The Kansas State Department of Education has declared the first week of October as Anti-Bullying Week (Oct. 3–7). Students and adults are encouraged to say something if they see something or hear something of concern related to school violence, student self-harm, acts of bullying or suspicious activities.
Bullying is the most common of these concerns. It exists in our society, places of work and our schools. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2019, about 22 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied. U.S. News and World Report (2017) indicated that 31 percent of respondents indicated they have experienced being bullied as adults. Considering the increase in anti-social behaviors since the pandemic, I would expect these statistics to be elevated.
The organization “Safe Schools” defines bullying as: a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behavior directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.
One of the keys to fight against bullying is to encourage students to be leaders against bullying, especially when they find themselves as “bystanders.” Bystanders are the individual(s) that are not the bully or the victim in a situation, but are those on the periphery who are able to intervene or report so that authorities can intervene. The bystanders during a bullying situation are the ones with the power to help.
It is the responsibility of all to create cultures that promote positive interactions. We educate and encourage USD 113 employees to be vigilant and address bullying. Unfortunately, we will not stop all bullying. The majority of bullying behaviors are subtle and difficult to detect.
In an effort to help identify and stop bullying, a link is provided on the district website to anonymously report bullying. Each report made is read and investigated by administration. Students and parents are encouraged to report incidents of bullying in-person, but if this is not a desirable option, the anonymous reporting feature gives hesitant individuals an opportunity to share information.
Bullying is a very real issue for students as well as adults. Anti-Bullying Awareness Week is Oct. 3–7. By promoting positive leadership behaviors with our children as well as with adults, we can make a difference.