachers and
students is essential to identifying kids needing help--both targeted
students and those who bully. Teachers who know their students well
enough to recognize when they are experiencing trouble are in a strong
position to start intervention to help troubled students. Ultimately,
preventing bullying requires safe
and supportive classroom environments marked by trust, care and respect between and
among teachers and students.
- Engage students in creating classroom rules that acknowledge
the importance of respect for differences and the importance of
no put downs or name-calling.
- Schedule regular classroom meetings with students to discuss
antisocial behavior and agreed-upon rules
- Provide students opportunities to discuss bullying throughout
the year, not just following an incident. Enlist their support
in defining bullying as unacceptable behavior. Conduct a session
on current events with bullying as a topic and have students share
views and experiences. Role-playing and small/whole group analysis
of scenarios are powerful ways to engage students in thinking
about and developing the strategies to identify, intervene in and
prevent bullying and harassment. The Bullying sources and references page provides references for sample lesson plans and curricular
- Involve students in establishing classroom rules against bullying.
These rules may include a commitment from the teacher to intervene when
bullying incidents occur.
- Develop a classroom action plan so that students know what
to do when they witness a bullying incident.
- Engage students in role playing, writing, small-group discussions,
etc., that help them understand the harm caused by bullying.
- Help students form cooperative buddy or friendship partnerships
to inspire personal responsibility for students who are targets
of bullying and to discourage bullying in general. Work with other
teachers to have older students form mentor partnerships to provide
one-on-one support for new students or students who find it particularly
difficult to fit in with their peers.
- Teach cooperation by assigning lessons and projects that require
- Monitor and teach students how to monitor group dynamics so that
everyone feels safe to participate and to learn.
- Meet with families to expand their involvement both in class
and throughout school.
- Promote friendship between students who differ from each other
and between boys and girls.
- Examine the meaning of courage and lead students beyond the “superhero” image
- Examine the meaning of justice and/or fairness. Have students
discuss how these issues shape their own and others' everyday
lives. Lead students to examine notions of both rights and responsibilities
as they relate to justice and fairness.
- Incorporate activities that foster mutual understanding and
appreciation of students' cultures, ethnicities and race, and
that identify the contributions that racial and ethnic minorities,
women, gay and lesbian people and people with disabilities have
made to their communities and nation. This can include research
projects and/or invitations to guest speakers.
- Incorporate texts that acknowledge, respect and value diversity.
Acknowledge and respect the diversity of your students and engage
students in developing ways to talk about social and cultural difference
that are respectful.
- Borrow or create your own bullying curriculum. Integrate it
into civil rights, diversity, tolerance or other units.
- Use case studies to help students better understand bullying
and sexual harassment. Divide students into groups, each taking
a particular aspect of the case to discuss and present to the rest
of the class. Follow up with group discussions designed to consider
the perspectives of all those involved--victims, perpetrators
- Support and validate students' feelings about their sexuality.
Make yourself approachable or refer students to someone who is.
Educate yourself on sexuality and homophobia by reading or talking
to peers who understand these issues and can communicate with young
people about them.
- Model appropriate behavior and language. Avoid using or engaging
in language and jokes that are sexual, racist, homophobic or
that put down people because of their religion, appearance or way
Use the Planning to prevent bullying
chart to help you integrate
anti-bullying teaching and learning into your classroom curriculum.