Bullying Prevention Summit: Peers Matter
What was the key takeaway from this year's Bullying Prevention Summit, hosted by the Department of Education?
It's not a revelation that we need to focus on the big picture, not just the incident. We need to be deliberate about influencing the environment and culture that allows bullying behavior to take place.
As Phil Rodkin wrote in Educational Leadership after the 2011 Bullying Prevention Summit, "Peer relationships are like oxygen that allows bullying to breathe and spread; peers can use these relationships as a cudgel, a weapon of shame against victims."
Citing "Peer Processes in Bullying: Informing Prevention and Intervention Strategies" (p. 470), Rodkin went on to say:
'Bullying is a social event in the classroom and on the playground,' with an audience of peers in almost 90 percent of observed cases. This silent, mocking audience grows exponentially, in frightening anonymity, with cyberbullying. Thus, the problem of bullying is also a problem of the unresponsive bystander, whether that bystander is a classmate who finds harassment funny, a peer who sits on the sidelines afraid to get involved, or an educator who sees bullying as just another part of growing up.
How do we solve the problem of the unresponsive bystanders? Encourage kids to speak up during the incident, and provide avenues for kids to safely object, let someone know, or respond. We should also encourage kids to speak up before and after an incident, or even if an incident doesn't occur. We must make it culturally unacceptable to bully others.
Already we're moving toward ending the culture of bullying, based on the many articles and blog posts the summit inspired:
- Be More Than a Bystander
- Complimentary Tweets Inspired a Viral Campaign Around the World
- Stop Bullying Video Challenge
- Anti-Bullying a National Priority
As the first day of the summit highlighted, we've raised the national consciousness of bullying behavior and its many consequences, and no school, educator, administrator, or even parent can declare that they are not aware of the pervasive effects that bullying can have on youth learning, growth, self-concept, and development. Now it's time to work on action—to actively make our schools the safest, most inclusive, and most educationally appropriate places for children to be.
Read Slade's reflections on the 2011 White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and 2010 Department of Education Bullying Prevention Summit.