WINNSBORO — Discouraging words, hurtful rumors, insults posted online or over text messages—school bullying in 2012 takes on more forms than a punch to the face or smack on the back of the head.
Fairfield County School Resource Officer Steve McDonald, who speaks to students on the subject of bullying as part of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) estimates that nationwide 60 percent of children report either being bullied or being a bully on a given school day.
“The majority of it is teasing and joking more than it is physicality,” McDonald said.
Changing the school culture is a major tool used to reduce the occurrence of bullying.
On Oct. 1, McDonald spoke at Richard Winn Academy for National Stomp Out Bullying Day. He reminded students what bullying is and what they can do about it.
At Richard Winn, Danielle Owens also helped address the topic during seventh grade enrichment time which focused on social skills development.
“As more and more people recognize that everyone is due respect that makes a difference,” said Dr. Nancy Coleman, head of school at Richard Winn. “The more people talk about bullying and learn about it, the more the efforts at prevention will help.”
Coleman said instances of bullying are not something they have to address often at Richard Winn but sometimes they do have to remind students about what is bullying and what is not.
At Fairfield Central High School, administrators refer problems with bullying to social workers with the district, according to Director of Student Services Webster Anderson.
Small group sessions for the persons bullied, and different small group intervention sessions for the bully, have been found effective.
“When students are reported for bullying, school social workers have one-on-one meetings and direct, hands-on intervention,” Anderson said.
Sessions are held at lunchtime, in enrichment time, or before or after school.
The administrators also will talk to students who have bullying problems in a small group setting.
Anderson said Fairfield County Schools find it effective to use existing local agencies and rely upon administrators who have been trained through workshops rather than using a prepackaged, purchased curriculum to address bullying.
Proactive intervention programming, such as McDonald’s speeches, often begins in the fifth grade because at that time children’s bodies are changing and a shift in social norms, such as girls wanting to socialize rather than play kickball, can lead to an uptick in bullying.
McDonald said that school officials encourage intervention at all levels to combat school bullying.
His presentations address students being unwilling to report bullying for fear of being labeled a tattletale.
“Not reporting bullying can make a student an enabler of bullying because he or she is a bystander who does nothing to stop it,” McDonald said.
McDonald said that adults must maintain of a system that has measures built in for reporting bullying.
Measures often include multiple forms of contact such as contacting teachers and staff by email, writing a note to a teacher in a journal, or a student having a place to drop off hand written messages.
Having the awareness day and the speakers is a valuable piece to promoting a safe learning environment. However, that education step must be reinforced so that it sticks with students and becomes a part of their daily routines.
Repeating the seminars and mentioning the topics covered repeatedly are needed to help the concepts stick just as reviewing mathematics or English would help enable learning.
Students have a positive role to play, and it is one that is crucial to the problem of school bullying.
“If you are in a situation that looks like bullying or if you see or hear of something that might be considered bullying,” Coleman said. “We want students to know that they have a responsibility to help out in some way, such as finding an adult they can trust and getting help.”
Doing so helps enable a culture of respect which can promote academic and civic achievement throughout Fairfield County as young people use the social laboratory that is a school setting to become leaders and team members.