Mar 30, 2020 in Education

Bullying Prevention for School-Agers and Adolescents

Introduction

Bullying is often associated with both long term and short term psychological effects that affect both the victim and the perpetrator. In seeking to prevent bullying, there is often the need to focus on the victim while seeking to punish the bully to help them to stop the practice. However, bullying is often a symptom of an existing problem in the bully’s life as well. Some bullies are as a result of personal challenges over which they have no control. thus, they exercise their control on other people. Bullies in a school environment often choose targets that are somewhat different, using their uniqueness as a weakness with which to reach to them. What is often ignored is the fact that these bullies simply sue their aggression to hide their own weaknesses. To prevent bullying for school-agers and adolescents, this project will focus on both the bully and the bullied.

The aim is not only to help them to reconcile, but to help understand the underlying issues that cause bullying and thus seek resolution not just for the victim, but also for the perpetrator. To accomplish this, the greatest approach for the project will be to include all the stakeholders in the school setting to enable the system to work seamlessly. The selected approach for the intervention, in this case, is restorative practice that will focus on both the bully and the victim in each case.  

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Justifications

Bullying is an endemic problem that affects adolescents and most people in school going ages, with an exceptionally high prevalence within the school setting. School-age children and teenagers are often considered to be at a higher risk due to the nature of their social contexts and the fact that they are in a formative stage of their lives. The experiences that they face at school tend to shape their psychological development thus making the issue more critical. According to Horne & Orpinas, people who at one point were exposed to bullying during their formative years develop a number of mental health issues including anxiety and self-harming tendencies with questionable levels of self-esteem among other things. Teachers are commonly known to punish bullies as a way of deterring the vice but this approach is often counterproductive because most bullies only become aggravated once the teachers is involved. Furthermore, punishing the bully does not deal with the underlying factors that define the bully. This leaves bullying as a very prevalent and destructive vice in the school system.      

According to Fronius, Persson, Guckenburg, Hurley & Petrosino, Restorative practice is one of the most considerate and thus thorough alternatives for dealing with bullying amongst school-agers and adolescents. This group of individuals is mainly at a formative stage in their lives and it is important to deal with the problem rather than isolating a symptom. Restorative practices go a step further from mediation. Under mediation, the teachers and parents would be able to understand why the bully is picking on the victim, thus enabling both individuals to communicate about their feelings regarding their relationship. Under restorative practices, the goal is to ensure that both the bully and the victim is able to understand the implications of the bullying. The teacher or parent, in this case, seeks to understand what the bully and the victim were thinking or feeling during, before and after the bullying. An arrangement such as this enables the bully to understand what they have done to the victim, while also isolating their thoughts and feelings that may have triggered the incident. Understanding, in this case, is expected to enable the bully to address whatever underlying issues that are causing them to act in an unbecoming manner. Bullies understand that they are wrong and yet they find themselves bullying others nonetheless. It is important to help them to find out what may be bothering them so that they can also be supported through the restorative process as well.  

Evidence Analysis

Ryan & Ruddy argues that restorative practices are a way through which the students can be empowered with respect on their social and emotional learning to develop a culture of understanding each other and resolving their conflicts without using violence. The fact that the bully is given as much a chance to be understood humanizes them, enabling them to also appreciate the process and learn from it. Within a restorative process, the bully is given a chance to share and thus understand their concerns because it is these concerns that create the bullying context in the first place. Similarly, Kreiger and Santos agree on the role of restorative practices in building a culture of peace. Rather than simply supporting the victims of bullying, a restorative circle helps the bully to deal with their underlying issues to transform. The interaction in practice is meant to identify the contexts and perceptions of the bully to correct them and prevent a recurrence of the bullying. Restorative circles often comprise of all the stakeholders in the school setting including the teachers and parents. However, to be more effective the authoritative members of the group play a more passive role as the teacher or counselor sets about unraveling the specific issues surrounding the case at hand. This independence is what makes the process fair and just for both the victim and the bully thus making it effective in the prevention of bullying in the long term. 

According to Molnar-Main, adult supervision is one of the critical components for dealing with bullying in the school setting. It can be noted that most of the other approaches proposed in the prevention of bullying focus on the need to empower the students by teaching them how to deal with a bully on their own. The problem, in this case, is that children are being taught to defend themselves in a way that may only escalate the situation. While the bullying prevention programs promote diplomacy, it would be difficult to ascertain that the confrontation between a bully and a victim would not escalate into violence or more emotional abuse. Restorative practices enable the bully and the victim to interact with adult supervision so that they can have a chance to understand each other rather than fuelling their already existing bad relationship. By seeking to repair this relationship through understanding, the restorative practice becomes the most effective option not only in the short term but also in the long term. Once the bully appreciates the impact of their actions on the victim, they have a better chance at changing. Also, the process will enable the bully to understand why they find themselves acting badly towards others thus enabling them to seek help with whatever underlying issues that they may have. Usually, bullies carry a lot of insecurities either from home or from past relationships, and the victim is often just a patsy or a scapegoat. 

