All students deserve to attend a school free of bullying, intimidation and harassment; a school that seeks to engage their strengths, enhance their assets and protective factors and provides a positive climate conducive to learning and safety.
Definitions of bullying vary, but most agree that bullying includes the intent to harm, repetition, and a power imbalance between the student targeted and the student who bullies. The harm can be verbal, physical or relational, using words or pushing or shoving or exclusion: not including someone in play or activities. Bullies and their targets are often seen by other students.
Cyber-bullying—using electronic technology, such as cell phones and social networking sites to humiliate, spread rumors, slam or be mean to someone—also can causes disruption to the learning environment and emotional pain to a child or youth’s health and spirit. A target of bullying often experiences both face-to-face bullying in addition to electronic bullying.
Research on bullying prevention indicates that to effectively reduce bullying and cyber-bullying, the entire school must be involved: adults, students and family members. Curriculum alone is not as effective in reducing bullying as a comprehensive year-round program. Bystanders—students and adults—need education and skills to help change the expectations of all members of the school to help, not hurt, each other.
A whole school approach to preventing bullying includes:
- Reaffirming relationships through developing social and emotional skills.
- Repairing relationships through facilitated and supported dialogue.
- Rebuilding relationships through intensive facilitated dialogue that includes a broad social network.
Educating students and adults about the dynamics of bullying is a key element in a whole school program. Parents and family members can help by monitoring their child’s use of electronic media.
The Minnesota Department of Education helps schools develop programming and intervention practices to address bullying and cyber-bullying, including teaching social skills and cyber literacy, building a positive school climate and repairing harm when it happens.