April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Schools and Parents Must Stand Together in Order to Prevent Bullying

Recent statistics (Na­tional Education Associa­tion) show that one in eve­ry four kids is bullied. In fact, one out of every five kids admits to being a bul­ly or in participating in some bullying behaviors. These statistics reflect a growing epidemic affect­ing the lives of our children. Bullying has become ever more prevalent and children are frightened and confused. With bullying awareness and pre­vention policies in place, there are still so many cases of bullying. Why are the challenges of bully­ing prevention increasing instead of diminishing? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

Bullying behaviors come in various forms. The most obvious form of intimidation is physical bul­lying. These incidents are easily identifiable and are relatively easily punishable through conse­quences. Verbal bullying often accompanies the physical behavior but is often seen on its own, as well. This can include name calling, spreading ru­mors, and persistent teasing. Emotional intimida­tion is often linked to these two types of bullying. Deliberate exclusion from a group or an activi­ty is bullying. There are conflicting reasons as to why people bully and as to why people are bul­lied. Whatever those reasons, we need to work to­ward the solutions and not the reasons or excus­es in order to create a feeling of Shalom Bayit in our schools.

Prevention in Schools

Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things that schools can do to make schools safer and happier places for our children. Most signifi­cantly, policies and rules need to be created and enforced. A school culture of acceptance, toler­ance, respect, and love must be established in order to do this. In a Jewish Day School, a cen­tral goal is for students to treat each other and the school environment with respect and kind­ness. Values and behaviors that are modeled and taught in Jewish Education are connected to the Torah and are reinforced daily through secular and Judaic learning. We are taught, through Chumash, Pirkei Arvot, Parshot, literature, social studies, and character education that we need to love and pro­tect our fellow Jews. These values need to be in­stilled in our children in order for bullying behav­iors to be prevented. Students and staff members need ongoing education in identifying and pre­venting bullying. All staff members need to be trained in this area. Character education classes need to be incorporated into the class schedule. Schools must also provide workshops for parents on bullying awareness and prevention. Parents need to be on board with school policies and de­cisions. Parents also need help in learning how to navigate through the challenges that will face their children. Parents and students should sign an anti-bullying pledge. Students and parents need to know that instances of bullying will not be tolerated. The school will help both the victim and the one doing the victimizing to make posi­tive decisions.

How Can Parents Help

It is important for everyone in the commu­nity to work together to send a unified message against bullying. As parents, we are always try­ing to “figure it out”. We all want the best for our kids. As a mother, I have experienced having the child who has been bullied and the child who has bullied. Neither side is a great place to be. We feel guilt, shame, sadness, and fear in either situa­tion. We vacillate between supporting the school and protecting our own children. We worry about what others will think. As a parent and a principal, I can tell you that you are not being judged based on your child’s ability to either bully or to be bul­lied. All children (and adults) make mistakes. We make bad judgment calls. We just have to be will­ing to face the problem and we have to be willing to be a part of the solution.

If your child is being bullied, do not overreact. Some victims of bullying feel guilty or ashamed. They don’t want you to be disappointed in them. Remain calm, ask appropriate questions, and try not to let your child see that you are sad or upset. First, just listen to your child. Just talking about the problem and knowing that you care, can be help­ful and comforting. Be sure that your child feels loved and does not feel responsible for being bul­lied. Help your child to develop a language against bullying behaviors. For example, children need to learn to say things like, “You hurt my feelings and I don’t like it. Stop it right now”. Let’s empower our children to stand up to bullying behaviors and to elicit the help of a teacher or another adult that they trust.

If your child is bullying, don’t protect him or her, nor make excuses for their behavior. Bullying behaviors will escalate without parental interven­tion. Initially, trust the professionals who have wit­nessed or who have reported the bullying. Help your child develop empathy for the problems of the victim. Apply clear and consistent conse­quences for repetitive behaviors. Consider private counseling or solicit the help of the school guid­ance counselor or administrator. Be a good role model for your children at all times. Show your child how you get along with others and how you handle problems in a constructive way. Finally, I tend to think it’s a great idea to call the parents of the victim. They will want to hear from you. Let them know that you are working with your child and that you will work closely with them to ensure that bullying stops.

How Can Schools and Parents Work Together?

Educate! Teachers and parents need ongoing training and workshops about the prevention of, and the reaction to, bullying. Workshops for par­ents should be mandatory. These should be of­fered at convenient and varied times.

Parents must agree to the school policy re­garding bullying and consequences. A partner­ship between parents and teachers needs to be in place in order to maximize the success of bullying prevention.

Encourage students to be upstanders and not bystanders when they see another child being bullied or hurt. Stand up for the student directly or tell an adult. This helps!

Communicate without blame and with kind­ness.

Encourage chesed or mitzvah projects in or outside of school.

Share articles and videos about the negative effects of bullying. A school can create an online collection of resources to share with parents.

Schools need to fully investigate all instances of bullying. Parents need to exercise patience and understanding during this investigation process. Some instances are clearer cut than others.

Don’t exaggerate or undermine any reports of bullying that come to your attention. Remember that schools and parents are working towards pos­itive solutions and positive behaviors as a team.

By Jennifer Davis

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