Can rules stop bullying?

By Leslie Tilson
Staff writer

With each new tragedy, schools react by looking for effective ways to raise awareness and combat bullying within the walls of schools. Some schools implement new policy, but others are left wondering if that is the most effective course of action.
Many schools are implementing school-run programs and seeing results.

One such program is K.A.R.M.A, an initiative to end bullying in schools, founded by Jessica Brookshire, a contestant in the 2009 Miss Alabama pagent. K.A.R.M.A stands for Kids Against Ridicule, Meanness and Aggression. Brookshire says that her program began as a grassroots effort in Alabama schools and it is now her “dream that one day we will see a generation of children who encourage and help one another rather than tear each other down with words.”

Part of the program includes Brookshire educating students on how to ‘stand S.T.R.O.N.G.’ against bullies. Participants sign a pledge card stating that they will take action if they are a target witness of bullying. The acronym S.T.R.O.N.G stands for:

Say something.
Tell an adult.
Respect the feelings of others.
Offer a helping hand if you see someone in need.
Never use your words to hurt others.
Give your best every day.

For some schools, bringing in outside programs may be too costly, but many teacher education publications are now bringing up bullying issues and solutions in their content.

Steve Hudock, a sixth and seventh grade teacher from North Middle School in Belleville, Mich. said, “Administrators sometimes provided supplementary reading, discussions at faculty meetings and support through the office by allowing students to be referred to a counselor or administrator. Our middle school has used a variety of approaches but hasn’t been consistent with any one activity or process for handling bullying. By training all students to react to bullies and not tolerate the behavior, we can begin to change attitude and not tolerate the behavior.”

One example of the supplementary reading material is ‘Teaching Tolerance,’ a magazine devoted to presenting news and support for teachers who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect in their classrooms. The magazine has published a wealth of information for teachers as well as age appropriate material like quizzes, videos and tips for use in the classroom.

On the international level, Dr. Dan Olweus has developed a program that has made its debut in schools around the world: The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Olweus is a professor of psychology from Norway who is invested in protecting human rights. His research has shown that bullying is a serious problem in schools and it can affect the entire atmosphere of a classroom or school, not just the lives of those being bullied.

Olweus said, “It is a prevalent problem in most schools that must be addressed in a systematic way.” He said his Olweus Bullying Prevention Program “is a comprehensive school wide program to prevent and reduce bullying behavior in schools. It works at four levels, the school level, the classroom level, the individual level and also the community level.”

The key to having an effective anti-bullying program is to engage the students and keep them active in stopping bullying. When students feel invested in a program, as opposed to required to follow it because of rules, they are more likely to take action against bullying.

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