Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teacher Bullying

As I've written in previous posts, a school-wide bullying initiative starts from the top and moves downward.  The entire school community should be made aware of what constitutes bullying and harassment, as well as the interventions and consequences for such actions.

Teachers can be some of your biggest allies with regards to students and bullying--they can intervene in the halls and the classroom, and they can also share concerns with you about students they believe are being harassed.  Because they see these students every day or every other day, they are often in the best position to notice changes in kids or observe situations in which they may be victims of other students.

However, as part of the discussion about the bullying and harassment prevention program and policy within your school, perhaps there should also be a discussion about how adults may themselves exhibit bullying behaviors towards students or even other co-workers, sometimes without even realizing that their words and actions could be construed in that manner.  We, as counselors, are used to reflecting on our own beliefs, values, words, and statements, as we know these can influence our work with students and clients.  As the adults in your school come together to address this topic, self-reflection and education can be a key and powerful component in helping to develop empathy across the entire community.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has developed a short seminar meant to be presented to small groups of faculty and staff to discuss the topic of teacher bullying and its effects on students as well as recommendations for addressing it and developing policy.  This presentation is not meant to put anyone on the defensive, but rather educate and facilitate discussion so that there is a greater awareness of the power differential between teachers and students and the effects that certain words and actions can have on students.  Special thanks to the LGBT Project for alerting me to this link.

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