8 Mistakes Schools Make When Confronting Bullying

Girls playing at recess
Sean Locke/Stocksy United

Despite the advances in education and training that bullying advocates have made over the years, there are still some schools that struggle to adequately address bullying. As a result, they sometimes do not address bullying in appropriate ways, or worse, fail to address it at all. When bullying is not handled effectively, the problem can escalate. The end result can impact the learning environment and create an undesirable school climate.

For this reason, school administrators and educators need to not only implement effective bullying prevention and intervention programs, but they also need to be sure the staff at their school is not engaging in cover-ups or denying bullying altogether. Here is an overview of the top eight mistakes schools make when confronting bullying.

Covering It Up

While most school administrators understand the importance of being transparent with the parents of bullying victims, there are those that fear repercussions and instead engage in a cover-up of a bullying incident. This decision is never a wise one. Not only is it unethical and irresponsible, but it puts the school at risk for litigation.

What's more, it puts the target of bullying at risk for more harm because a cover-up enables the bully and allows the bullying to continue. It is best to address bullying straight on and implement the necessary consequences for the bully.

Ignoring It

It is no secret that educators today are stretched thin. They have increasingly more responsibilities and things they must handle. As a result, it can be very tempting to ignore bullying situations especially if they appear minor or insignificant. But ignoring these minor infractions is what leads to greater infractions.

Kids are smart and realize that they are not being held accountable for their poor choices. So they continue bullying expecting to get away with it. In the end, ignoring the minor bullying incidents will eventually lead to poor school climate and major bullying issue. Make sure your school is investigating and addressing each and every bullying complaint.

Denying It Exists

Sometimes, teachers and administrators will claim that they do not see bullying at their school. But this statement is almost always false no matter what school is making the claim. Bullying happens everywhere. And while it may be mild at one school compared to what is seen on a national level, it still exists.

Assuming that bullying is not an issue simply puts the school and its students at risk. Be thankful that the bullying is not significant, but be diligent in continuing to communicate your expectations for a respectful and bully-free environment. Remember, bullying prevention still needs to be implemented to maintain the status quo.

Naming It Something Else

Too many times, teachers and administrators refrain from identifying bullying as bullying. Instead, they might label it drama or refer to a bullying incident as a fight. Remember, bullying exists when there is a power imbalance.

Just because a victim of bullying defends himself against a bully does not automatically make the situation any less abusive. What's more, it puts the responsibility for the incident on both the victim and the bully, which is inequitable. The bully needs to be held responsible for targeting the individual and for engaging in intimidating and humiliating behaviors.

Trying to Mediate the Situation

Mediation is a tactic that is used when there is a disagreement in an equitable relationship. But when bullying occurs, there is nothing equal in the relationship. Instead, there is a power imbalance. In other words, the bully has all the power and is using that to intimidate, harass and humiliate the victim. His actions are deliberate and designed to harm the victim. As a result, mediation is ineffective.

What's more, most victims of bullying are too scared to try to discuss their feelings or what they want to change in the presence of someone who bullies them. What's more, mediation makes the issue as much the victim's responsibility as it is the bully's, and that is unfair. In a bullying situation, the bully is making a choice. As a result, the bully is responsible for change—not the victim. Believing that the victim is somehow responsible for another person's choices is not only wrong, but it victimizes the target of bullying again.

Failing to Support the Victim

Once a bullying incident occurs, the target of the bullying is going to need a great deal of support from the school. This support includes checking in to see if the bullying has stopped, as well as providing a safe environment.

While every situation is different, there are a number of ways to make things safer for a victim of bullying. These include schedule changes, locker changes, mentors, early release from class and so on. It is important to do whatever it takes to make sure the victim and the bully have very little contact with one another.

The victim will also need counseling support and help with issues such as self-esteem, resilience and so on. Unfortunately, though, many schools address the bullying and then assume that the bullying has stopped and the victim is fine.

Refusing to Communicate

When a bullying incident occurs, the parents of the victim usually feel very unsettled. It is important that schools take time to not only talk with them but also listen to their concerns. And while the policy may prohibit teachers and administrators from indicating exactly the consequences the bully will face, it is important that you communicate with them about it on some level.

Additionally, it is important that schools help the parents focus on what is important and that is keeping their child safe and helping her to overcome the bullying incident. Unfortunately, many educators try to avoid these conversations instead of coming alongside the victim and her family.

Failing to Hold the Bully Accountable

Too often, administrators and teachers allow bullies to get away with too much at school. Regardless of whether it is the first incident or the 50th, bullying must have consequences each and every time. Ideally, the discipline will be graduated in nature, getting more significant each time an incident occurs. If a bully is not held accountable each and every time, it is more likely that his behavior will escalate.

Additionally, not disciplining a bully is the same as condoning his behavior. As a result, it is essential that educators always hold a bully accountable regardless of their position at school. Whether he is a good student, a star athlete or the child of a wealthy donor, if he is bullying others he needs to take responsibility for his actions.

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