Youth Services Law

Child Protection Policies: Bullying

Posted In Bullying

No Bullying ZoneOne important area of youth protection policies is a policy to prevent bullying. An effective policy must first correctly define the problem, and then focus on ways to empower the children involved.

Contrary to what many parents (and children) think, not every insult is "bullying." Negative feedback is a normal part of human interaction, and is one of the ways that we all learn not to be obnoxious. Wise adults don't get involved in developmentally normal disputes between children. True bullying that warrants adult intervention is a much more serious, and sustained, activity.  

The CDC defines "bullying" as aggression between children (who are not siblings or dating partners) involving a power imbalance that is repeated multiple times, or likely to be repeated. It can involve in-person actions or communications (including social media). It is the sort of activity that goes beyond simply not getting as many Valentines as the other children or not being invited to a birthday party. It is a sustained campaign of emotional terrorism.

There are a number of anti-bullying programs, and I have not had time to evaluate all of them. Fortunately, the Department of Justice has evaluated 10 programs, and HHS has listed some helpful resources at www.stopbullying.gov. The HHS website also has some excellent ideas for schools in addressing bullying.

I particularly like programs that empower children to resist bullying. Programs that tell them no more than "tell a trusted adult" do not help in the long run, because they never help children become the trusted adult. While it is not a bullied child's responsibility to stop the bullying, it always helps them if they can develop the self-confidence to resist it.

I also note that the HHS website discourages "zero tolerance" responses. As I have made clear throughout this blog, I vehemently dislike mindless zero-tolerance policies. They simply do not help students learn discernment that they will need as adults. In the case of bullying, the policies "[do] not reduce bullying behavior."  Effective anti-bullying programs require more nuanced consequences.

Next: Training for Children?

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