October is Bully Free month. As it comes to a close, here are five ways to help ensure a positive school climate and reduce incidents of bullying, bias and harassment all year long.
1. Take the pledge: Safe learning environments for every student
Schools should be havens. But too many of our students are scared, anxious, and feeling threatened. Students and educators around the country are encountering hostile, hateful environments in their schools and communities, including fake deportation notices being handed out, nooses, racist graffiti, and swastikas drawn in bathrooms. We are being flooded with reports of hate speech and images directed at students.
There is no place for this in our schools. Every student deserves a safe, welcoming, and affirming learning environment.
Will you stand up and speak up for your students, so that they all have a safe and affirming learning environment?
Sign the pledge now >
2. Raise awareness & be the caring adult
Bullying can happen everywhere – on school buses, in the cafeteria or restroom, in school hallways, via text or social media, and more. Help raise awareness about the prevalence of bullying and the many contexts in which it can occur by sharing this graphic on social media, and/or your local’s web site. Right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) to download the image below.
3. Involve the entire school team
Creating a positive school climate requires a team of educators willing to work together to make change. But it’s critical that this team reach beyond classroom teachers to impact school climate and gauge if your efforts are working. Many bullies refrain from aggressive behavior and verbal or physical intimidation in the actual classroom, and instead seek out targets in other locations on a school campus, before or after school, or in between classes.
Education support professionals, including bus drivers, clerical and administrative staff, custodial staff, food service workers, health professionals, paraeducators and others are often the frontline eyes-and-ears of the school, They can play critical roles in identifying bullying, intervening in a bullying incident, and advocating for bullied students.
Learn more about how you can be a school climate leader and take action with NEA’s Toolkit for Education Support Professionals.
4. Deepen your practice and responses to incidents of bullying, bias and hate
Fostering a positive school climate in your school community can go a long way toward reducing bullying and creating an environment where all students feel safe and welcome.
Bay Area social studies teacher Fakhra Shah aims to prevent bullying by teaching respect and inclusion. She uses restorative practices and other techniques learned through her peer resources program, encourages varied student perspectives, and creates a warm and supportive environment where all students feel accepted. Check out this series of short video excerpts from our NEA interview with Shah, where she shares practical tips to improve the school climate in your school community.
Learn more about strategies for responding to biased remarks, and how to have effective conversations with students about race and other important topics via the three-part webinar series that NEA hosted with Teaching Tolerance:
- Responding to Hate and Bias at School
- Speak Up at School
- Let’s Talk! Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics with Students
5. Support students most targeted by bullying and bias
Students of color, immigrants, Muslim students, LGBTQ students, students with disabilities – and any other category of students perceived to be “different” by bullies – tend to be most often targeted by hurtful actions or by words that reflect racial bias or other intolerance. Incidents of bullying, hate and bias at school erode the fabric of the entire community and require of us a community wide response.
Below are just a few of the ways educators are standing with students most targeted by bullying by making change in their schools and taking action in their communities:
- Student-led movement leads to Implementation of MD school district’s first-ever comprehensive transgender rights policy
- What do you say to ‘That’s so gay’ and other anti-LGBTG comments?
- “Time to move. Trump won and is coming for you.” Educators create safe spaces to listen, learn, & advocate for students
- Islamophobia lesson outline — Fakhra Shah
- Islamophobia presentation/lesson PowerPoint – Fakhra Shah