How to Deal With a Classroom Bully
StopBullying.gov reports that 30 percent of school-age youth either engage in or are the victims of some form of bullying. With an increasing number of students having access to cell phones, cyber bullying has become a growing problem as well.
Here are six strategies teachers can use to deal with bullies:
1. Zero Tolerance Policy
It’s important to set the standard that bullying will not take place in your classroom. Make sure there is a zero-tolerance policy and explain to your students what that means. “If there are reports of bullying, take each case seriously and make sure this behavior is not tolerated in your classroom,” says Aija Mayrock, author of “The Survival Guide to Bullying." Mayrock knows first-hand what it's like to be bullied because she was bullied in middle school and high school. The 21-year-old anti-bullying activist has worked with thousands of students and teachers nationwide to combat bullying.
2. Speak to Students
Sometimes it’s hard to determine who is the bully, the individual being bullied, or the bystander. Many times one student can be all three. Speak with students individually to get a better idea of what is happening without accusing or blaming any particular side. "Ask questions, gather information, and hear all parties,” Mayrock says. “No matter what part of the cycle a student might be in, it can be scary to open up to a teacher, so it’s your job to make all sides feel welcome to communicating.”
3. Bullying During Class
If bullying occurs during your class, stop and address it immediately, without embarrassing either student. Discuss the situation with the class as a whole and find a joint solution. “Make sure no child feels like you are a bystander to their struggles," Mayrock says. "Following up after class is great, too, but the bullying scenario should be tackled at both ends."
4. Establish Boundaries
It's important to establish classroom boundaries and repercussions for bullies with the assistance of school administrators, counselors, teachers, and the students involved, according to Jodi J. De Luca, a licensed clinical psychologist at Erie Colorado Counseling. She says if the bullying subsides, make sure to acknowledge the student for his or her positive efforts.
5. Anti-Bullying Outreach
Have bullies meet regularly with a school counselor, psychologist, or anti-bullying therapy group to better understand how their behavior is impacting others.
6. Cyber Bullying
National educator Signe Whitson wrote a list of 10 strategies for stopping cyber bullying. She notes that "a young person’s instinct in a cyberbullying incident may be to retaliate — to return the insults, post equally lewd photos or spread vengeful rumors." She said teachers must "teach [students] never to give in to this temptation." She also recommends that victims log off and block harassers, use privacy settings. and take screen shots that can be sent to authorities.
Bullying should be taken seriously and not brushed off as something kids have to "tough out." In severe cases, bullying can have long-term side effects that include mental health problems, substance abuse, and suicide. Parents can help prevent bullying by having open lines of communications with their children and encouraging them to report any incidents.