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There are a number of things on the minds of students, families, and teachers as summer draws to a close: school supplies, lesson plans, and, for many, bullying. The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) survey results for students in grades 9 through 12 found that almost 16% of students were bullied electronically, and more than 20% were bullied on school property in 2015 (Kann, McManus, Harris, Shanklin, et al., 2016). According to a survey by the National Education Association, students are often bullied as a result of their weight, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status (Bradshaw, Waasdorp, O’Brennan, & Gulemetova, 2011). While some students are more at-risk of being bullied than others, however, all members of the school community are affected by it (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), n.d.) and everyone from teachers to students to families play a role in preventing it (Cohen & Freiberg, 2013; HHS, n.d.).
In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the importance of promoting tolerance in schools and offered suggestions on how to do so, such as teaching students to value diversity and creating opportunities for students to learn about different. Building empathy is also a great way to increase tolerance and combat bullying in schools (Bazelon, 2013). When students have empathy, they are better able to understand what situations are like for others (Crowley & Saide, 2016; Taran, 2013) and are therefore better equipped to develop positive relationships (Taran, 2013). Empathy allows individuals to take the perspective of others despite differences (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, n.d.), a skill that is useful in creating positive learning environment and in life outside of school (Committee for Children, 2016). Empathy can also help students be a good bystander by stepping in when they feel others are being bullied (Machackova & Pfetsch, 2016; van Noorden, Haselager, Cillessen, & Bukowski, 2015)
Bazelon, E. (2013). Sticks and Stones: Defeating the culture of bullying and rediscovering the power of character and empathy. New York: Random House..
Bradshaw, C. P., Waasdorp, T. E., O’Brennan, L. M., & Gulemetova, M. (2011). Findings from the National Education Association’s Nationwide Study of Bullying: Teachers’ and Education Support Professionals’ perspectives. National Education Association. Retrieved from https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2010_Survey.pdf.
Cohen, J., & Freiberg, J. A. (2013). School climate and bullying prevention. Retrieved from http://www.schoolclimate.org/publications/documents/sc-brief-bully-preve....
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (n.d.). Social and emotional learning core competencies. Retrieved from http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/core-competencies/.
Committee for Children. (2016). How social-emotional learning helps children succeed in school, the workplace, and life.
Crowley, B., & Saide, B. (2016). Building empathy in classrooms and schools. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2016/01/20/building-empathy-in-classro....
Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., et al. (2016). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016; 65(No. SS-6):10. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf.
Machackova, H., & Pfetsch, J. (2016). Bystanders’ responses to offline bullying and cyberbullying: The role of empathy and normative beliefs about aggression. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 57, 169-176. doi:10.1111/sjop.12277.
Taran, R. (2013). Building social and emotional skills in elementary students: Empathy. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/project-happiness-empathy-randy-taran.
U.S. Department of Education. (2015). December 31, 2015 Dear Colleague Letter. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/151231.html.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Effects of bullying. Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Considerations for specific groups. Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/index.html.
van Noorden, T. H. J., Haselager, G. J. T., Cillessen, A. H. N., & Bukowski, W. M. (2015). Empathy and involvement in bullying in children and adolescents: A systemic Review. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44, 637-657. doi:10.1007/s10964-014-0135-6.
Learn more about bullying and cyberbullying and how to prevent it here:
- Office for Civil Rights Checklist for a Comprehensive Approach to Addressing Harassment
- U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Bullying
- U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Tolerance
- U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students
- U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Preventing Bullying of Students with Disabilities
- Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-Inclusive School Climate. A Teaching Tolerance Guide for School Leaders
- Build a Safe Environment
- Teaching Social Skills to Prevent Bullying in Young Children
Check out these training toolkits from the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments:
- Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment in Our Nation's Classrooms
- Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment on Our Nation's School Buses
Learn more about ways to support youth who are at a higher risk for bullying or discrimination:
- Muslim youth
- Students with disabilities
- Transgender youth