This is the second part of a multi-part series on school bullying in Louisiana. This series is written in response to Wallethub.com ranking Louisiana as the state where school bullying is most prevalent.
School bullying leaves victims with a feeling of helplessness. That feeling is shared by students and teachers who want a solution to the large epidemic.
Economic analysis website Wallethub.com recently named Louisiana as the state where school bullying is most prevalent.
The bullying problem in the school system has led some organizations to take action and make strides to educate teachers, parents and students of all ages on how to show compassion and respect towards other students.
The Anti Defamation League (ADL) has a growing initiative that helps students, teachers and parents identify the causes of bullying.
The “No Place For Hate” initiative is a school improvement framework that gives education and resources to PreK-12. The goals of the initiative are to combat bias, bullying and hatred.
The initiative is a cost-free way to gain access to resources that educate students, teachers and parents to identify the causes of bullying and reduce the overall number of bullying incidents to prevent schools from becoming toxic environments for children.
A toxic learning environment cannot only affect the emotional well being of students, but also their academic performance.
“Bullying is such a distraction from academics. The social-emotional well being is very important to academic results. A toxic school climate can lead towards negative scores and poor class performance.” Associate Regional Director of the ADL Lindsey Friedman said.
The initiative includes a wide variety of activities that the schools can take part in that culminate in the signing of an official “Resolution of Respect.”
58 schools in Louisiana are participating in the program this year.
Melissa Licali currently works for the ADL and has served as a Bullying Prevention Specialist in schools for many years.
Licali expressed that to truly prevent bullying in schools, the root of the problem must be identified and addressed.
“It is important that we address both the student who is the target of bullying and the student who is doing the bullying. Teachers and parents need to learn to identify bullying when they see it and address the problem.” Licali said.
For behavior to be classified as bullying Licali stated that it must contain an imbalance of power, an intent to do harm and to have happened more than once.
She stated an imbalance of power could mean any difference between students such as race, religion, gender, disability or sexuality.
Licali stated while she finds that many schools openly talk about bullying, they feel less comfortable talking about some of the aspects of an imbalance of power.
“An example many schools get uncomfortable is in matters of sexuality. A student can call another student ‘gay’ or refer to several things as ‘gay’. Teachers will often tell students not to do that without being able to explain why that’s wrong to do. Sometimes we expect kids to be great interpreters of the things we try to tell them. However, more often than not, they need to have issues fully explained to them. We break down why things are offensive to someone in a way that does not give a side.” she said.
Associate Regional Director Lindsey Friedman talks about how much the ADL works to keep the initiative as up to date as possible in the ever-changing world.
Part of the initiative seeks to help teachers explain current events to their students and how to discuss what’s going on in the world in a responsible and unbiased way.
“We don’t want schools to be afraid of talking about current events. We are constantly putting out resources in the classroom on how to talk about what’s going on in the world and how to stay unbiased in the classroom.” Friedman said.
Friedman said issues like elections, school shootings and controversial media topics can cause students to respond in different ways.
She emphasized that there is a way to talk about the issues in class without taking a particular stance and to help students understand the issue better.
The ADL has numerous resources for parents as well. ADL.org has over 275 books on how to handle different issues. They also conduct seminars for parents and have plenty of discussion guides on their website.
An issue that many parents are concerned about is cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the relatively new phenomenon that is a byproduct of the age of information. With children accessing the internet via smartphones, tablets and computers at early ages these days they are becoming more susceptible to online bullying from other students.
“Cyberbullying is really tricky for schools,” said Friedman. “I think that one of the biggest things that parents can do is know what apps their kids are using.”
She stated that students tend to treat the internet and social media as a “private space”, and they will go to great lengths to conceal their communications from their parents.
Friedman expressed that it is because of students going to great lengths why parents, now more than ever, need to be aware of what apps their child is using and how they are using them.
She also gave advice for those who are victims of online bullying and harassment.
“I always tell my students never respond to an online bully. Immediately take a screenshot of it and bring it to a parent or teacher.” Friedman said.
Friedman advised that parents should not be afraid to have those uncomfortable talks with their children about what goes on at school.
She expressed that wherever there is such a need the ADL will be there to help combat bullying in schools.
“We feel uniquely able to have these hard conversations and reach out to teachers, students, and parents. We can assess their need and help them out.”