Bullying awareness and prevention is a top priority for school and community leaders, but who should lead efforts to stop bullying? Parents? Teachers? Concerned citizens? Elected officials? The answer is - all of the above. With a collaborative approach, communities can make a stand by taking unified action and demonstrating to kids that grown-ups will not tolerate bullying no matter where it occurs.
Like other community problems, bullying is discussed frequently among InCommons contributors. The InCommons website has a variety of resources and perspectives related to bullying, to help community leaders, organizers and connectors identify and implement best practices for prevention.
Even though the majority of bullying incidents take place on school grounds during school hours, parents and kids know that bullying doesn't cease at the doors to the school. It exists at school bus stops, community parks, summer camps, neighborhoods, shopping malls, churches, and anywhere young people gather.
Community support and involvement are critical components of anti-bullying initiatives, building on an understanding that the more kids see anti-bullying messages from a variety of sources, the more comfortable they will feel when reporting bullying to a trusted adult. InCommons contributor Leah Lundquist has shared several different resources for parents looking to combat bullying in their communities, using the proven effective models for addressing the issue in schools, neighborhoods, sports, etc.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is perhaps the best example of an anti-bullying initiative inspired by more than 30 years of collaboration with schools, students, psychologists, parents and other community leaders. The program - a set of leadership and reference materials that support system-wide change in policies and processes - marries its best school-based practices with an underpinning of support from tough state and local laws, public awareness initiatives and community engagement tactics.
The program's founder, Dr. Dan Olweus is a research professor of psychology from Norway who is widely considered a pioneer in bullying research. Through extensive quantitative and qualitative research beginning in the 1970s, Dr. Olweus found that community support systems - such as police, clergy, business leaders and service organizations - are important and effective messengers for anti-bullying initiatives.
Since the Olweus Program is not a rigid curriculum (it more closely resembles a leadership guide, with accompanying resources), it's ideal for initiating a community discussion or creating an anti-bullying action plan. It's also flexible enough to inspire a wide range of interpretive activities - this Asheville, N.C. charter school created an art contest adapted from the program, while the state of Ohio is using an adapted version of the program to inform a statewide anti-bullying initiative in its juvenile justice system.
Other communities are developing their own unique solutions to address bullying, independent of a specific framework like Olweus. One InCommons Challenge participant shared how her community elevated its anti-bullying dialogue by enlisting the help of teachers and administrators, bus drivers, police and city personnel, parents, students, the media, local political figures and community volunteers. This homegrown program featured branded bracelets, t-shirts and a memorable tagline - "Don't Stand By - Stand Up."
What is your community doing to address bullying among school-aged children? Please share your best practices with us, so others may benefit from your experience and understanding of this crucially important issue.