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Educators Blamed for Underreporting

A recent article from The Lansing State Journal caught my attention. As a Michigan native, I’ve spent countless hours in Michigan schools over the last 10 years, addressing the issue of bullying.  In addition to being a youth motivational speaker and consultant, I’ve also spent several years working in classrooms and after-school programs.  These experiences have given me a behind-the-scenes look at how schools handle reports of bullying.
I believe that this is an article that paints schools in a bad light.  Like many others, it seems to blame schools for bullying getting worse, due to their lack of following laws and failure to make reports.  It’s writer assumes that the legal approach to social aggression (which has failed over the last 20 years) must be the solution.  Readers are left to assume that if schools would follow the law and file reports, bullying would decrease.  

How do Schools Respond to Bullying?

I have found that most schools respond to bullying in one of three ways…
1. They follow “old hat” anti-bullying methodology and anti-bullying laws.  While they appear to be doing things by the book, bullying increases.
2. They take a “new school” proven approach by empowering students with social and emotional skills. Many social squabbles are squashed before they become a significant issue.
3. They try a combination of the above methods and hope for the best.  Students, staff, and parents become confused and frustrated with mixed messaging.
Regardless of what schools try, they often are told that bullying is “their fault”.
– If numbers are high… it’s assumed that the school has a big bullying problem
– If numbers are low… it’s assumed that the school is not reporting, as required by policy/law.

Anti-bullying laws and reporting procedures has caused an INCREASE in bullying. Maybe it’s not the schools fault but rather the poor policies they’ve been given and a lack of resources.

A Proactive Approach to Student Conflicts

One reason that reporting may be down could be due to schools actually being more effective.  Many schools have tossed out failed anti-bullying programs, replacing them with proven methods.  The latest research shows that the best way to stop bullying and promote health among students is through social and emotional learning and resilience education.
By taking a psychological approach, school staff they are often able to resolve the problem without legal intervention. 

If a school counselor teaches a student how to resolve a squabble with a peer early on, it may not result in a bullying report.  Why?  If the mean behavior is stopped before it turns into a repeated pattern of behavior, it does not meet the definition of bullying.

I have the sincere joy of seeing effective educators and school counselors take this approach.  Their mindset is “Let’s STOP telling students just to report problems and teach them how to SOLVE problems, before they blow up”. This is true prevention.  Skills in conflict resolution, emotional coping, and handling social situations are important for youth to learn. Social aggression offers an opportunity for students to learn how to solve social conflicts.  With the guidance of a caring adult, kids can learn how to stop mean behavior quickly and easily.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is defined differently in different states, so I’ll provide the foundation of the definition, which will apply to all readers.  The word bullying, as we know it today, is defined by an imbalance of power, an intention to cause harm, and includes behavior that is repeated over time. All state laws and polices are based on this simple three-part definition.

I was surprised that one of the Lansing article’s experts incorrectly defined the word “bullying”.  This quote comes from “Glenn Stutzky, a clinical instructor of social work at Michigan State University who specializes in bullying”.  According to Stutzky ” You can be bullied in a single incident, and you can be harmed from that.”  Sorry Mr. Stuzky but your defining an isolated incident of aggression, not bullying.


For more, read my detailed article entitled “What is Bullying?”.
If we want to stop social aggression, we must ditch the B-Word.  Check out this podcast on the Toxic Word Bullying and learn how it’s making things worse.

How Do I Help a Bullied Student?

I’ve put together a special free training for adults.  In it, I share my secret sauce (and international award-winning approach) to empowering students to face adversity, grow in resilience, and solve their own social problems.  Parents learn how to raise strong kids and educators learn how to help a bullied student.  You can sign up below.

Learn the “Peace Sign Approach” to Bullying Today!

You will learn...

  • How to recognize bullying and when to intervene
  • The Peace Sign: Two social skills that stop bullying
  • The 10-minute cure that empowers students to solve social problems

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