Actions You Can Take Right Now If a Student is Being Bullied

Educators address many nonacademic barriers to learning—and one of the biggest issues faced by students is bullying behavior. Incorporating a full-scale bully prevention program into a school is an expensive and time-consuming commitment. Fortunately, efficient and cost-effective solutions are available in Dr. Cricket Meehan’s The Right to Be Safe: Putting an End to Bullying Behavior.

In recognition of National Bullying Prevention month, we wanted to share some highlights from Dr. Meehan's book that you can use in your work with young people.

If you work in a school or youth program, you may have wondered what you can do right now to help a child who has been bullied. Dr. Meehan recommends specific actions, including the following:

  • Offer support in private to the child who has been bullied. Children often worry about “losing face” if adults rescue them in a public manner.
  • Ask the student for the facts about the bullying behavior and assure the child that the conversation will be confidential. Keep in mind that the student may find it difficult to talk about the facts.
  • Back up the student’s experience by talking to others who know the student. These people may be other students and adults who work in your building.
  • Reassure the student that the bullying behavior is not his or her fault.
  • Let the student know that you are there to support him or her. Emphasize that the student is being brave to share the facts.
  • Find out what will help the student feel safe, then help the student develop an action plan.
  • Communicate the details of the action plan to other staff members.
  • Involve the student’s parents or guardians and offer them concrete ways to be supportive.

Dr. Meehan explains that bullying behavior always involves an imbalance of power and control—and that power does not have to be in the form of physical strength. Power can come in many other forms, including social status, popularity, intellectual level, sports ability, talent, and social skills.

The Right to Be Safe also debunks many of the common myths about students who bully, including

  • Myth: Children who bully are loners. Fact: Children who bully often have large groups of friends.
  • Myth: Children bully because they want attention. Fact: Power and control are primary motivators for students who bully.
  • Myth: Children who bully have low self-esteem. Fact: These students are skilled at manipulating social relationships.
  • Myth: Bullying is just kids being kids. Fact: Abusing other people is not normal. Research shows that 60 percent of kids who bully others have at least one criminal conviction by the time they are 24 years old.
  • Myth: Only boys bully. Fact: Girls are just as likely to bully their peers. Girls are more likely to engage in relational bullying.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

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