Stop bullies with climate of respect, says expert
Apr 04, 2013
MISSISSAUGA — You can’t stop bullying with police and more equipment, you have to change the climate of the school.
That was the message John Linney, co-author of Safe Schools Ambassadors: Harnessing Student Power to Stop Bullying and Violence, shared with parents and teachers at Peel District School Board’s HJA Brown Education Centre Wednesday night.
“The problem of bullying is getting younger and meaner,” said Linney, who has spoken about the topic at more than 400 schools in North America. “Girls are now more likely to physically fight back, and there’s the cyber aspect. Bullying is harder for adults to see, and it’s tougher on kids than it used to be.”
Studies have shown that 95 per cent of bullying activity isn’t spotted by teachers or supervising adults, he said, even when it’s happening in front of them. Those who are bullied over years often suffer from low self-esteem, depression and, in some cases, suicide.
The bullies themselves also face a grim statistic: About 20 per cent of those who bully from the primary grades and through to high school end up with a criminal record, Linney said. For males it’s usually a record of spousal abuse, while females are more likely to have a record of child abuse.
Linney said to fight bullying — included mean-spirited behaviours like exclusion, put-downs, intimidation, unwanted physical contact, vandalism and weapons — you have to improve the degree of safety and belonging students feel in the school.
He advised parents to get the results of their individual school’s climate assessment — data that is available at school council meetings. Parents obviously want to see immediate changes for the sake of their own children, Linney said, but it’s important to give an anti-bullying a program time to work.
“It takes three to six years to achieve a climate shift in a school,” said Linney. “Parents should advocate for that.”
He cited a 30 year study of bullying done in American schools by the Secret Service, which found that that bullies have the least success when school’s foster a culture of respect and emotional support.
“To do that we need to involve everyone,” Linney said. “Safety and academic achievement are complementary. Students do better in school when they feel connected (to other students and to teachers) and safe.”
Linney recommended the website eyesonbullying.org for those coping with bullying.
Attendees of the seminar said they would carry Linney’s advice back to their own schools.
“I learned a few things tonight,” said Cathy Chamberlain, who has two children and is on the school council for Thomas Street Middle School. “It’s great to see the interest in the community and meet other people who are working for our schools.”