Why School Anti-Bullying Programs Fail and What Can Be Done About It
Every elementary school is mandated to have some sort of a safety/anti-bullying program. They do. So why do we still have bullying?
Three key elements are missing from a successful safety/anti-bullying program. There is no proactive plan to esteem all children and to build emotionally strong, resilient children. Bored school morning show co-hosts deliver the school’s safety mantra daily as a memorized quote, knowing they are most likely unheard. Schools are supposed to have one guidance counselor per every 250 students. In reality, most school guidance counselors have two to three times that many. All these lead to an insufficient system of servicing the emotional/social needs of our young students.
Bullies bully because they feel jealous, inadequate and rejected. In my ten years in brick and mortar schools, I have not seen or heard of any program to directly squash these feelings. If we directly address those feelings with ALL students proactively, ALL students will be able to esteem themselves and empathize with others. Who would be left to bully?
It has been my experience that most students do not pay attention to the morning show in their schools. The sound quality is either poor or non-existent, intermittently. It does not command the attention of its audience. As well, as much as teachers try to give their students bell work to keep them quiet during the morning show, they do not have the time to enforce proper audience behavior. They are taking attendance, getting materials ready for the day, collecting lunch money, library books to be returned, permission slips for field trips, etc., etc. Their students are sharing stories from the night before and noisily emptying their backpacks, turning in homework and requesting their teacher’s attention for one thing or another. The students who host the morning show know this from firsthand experience in prior grades, so they are just reading cue cards with no actual buy in to their content. The morning show becomes nothing more than a means to avoid bell work.
To compound all this, it is commonplace for guidance counselors to hold two to three times as many students in their caseloads as mandated by law. This does not leave time for deliberate instruction in all that is on their plates. So issues like stranger danger and drug abuse seem to be the universal issues traditionally covered. The schools with active PTA’s afford bringing anti-bullying actors in to show students what bullying looks like and to remind them to “tell a grown up.” While I do believe telling a grown up is important, what about trying to show students how to avoid bullying to begin with – standing tall, being respectful to everyone, being alert to potential threatening events and going the other way?
So we do need a way to directly attract students to the subjects of jealousy, inadequacy and rejection. These are awkward topics to broach in casual conversations with classes of children. But if we are serious about ridding society of bullying, we have no choice but to broach these topics. Ideally, we would hope parents would do this for us. These topics are just as awkward for parents to bring up as well. As professionals, we sometimes play the blame game. But that would only delay action. Full anti-bullying programs are too crucial to delay.
Today there are three children’s books, for kids ages 4 to 10, to get these topics rolling in a non-threating, literature-based supplement to your established anti-bullying program. They are “The Green Tom,” “The Yellow Sea Lioness” and the “The Orange Chihuahua.” See www.kelly-ann-guglietti.com/books. Each book has age-appropriate fun literacy activity pages to promote reflection on experience with its moral. The stories can be read annually and the students can deepen their reflection and responses at every grade level.
A fourth book will come out to complete my anti-bullying series. This book will examine the make-up of a bully, his effects on others and how cooler heads win out in the end. To a more literate and compassionate tomorrow!