Anonymous tip lines, video surveillance and adult supervision are just a few of the ways your campus can combat student-on-student abuse.
In September, a 13-year-old male student in a California middle school died after a bullying attack by two classmates. Students and parents claim not enough has been done to address this issue at the school, which they say has been an ongoing problem.
Student bullying is a nationwide problem, and parents are demanding that school administrators reevaluate their campus security protocols to keep all students safe.
Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2018 from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) paints an ugly picture of bullying on U.S. K-12 campuses. About 20% of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Of the students who reported being bullied, 41% reported that they thought it would happen again. In 2017, of students who reported being bullied at school, 43% reported being bullied in the hallway or stairwell at school, 42% reported being bullied inside the classroom, 27% reported being bullied in the cafeteria and 12% in the bathroom or locker room.
Is there anything school administrators or parents can do to control this problem? There is, but it will take a real commitment to making a change.
As the former Executive Director of Security for Washington, D.C. Public Schools, I had 163 campuses, and I worked with school administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students and conducted a comprehensive risk assessment of each campus to judge its security strengths and weaknesses. Then I could make specific plans for each campus to tackle problems such as bullying.
Here’s what worked for us:
Admit You Have a Bullying Problem: To begin with, educators need to admit the situation occurs on their campuses.
Provide Training to Teachers: Teachers and staff will need training on how to spot bullying and how to handle situations when they arise.
Work With Parents: Schools must work with parents to help them understand that bullying is a severe problem and that they should talk with their children about it.
Develop Student Awareness: Similarly, students must to be made more aware of the effects that this problem can have on their classmates.
Install Security Cameras: At our district, we needed cameras installed throughout the school district, especially in the hallways, near restrooms, inside the lunchroom, and on the playground – those areas where bullying was most likely to take place. Having direct evidence is important. It’s been my experience that many parents insist their child would never bully another student. But when they are shown the video evidence, most promise to work with their child at home. The video also made it easier for us to enforce detentions and suspensions.
Ban Bullies from Extracurricular Activities: We also banned bullies from attending extracurricular events, such as dances and athletic games.
Provide Adult Supervision: Keep an adult — ideally a teacher or administrator — in the lunchroom during mealtimes, on the playgrounds during recess and in the hallways during passing periods. Most bullies are cowards and won’t act up when they know they are being watched.
Set Up an Anonymous Tip Line: Have a tip line or other means of communications (text, online, etc.) that allow students, parents, teachers, campus staff and the community to anonymously report incidents.
Empower Teachers: Teachers have concerns that if they report bullying, they might face severe repercussions. There needs to be a mechanism for teachers to share information about incidents and concerns outside of the normal reporting structure.
Students Must Feel Safe So They Can Learn
There is no reason we should continue to have kids afraid to go to school and participate fully in events. It takes planning and the will to act, but bullying can be brought under control. It takes a lot of collaboration from all individuals. Overall, at my district we were able to reduce school incidents with our comprehensive security plan.
Patrick V. Fiel Sr. is a national security advisor. He has over 40 years of experience managing security and law enforcement organizations. He can be reached at (910) 789-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.