I used to end my classes with this message to my students: Be nice to those people different than you. Since no two people are the same, the message was to be kind to every single person. I committed to this mission because of the lack of empathy toward one another I witnessed day after day and student after student.
More globally, schools are adopting anti-bullying campaigns to attack the harassment outbreak that is polluting playgrounds, classrooms, and schools. Media attention has been brought to the issue with cases like the 1999 Columbine High School shootings where the violent shooters claimed to be retaliating in response to the harassment they experienced by schoolmates.
More recently a number of youth suicides, like the death of 13-year old Megan Meier who was the prey of cyber bullying on a social networking site, have resulted. The face of bullying is extending beyond face to face altercations to include screen to screen media bullying. Bullies are using media technology like cell phones and the Internet to facilitate the harassment. In response, anti-bullying messages are being delivered to students of all ages and through a variety of methods.
The Cartoon Network, Inc. is launching an anti-bullying campaign this fall after polling their viewing audience and learning children identify bullying as a danger they are facing. The campaign will embed the anti-bullying messages in cartoons, public service ads, and online curriculum.
The US Department of Health and Human Resources (HSS) and Maternal Child and Health Bureau (MCHB) has partnered with members of a youth expert panel to launch the Stop Bullying Now! website campaign http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/to send the message “Take a Stand. Lend a Hand.” The website has a section for both students and parents to provide bullying awareness, prevention and intervention information.
As educators, we can be a part of the awareness, prevention and intervention because we are responsible for educating the victims, the abusers, and the witnesses. We are in a unique position because we have access to all parties. If we send the message that bullying is not tolerated in our classrooms, we can begin to block injurious interferences that stand in the way of student self-esteem and performance. In preparing for the start of the new school year, consider how you might construct a safe and civil environment for all learners.