Every day in schools across the country, students are bullied based on aspects of their identity including race, religion, gender and gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc. Some of the most serious cases of bullying that occur in schools are the result of bias based on identity groups. Name-calling and bullying, like other bias-motivated behaviors, have the potential to escalate into more serious incidents of violence if they are unchecked.
National Bullying Prevention Month is an opportunity to reflect on the classroom and school culture. It is a time to reflect on whether we are engaging in best practices when it comes to creating respectful school environments that foster inclusion and respect. The large body of research on effective responses to name-calling and bullying concurs that schools and other educational institutions can best address these behaviors through ongoing, comprehensive plans. These can include both intervention and prevention strategies and engage all people in the school environment: students, educators, school staff, families and other community members.
The cycle of name-calling and bullying is best interrupted by motivated allies. Teachers can help students by exploring with them the range of ally-building strategies and by practicing those skills and behaviors. Students can be motivated and empowered to act as allies and help contribute to creating a positive “ally culture” at their schools.