Teachers say that training must support laws

By Leslie Tilson
Staff writer

Although many schools already have anti-bullying policies in place, many teachers find themselves searching for more effective ways to combat bullying in their classrooms. Laws alone are not enough, they say, and training would help.

Most states have school bullying policies and are adding policies against cyberbullying and hazing, but many teachers wonder how effective laws can be.

“I think that Pennsylvania’s anti-bullying laws in schools are somewhat effective, although I wish it was more straightforward and gave the consequences of certain actions so each school is on the same page,” said Lauren Sady, a first, second and third grade teacher in the Philadelphia School District. She said complicated definitions of bullying can be a problem. “The law creates more obstacles for the administration because bullying is bullying and there should not have to be a long list of criteria to go through before a child faces consequences. This may allow for more time for the student to think that he /she did no wrong, or come up with more ways to bully other children.”

Although anti-bullying laws may create some hurdles for schools, they do give the school administration some legal ground to stand on.

Steve Hudock, a sixth, seventh and eighth grade teacher in Michigan’s Van Buren Public School system,

“well, I would have to say that I do not feel that it (the law) has had a significant impact on things. Students still get picked on and we still sort things out.”

“I think that the law is important in that it gives the school something to back up the decisions and discipline actions taken against students who bully or harass others. I do not feel it has an impact on student’s actions toward one another.”

As relationships are carried on in more technologically ways, it is increasingly important for teachers and students alike to learn effective ways of dealing with bullying.

Sady said, “There was nothing specific that I learned while getting my teaching certificate that dealt with bullying, but I wish there was. I am learning more and more each day, ways to deal with different types of bullying in my classroom.

Bullying is occurring earlier and earlier in children’s lives and it is leading to more behaviors that children should not be exhibiting at all, let alone at such a young age.

Students are also afraid to tell adults about the bullying that is occurring because they are afraid to get in trouble, so they keep the issue to themselves, which may or may not lead to a bigger issue.”

Often, teachers have to rely on the administration to deal with bullying problems in their classroom, because the gravity of the situation is beyond the reaches of good classroom management.

“In a bullying situation we were taught to have a zero-tolerance policy,” said Elizabeth Nork, a chemistry education student at Purdue University. “We are supposed to immediately put a stop to any bullying and send the student to the office and let the administration deal with the issue. We talked about having a zero-tolerance policy but never went into depth as to what that means. It would be nice to dedicate more time talking about the bullying issue in schools, because I really don’t feel all that prepared to deal with it going into my student teaching.”

Preparation is key when it comes to dealing with issues and more school districts are supplementing teacher training with information on bullying. But the question remains, are teachers well enough prepared to deal with issues of severe bullying, or noticing the signs early enough to take action before the bullying turns into something bigger.

Hudock said, “I have to say that, other than making staff aware of the addressing bullying issues, I really don’t feel that there has been much effort made to help staff address the issues. I have personally subscribed to a publication called ‘Teaching Tolerance’ which has provided me with articles and materials to read and use in the classroom. But, I feel that these are things that are shared with us as a situation arises. I do not feel that any planned efforts have been made to prepare staff to deal with bullying in schools or the new law.”

The best way to combat the bullying problem is by finding a consistent solution that not only solves issues when they arise but also works to combat the issues before they grow. Hudock said that it is very hard to implement a successful set of guidelines and policies unless there is district level support for the building level decisions, and without it the changes will not be effective.

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