October marks the observance of National Bullying Prevention Month, an annual campaign that brings educators, schools, and communities together to combat the damaging impact that bullying can have on students. With nearly one-third of students reporting being bullied in school and nearly half of adolescents and teens saying they have been bullied online, bullying has reached epidemic levels, especially as some studies connect bullying with suicidal thoughts.
At the first ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in 2011, President Obama discussed the scope of the bullying epidemic in schools across the country.
Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.
National Bullying Prevention Month was started in 2006 by PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention, and since its conception the National Education Association and other education-oriented organizations have partnered up to provide schools with bullying prevention tools and resources. All across the country this month, hundreds of schools and organizations are recognizing the harmful affects of bullying through collaborative programs, initiatives, and bullying prevention measures to highlight what students and educators can do to ensure safe and healthy school environments.
In a 2011 NEA member survey, 98 percent of educators agreed they play a vital role in bullying prevention.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:
NEA members across the country are stepping up and embracing their responsibility to protect students and end bullying in our schools. From teachers and bus drivers, to office staff and custodians, we are the eyes and ears in our schools, and we’re saying enough is enough. Every child deserves to learn and grow in a safe, caring environment.
Additional research suggests that all stakeholders in a school’s community must be engaged to effectively prevent bullying and ensure the school climate, the quality and character of school life, is not conducive to bullying behavior. To meet that goal, NEA will assemble researchers, policy makers, practitioners and other key education stakeholders October 8 in summit in Washington, D.C during National Bullying Prevention Month to discuss concrete ways to make our schools safer for all students.
Said Van Roekel:
This critical issue is on the minds of students, parents, educators and community members, and in the media as well. We know we have a serious problem on our hands and we are taking the next steps to create a systemic change in all our schools.
According to a 2011 NEA survey of educators:
- Teachers and support professionals report that bullying based on a student’s weight (23%), gender (20%), perceived sexual orientation (18%) or disability (12%) were of concern in their school.
- Verbal bullying (59%) is the most common form of bullying in schools, followed by social/relational (50%), physical (39%), and cyberbullying (17%).
Other studies reveal the following key facts:
- 60% of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.
In 2011, a higher percentage of students reported notifying an adult after being bullied at school than after being cyberbullied anywhere (40 vs. 26 percent).
- 31.8% of LGBTQ students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe.
- In 2011, about 28 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year.
NEA has developed a comprehensive plan to combat bullying in our schools, and more than 40,000 NEA members have taken the Bully Free: It Starts With Me Pledge. Signers receive NEA’s Bullying Prevention poster, window cling and button, and access to other free resources, such as the Bully Free Kit. All resources, tools, and training materials to help educators stop bullying behaviors and create a positive learning environment can be found at nea.org/bullyfree.
Through NEA’s online resources and on-the-ground trainings provided by NEA’s Human and Civil Rights team at the school, district, state, association and national levels, NEA members in all 50 states are making a difference.
This article originally appeared on NEA Today.