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Bullying Prevention Month: Creating a Climate of Acceptance

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Girl who was bullied sitting alone, her hair hanging over her face and pulled-in knees.Bullying Prevention Month reminds us that actions taken by parents, educators and students can curb the pervading problem. 

“When you have a culture where bullying is not acceptable, incidents of bullying are greatly reduced,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. “Schools must be safe places where people’s differences are accepted.”

One in five students reports being bullied. Most instances still occur at school — especially in middle school — and on school buses. However, smartphones, social media, and gaming apps have extended its reach. Shame prevents some students from reporting being bullied.

Research shows the antidote to bullying is engagement: when students who witness bullying take some action, becoming upstanders, the incident is often diffused, said Beth Jacobson, director of Community Response and Education at NewBridge Services. More than half of bullying situations end when a peer intervenes, according the National Bullying Prevention Center.

What Constitutes Bullying?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as “as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.” Forms include:

  • Physical (e.g., hitting, kicking, spitting)
  • Verbal (e.g., name-calling and taunting)
  • Social (e.g., spreading rumors, excluding)
  • Cyberbullying (i.e., using digital technology to bully)
  • Property damage 

NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

The 2011 law defines harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) as:

  • Any gesture, written, verbal, or physical act or electronic communication that takes place on school property, at a school sponsored function or school bus. Electronic communication means a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including but not limited to a telephone, cellular phone and computer or remotely activated paging device. 
  • Incidents of HIB including cyber-bullying that occur away from school grounds may also be included if they endanger the safety of students or staff.
  • Motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or mental, physical or sensory disability or any other distinguishing characteristic.
  • When a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, that the act will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming the pupil or damaging his/her property, placing the pupil in reasonable fear of harm to his/her person or personal property.
  • Insulting or demeaning any pupil or group of pupils in such as way as to cause substantial disruption in or substantial interference with the orderly operation of the school.
  • When any behaviors associated with sexual conduct, as defined by the Office of Civil Rights, are sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive so that they interfere with student/school performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive school environment, these behaviors become sexual harassment.
  • Also, a pupil exercising power and control over another pupil, either in isolated incidents or patterns of HIB behavior.

Warning Signs

Bullying can leave serious emotional scars that can impact individuals into adulthood. Children who bully also are affected: studies show that children who bully are more likely as adults to have trouble keeping a job and maintaining relationships, and are more prone to addiction. Bullying also has been found to have negative consequences for children who witness an incident but do nothing to stop it.

Here are warning signs from StopBullying.gov that indicate a child is being bullied, and others that a child may be doing the bullying:

Being bullied:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Bullying:

  • Gets into physical or verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Shows increasingly aggressiveness
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Has unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blames others for their problems
  • Doesn’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Worries about their reputation or popularity

Advice for Children

  • Treat everyone with respect. Stop yourself from saying or doing something that could hurt someone. And if you think you’ve ever bullied someone, say you’re sorry.
  • If you’re being bullied, look at the person who’s doing it and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. If you can’t, walk away. Talk to a trusted adult, who can help you make a plan to stop the bullying. Staying near adults and other kids can help you avoid bullying situations.
  • Stay safe online. Think about what you post, knowing someone could forward it. Don’t share anything that could hurt or embarrass someone. Don’t share passwords with friends or other classmates (but do share with your parents!) Check your security settings to ensure only the people you want to see your posts see them. If you get a message or see a post that alarms you, talk to a trusted adult.
  • Stand up for other kids. If you see bullying, let an adult know. Reach out to the person who was bullied so they know they are not alone.

Resiliency Training

NewBridge offers bullying prevention and resiliency trainings at schools to help students understand what bullying is and how to help someone subjected to it. The training teaches children ways to handle bullying and deal with conflict, and educators about creating a safe environment. Students learn coping skills and approaches to building self-image so they are less susceptible to other people’s opinions. Children learn to react non-emotionally to hurtful words and to take power away from a student who is bullying by not engaging him. 

NewBridge also runs programs for parents to let them know what the latest threats are and how best to cope with them. Studies have shown that parents discussing bullying with their children and modeling kindness and respect can help prevent bullying.

For more information about in-school program provided by NewBridge, contact Jacobson at (973) 686-2228 or ejacobson@newbridge.org.

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