With a new school year just around the corner (Sorry, kids! Whoo hoo, moms and dads!), this question may arise in the back of some parents' minds: "What is considered bullying, what is my child’s school doing about it and what should I do?" OK, that was really three questions, but they all go hand-in-hand.
After a long year of hearing about tragic bullying-induced deaths around the country and listening to real-life bullying examples from our community, Barnstable Public Schools along with the entire state of Massachusetts were tasked with creating a bullying policy, prevention strategy and discipline plan.
According to the Barnstable Public Schools Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, “Bullying is the repeated use by one or more students of written, verbal, or electronic expression (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Text Messages, etc.), or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at a target that:
1. causes physical or emotional harm to the target or damage to the target’s property;
2. places the target in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property;
3. creates a hostile environment at school for the target;
4. infringes on the rights of the target at school; or
5. materially or substantially disrupting the educational process or the orderly operation of a school.”
This also includes Cyber-bullying.
I am about to start my second school year as prevention specialist assistant at Centerville Elementary. I am also the parent of a BHS sophomore and a BIS 7th grader.
Last year, Barnstable worked hand-in-hand with Stan Davis - veteran school counselor, author of several books on bullying prevention, and co-leader of the Youth Voice Research Project - to draft a comprehensive plan for bullying prevention and intervention. The following four tips come from Mr. Davis.
How can we “bully-proof” our children?
- Know the plan. Barnstable Public Schools takes bullying very seriously. It has implemented several programs that promote positive connections between staff and students. There are also clear and concise consequences for bullying if it is determined that is what is going on.
- As a parent, spend time with your child. Talk about your day together, be there to help with homework, keep him/her involved in activities with you and your community. A child who has varied interests, who helps others through community service, who feels a part of something, is less likely to hurt someone else or be hurt by someone else. But we know it does happen, and kids, no matter how involved they are, can be hurt by other’s mean behavior.
- Make sure your child knows it’s “OK” to tell an adult. If he/she sees or is experiencing something he/she may think is bullying—tell an adult.
- Reinforce that someone else’s mean behavior is not your child’s fault.
I recently read some positive and heartening words. With school starting soon, encourage your child to smile and say “hi” to the kid who may be struggling to “fit in.” You never know what his/her life is like outside of school and a little positive attention goes a long way. Hey - your child may make a new friend!
Have a great school year!