A study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that bullying across the country has decreased, especially for children from low-income households. Released at the beginning of this month, the study showed that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year had declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008.
|STAND TOGETHER—Middle school students stand with NBA player DeJuan Blair.
In an effort to ensure bullying continues to decrease but also that incidents of bullying do not go unreported, the Pittsburgh Public School District has unrolled a new campaign against bullying. The campaign hopes to reemphasize the district’s long existing anti-bullying policy with a series of posters featuring NBA player, and Schenley grad DeJuan Blair.
The definition of bullying as outlined in the district’s policy extends to cyber bullying and incidents occurring during time traveling to and from school, or any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school which includes the normal school day.
“We feel preventing bullying is one of the strategies we can use to create a positive teaching and learning environment,” said Ebony Pugh, senior manager of public relations for PPS. “Students who feel threatened or afraid may be too distracted to apply the necessary energy to their schoolwork. To help ensure that our students are free from the negative effects that often result from bullying, we are taking several steps to systematically address student behavior and conduct.”
An emphasis on creating positive learning environments is a major component of the district’s plan to Empower Effective Teachers, an initiative funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The posters, with different slogans tied to different grade levels where they will be released, promote the same message, “Bullying is Wrong. If You See Someone Being Bullied: Never Join In. Tell the Bully to Stop. Report the Bullying to an Adult.”
“It must be reported and we try to empower children that you can’t get help for a problem unless you report it and that as a bystander you can’t stand by and watch someone being bullied,” said Janet Yuhasz, coordinator, student health and wellness PPS. “We really try to normalize telling. We encourage that it’s a good thing and a positive thing.”
The poster campaign is supported through specially designed professional development; updates to district policies and procedures; prevention education programming and intervention services through the district’s Student Assistance Program and the district’s Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies.
The district’s response to a report of bullying can range from mediation between school staff and parents to involving law enforcement. When disciplinary action is necessary, as outlined in the district’s Code of Student Conduct, students can receive in-school or after-school detention, suspension, or even expulsion depending on the severity.
“Because bullying may occur in a progressive way from least to most harassing or intimidating in behavior, the cost of the behavior must reflect the severity of the behavior,” Yuhasz said. “You’re not going to expel a student for example who’s in fourth grade and walked down the hall and said something to a girl.”
Yuhasz said often times bullies have been victims of bullying in the past. In order to break the cycle of bullying and ensure reports are swiftly dealt with, she said sometimes exclusion of the perpetrator is necessary.
“Regardless of what it looks like, it creates fear. We want to make sure any barrier to learning is quickly resolved,” Yuhasz said. “Kids who are repeatedly bullied become very preoccupied with this problem.”