The Herald Bulletin

September 4, 2013

Editorial: Schools must promote anti-bullying programs


The Herald Bulletin

---- — There are at least a dozen websites devoted to the prevention of bullying. There have been numerous such sites for nearly a decade.

So it comes as a small surprise that some Indiana school districts have not been able to get effective and comprehensive anti-bullying programs established. The information, including signs to see if your child is being bullied or is a bully and prevention suggestions, are readily available.

Apparently it takes a state mandate — as in a new definition of bullying (to include electronic or digital threats — to prompt districts to take action, and to ensure that all schools have a similar program.

As with other Hoosier districts, Anderson Community Schools is currently revamping its approach. District leaders are to compile data on bullying, assure there is a reporting and training process for students and staff, and craft age-appropriate education classes – by an Oct. 15 deadline.

It seems unfortunate that districts don’t have the most comprehensive anti-bullying programs in place – because the information is available.

Already, new Anderson High School principal Terry Thompson has taken an active role in addressing reports of bullying. This is a promising sign. No principal would do less.

Efforts must go beyond merely meeting state law.

Informational packets must reach every home, and they need to be read. The information can’t just be sent out at the start of school. The message that bullying won’t be tolerated has to be sent out routinely.

Schools can have rallies, with skits or musical presentations, to reinforce the idea that kids need to talk with their parents about school life – and every school staffer must show complete support for anti-bullying efforts.

But the true success of anti-bullying programs relies on parent-child communication.

Parents need to keep an eye out for the possibility that their child is being bullied: are they seen as different from their peers, whether they’re underweight, overweight or new to school, among other traits.

Or whether their own child is bullying others: are they aggressive, have low self-esteem or like to be in charge of others, again among other traits.

A simple way to find out is to talk about bullying. Parents should teach their children what bullying is – from on the playground to being online – and tell them that bullying is unacceptable. If a child feels he or she is being bullied, they should seek out a parent or trusted adult. And if immediately threatened, the child can show humor to deflect the situation, learn to say “stop this” confidently, or walk away.

The information is available by talking with a school official or by visiting websites, such as www.stopbullying.gov.

Bullies have been with us forever. Now, with the Internet and digital communications, bullies can find new ways to try to intimidate others.

Today is an opportune time to have that discussion with your child about bullies.

In summary School districts need to provide comprehensive anti-bullying programs and promote them year-round.