Can Schools Do It?

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Here is another article by Liz Goodwin from Yahoo News:

Can schools ‘eliminate’ bullying, as education secretary says they must?

By Liz Goodwin   – Wed Oct 27, 4:02 pm ET

The Obama administration is urging schools to combat bullying after the high-profile suicides of several youths who were facing harassment at school, some of them for being gay or being perceived as gay.

Parents in dozens of school districts, including in Minnesota and New Jersey, have been demanding over the past few months that schools do more to address bullying. Gay rights activists have asked for legislation to classify anti-gay harassment in schools as a federal crime.

A national study released Tuesday found that half of all high-schoolers admitted having bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half said they had been victims of bullying.

“Simply put, we think in this country, bullying should not exist,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters Tuesday. “We need to work together as fast as we can to eliminate this issue. This has been–tragically–a huge wake-up call for the nation.”

Duncan and Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, say that if teachers don’t intervene and stop bullying, in “extreme” cases, schools will face prosecution from the Justice Department or lose their federal funding. The Education Department also warned teachers and administrators in a 10-page letter this week (PDF) that they must stop gender- and race-based harassment under existing civil rights laws. That includes cases where students are harassed for not hewing to gender norms, they say.

“They are charged with stopping it, with fixing the problem, and with preventing it so it never happens again,” Ali said.

“Are we putting people on notice?” Duncan asked. “I think the answer is yes.”

But is it possible for schools to “eliminate” bullying?

According to Tracy Vaillancourt, a professor at the University of Ottawa who researches bullying prevention, the answer is no. “I don’t think it’s feasible,” she said. “I don’t think you’ll ever eradicate bullying and harassment.”

But that doesn’t mean, Vaillancourt says, that Duncan and other education leaders aren’t right to try.

“If you want to really reduce bullying, you need a cultural shift, and a cultural shift means attending to it in after-school programs, in sporting events, in our homes,” she said. “It can’t just be dealt with in one context, though it is a great first step, since the bulk of bullying takes place in schools.”

Vaillancourt said the best way for schools to eradicate bullying is via full-scale school interventions that involve more supervision from teachers in hallways and cafeterias and on playgrounds, where much of the harassment takes place. “If teachers don’t buy in, it’s not going to work,” she said.

The Education Department has increased by 12 percent, to $410 million, funding for its Safe Schools initiative next year, which includes anti-violence programs as well as drug-prevention and mental health services.

More than 40 states have laws that specifically outlaw bullying in schools, though the federal government does not.

But Vaillancourt said effective anti-bullying measures don’t need to be expensive–they just need to be comprehensive. Norway, for example, succeeded in bringing school bullying down 50 percent with a national anti-bullying campaign after a number of bullied teens committed suicide in the 1980s. (Several schools in the United States have voluntarily implemented the same program.)

“Everywhere that a child turned, they were getting the same message and reading from the same script,” Vaillancourt said. She points out that such culture-wide campaigns can be more successful than ones confined to the schools, since cyber-bullying is now a major source of harassment, and doesn’t usually occur within school walls.

Ken Trump, a longtime school safety consultant, also says he thinks the Obama administration should be focusing less on warning school districts about federal civil rights laws and more on changing the culture that fosters bullying.

“It’s very questionable as to whether or not an overreaching federal civil rights investigator coming into the principal’s office will have any meaningful impact on school bullying and school climate,” he said. “An increase in federal civil rights complaints is going to force school districts to take what limited resources they have now to beef up their law departments,” instead of on anti-bullying programming.

But Dawn Hiltner, a spokeswoman for New Jersey’s largest teachers union, tells The Upshot that the union supports state legislation to mandate that teachers be trained in anti-bullying strategies and be held accountable for their failure to report bullying incidents. The state is still reeling from the suicide of a Rutgers college student whose sexual encounter with another man was apparently broadcast online by a roommate. “Anything we can do to make our classrooms safer, we support,” Hiltner said.

Obama domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes said Tuesday that the White House would hold a conference about battling bullying early next year.

(Source:  Yahoo News)

Take the first step to stop bullying and share this information with your loved ones and if you have little ones remember that the future may be better if we start taking care of this now.

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