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

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 (Associate Principal, General Studies, Lubavitch on the Palisades)

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