School Climate Key to Preventing Bullying

To effectively prevent bullying schools need to understand positive school climate, use reliable measures to evaluate school climate and use effective prevention and intervention programs to improve the climate, a recent paper co-authored by a University of California, Riverside assistant professor found.

They found that positive relationships among students and teachers, and negative attitudes toward inappropriate behavior such as bullying are key elements of a positive school climate.

To create a positive school climate, school personnel need to promote and model appropriate attitudes and behaviors, such as caring, empathy, and appropriate interactions among and between teachers and students.

To foster attitudes against bullying, in addition to promoting knowledge and awareness of bullying, teachers need to take reports of any bullying incident seriously and intervene consistently according to school rules instead of ignoring or minimizing bullying behavior.

Adult behavior is also critical foundation for a healthy school climate. Adults should refrain from bullying students and other adults at school. In addition, teachers need to incorporate school climate interventions into the curriculum and use teachable moments to openly discuss topics related to bullying, such as popularity, power and social ostracism.[emphasis mine]

In contrast to studies which found school anti-bullying programs ineffective, Cixin Wang, Brandi Berry and Susan M. Swearer  have found an effective school strategy.

Part of the problem, in my view, is the unspoken pressure on teachers to turn away from empathy and caring in order to maintain discipline. Having group process training, I worked hard to treat students with empathy and respect. It's extraordinarily difficult. Students who aren't college bound tend to perceive authority based on respect for them and concern for their self-esteem as weakness.

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Once I asked advice of a professional psychologist with whom I was taking counseling for this stress. He recounted how he successfully controlled students by joking about throwing a blanket over them and beating them with fists. In my experience, most high school teachers unconsciously intimidate in order to maintain classroom authority, and they are the ones admired as successful. They're the ones who enjoy teaching and don't find it stressful. Music and art teachers may be an exception.

Which reminds me of an article on the psychology of terrorism. It described how rebels, insurgents, who tortured and enjoyed torturing civilians had reduced stress levels. It was a coping mechanism for their own feelings of helplessness and despair. It made them feel in control, strong, powerful.

Modeling appropriate behaviors and attitudes while you must control a large group of "imprisoned" teenagers is far from easy.

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Replies to This Discussion

Ruth, I recently became a member of a county Commission on Aging and have found that state (Calif.) law prohibits and punishes only school bullying. Many LGBT students had been bullied before parents sued school districts and courts ordered the districts to pay large sums for doing nothing to stop the bullying.

There is no law that prohibits bullying seniors and the Commission has been successful in other efforts to protect seniors. I obtained a copy of the school law and hope to persuade the Commission to adapt it to seniors (and dependent adults) and ask the County to lobby the Legislature to act.




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