Creating a Safer & Bully-Free School Environment

During our Superintendent Professional Development Day we learned about the ways we can create a safer & bully-free school environment.  An interesting fact I learned during the seminar is that 1/3 of a student’s brain will actually shut down when they are upset or bothered by an instance of bullying.  This astounding fact deeply upset me and drove home the idea that, as educators we must determine a way to create a safer learning environment for our students.  Teaching students at an early age the importance of cultural diversity is monumental to preventing instances of bullying and promoting a safe school environment.

The New York Dignity for All Students Act was signed into law on September 13, 2012 and states the following:

Image retrieved from MicrosoftWord.

The Dignity Act seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.

Of course it is easy to just say this is what needs to happen, but two key elements we focused on during the seminar today were critically thinking about 1) What resources do teachers and administrators need in order to implement anti-bullying and safe school environments? and 2) What will I implement tomorrow to begin this change?

We must begin to actively take a stance against bullying and harassment.  Even more, we must recognize those students who may not be bullied, who may not be the lowest performing student in the class, or who aren’t even the highest performing student in the class.  We must also learn to identify those students who “fall through the cracks”.  Who are we missing? 

An interesting activity Bob Falle, the Senior Trainer for Community Matters, offered to our staff was creating a wall identifying every student within the school.  This should be hung in a private place where only personnel staff has access.  On that wall, each teacher should make a check next to all the students he or she knows.  By doing so, the staff can visually see which students are falling through those cracks.  Who is not being recognized?  Why? 

Once the staff determines who these children are, take the time to say hello to these students in the hallway…strike up a conversation.  According to research, every child, in addition to their parents, needs at least three adult figures in their lives in order to significantly decrease their chances of substance abuse and noncompliance as they get older.  A simple “hello” can be that major difference we make in a student’s life.  For more information on Community Matters click here.

Ms. Vince

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