Since 1999, every state has passed laws to address the problem of school bullying. Public awareness about bullying and the harm it causes has increased, and many school districts have adopted anti-bullying policies. Yet, bullying has become an even greater problem. To better understand how schools are adapting to combat bullying, let’s look at the components of a typical anti-bullying policy and highlight recent trends.
Anti-bullying and cyberbullying laws and policies differ from state to state and are adopted at the state and local level. In some cases, different schools in the same state could have different anti-bullying policies. Ideally, every school should have a written anti-bullying policy. Typical provisions include:
- A statement prohibiting bullying.
- A definition of terms.
- The procedure for reporting bullying incidents.
- The procedure for investigating bullying incidents.
- A list of responses and options available if there has been a violation of the school’s policy.
Most schools’ anti-bullying policies are posted on the school’s website. Recent trends have shown that schools are taking steps to increase awareness of these policies and to make them more accessible to parents, students, and the public at large. In addition, schools may be required to file statistical reports with the relevant school district or state agency. This may include reporting the number of bullying incidents by category, such as physical bullying, verbal bullying, and electronic communications bullying, more commonly known as cyberbullying.
Anti-bullying policies have changed over time. In addition to the basic provisions noted above, some schools encourage parental involvement to help eliminate bullying, which can include education efforts for parents and students alike.
Bullying can have a long-lasting influence on children.
When a child is bullied physically, the injury may be apparent. If a child gets a bloody nose, you can see the physical harm, but the mental harm may not be apparent. Victims of bullying can experience severe and lasting emotional harm such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Bullying has even been known to cause students to commit suicide. Incorporating provisions on victim assistance, such as counseling and treatment for mental health issues, into anti-bullying policies is becoming more common.
Preventing bullying in the first instance is the primary goal of a good policy. Unfortunately, bullying can happen no matter how many steps a school takes to prevent it. Thankfully, many school policies are progressing to require access to counseling and other mental health treatment.
How schools are dealing with cyberbullying.
Targets of bullying can now be threatened, harassed, and ridiculed 24 hours a day via text and social media. This can be a very vicious and destructive form of bullying. Schools recognize that cyberbullying causes harm to students’ academic performance and school activities’ participation and is destructive to the student body as a whole.
Even though cyberbullying might actually occur off-campus, many schools have begun adopting policies to prevent online bullying. This is because, while the bully may have uploaded the offending material outside of school, the post can still be viewed and circulated by students who are on campus.
As a result, good anti-bullying policies are being updated to address this new online threat.
In summary, anti-bullying policies serve an important role in protecting students from abuse. When a good anti-bullying policy is followed and enforced, it can make a huge difference in students’ lives.
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