One of the biggest concerns we must now face as educators does not involve covering the curriculum or even test scores. Schools now deal with matters of life and death in the form of bullying. We have learned that students are committing suicide simply to escape their bullies. Phoebe Prince hung herself due to harassment she endured through text messaging and Facebook. In a historic move, nine students were charged after her death. Recently a young Australian boy was taunted by a bully and decided to fight back. The altercation was taped and both students were suspended by the school, leading many to question the school’s decision.
I work at the elementary level, and we took a proactive approach to bullying. We began the Olweus program about 9 years ago. We trained our teachers and students in the language of bullying and what it means to be a bully, victim, or bystander. We provided scenarios, held discussions, and practiced our responses. At the time, I thought we were providing a great service to our students. They were learning how to recognize bullying at school, and how to respond. Unfortunately, we have done little beyond this initial push to begin an anti-bully campaign. Bullying has escalated with students’ access to the Internet, and it has become a huge challenge for schools to combat the issue and take an appropriate role.
This leads me to ask… What is the teacher’s role in preventing bullying in our schools and online? Are we qualified to do so? What has your district done to help you and your students deal with bullies? Should schools be responsible for dealing with bullying issues that happen online, beyond the school day?