Fronius et al investigated the concept of restorative justice with American schools and found that restorative justice eliminates the negative impact of exclusionary punishment like suspension and expulsion among others. Suspending or expelling a bully, in this case, will often have a negative impact not only on the bully but also on the victim. Restorative practices on the other hand work towards repairing the relationship between the two by helping each one to understand their true worth and thus become better people in their social and emotional contexts. After the restorative practice, the victim will be able to forgive the bully and move on thus limiting their risk for developing mental health issues. Similarly, the bully will change after having their issues identified and dealt with effectively. Restorative justice thus remains as one of the most effective alternatives to punitive justice in the school system.   

Target Population

The stakeholders in the school setting constitute teachers, parents, subordinate staff, members of the community and students. As such, the project is all inclusive such that anyone involved in the school system will have a role to play. The war on bullying amongst school-agers and adolescents needs the support of all those involved in the lives of these children. The teachers, in this case, include members of the school staff and the administration. Members of the community, on the other hand could be the children’s neighbors, business owners or people from the neighborhood who may witness the bullying outside the school at one time or another. The aim of this project is to include all individuals who may need to take on adult supervision in resolving a bullying situation that involves the school-agers and adolescents. These stakeholders are the participants in the project since they will be expected to provide information on the prevalence of bullying while also participating in prevention training. The target population on the other hand is the student body in the school since these are often the victims and perpetrators of the bullying.  

Data Collection and Analysis Methods

To collect the required data for this project, individual communications will be necessary. The aim is to interact with victims and witnesses alike to establish the trends in bullying within the school. The researcher will be looking to establish whether some of the bullies are persistent in their actions, what they may be going through at home and how far they take their bullying activities, or whether they have particular targets within the school. Understanding the contexts of the bullies will help in creating a lasting restoration of peace within the school. The aggressors are, in this case, eliminated from the data collection process because there is a need to understand the victim’s contexts first. The identity of the bullies will only feature in the restorative process since they are the offenders in the narrative. All students are however encouraged to narrate their experiences with bullies. This is an important step because sharing a bullying experience is considered a vital step in the quest for a solution to bullying. The bullies could be fellow students, teachers or even parents and other people outside the school setting. 

The collected data will then be analyzed to create a comprehensive narrative on the state of the school and community with regards to bullying. The goal, in this case, is to find out how bad the situation is by estimating the number of students who have experienced bullying, and the tendencies or habits of the bullies in the area. The numbers, in this case, will be used to generate a clear picture of the severity of the situation thus determining the amount and magnitude of effort required in the intervention.  

Project Goals

This model project has two goals and S.M.A.R.T model will be used to track the performance of the project. The first one is to prevent bullying within the school setting in the short term (three months) as well as in the long term (two years). This goal will be assessed by measuring the number of bullying incidents reported in the area within the stipulated time frames. The second goal is to redirect the school system from punitive methods of bullying prevention to restorative and more inclusive methods that do not simply focus on destroying the bully but rather changing them for the better. This second goal is to be implemented within the first two months of the project. Current training for teachers in relation to the prevention of bullying focuses on helping the victim thus neglecting the bully regardless of their possible challenges that may have led to their actions. The second goal will be evaluated based on the preferred course of action taken by the teachers against bullying.   

Action Plan

An intervention for the prevention of bullying in a school setting requires a lot of planning and communication despite the dire need to act promptly. Currently, the teachers seek out bullies based on the information that they are given by the victims but this is not enough because most victims do not report their bullies out of fear that they may only aggravate them. The first step in the long term intervention is to consult all the stakeholders of the project. Consultation, in this case, does not necessarily involve holding prolonged meetings with the entire community. Providing information on the project and inviting recommendations or commendations will work just as effectively. The goal is to offer the stakeholders the information and persuade them to support the project in their various capacities. 

Secondly, the project will require the collaboration between the teachers, parents and the school administration. Bullying present a microcosm of challenges in most schools and to combat it effectively, a cohesive strategy that brings forth all stakeholders must be in place. If for example a student is identified as a bully, the parents would have to work with the teachers and the administration to identify why the child is a bully and thus to correct the situation. Some children are bullies at school because they feel helpless or victimized at home. They use bullying in the school setting to redeem their weaknesses as experienced at home and without the collaboration of the parents it would be difficult to change them. Parents, in this case, would have to be given information regarding the pretexts and effects of bullying so that they can appreciate their role in the prevention of bullying. 

The goal is to have all the stakeholders working seamlessly towards the set goals and objectives of the project at hand. To accomplish this, information and collaboration are by far the greatest concerns that will have to be focused on. After these, interventions will be organized to include bullies and their victims as well as the teachers and the parents. It must be noted that the interventions will not be punitive but rather restorative, with the parents also playing an important role in changing the bullies and making them more peaceful members of the society.        

Implementation Challenges

The greatest challenge that this project will face is communication. The entire intervention process relies on the effective communication that will provide relevant information to all those involved in the bullying drag net. The researchers will rely on the information from the community and students to identify the prevalence of bullying within the community thus explaining bullying from a relevant context within the social settings of the school and the community. As such, information from the students and parents as well as other members of the society will be critical is forming the foundation for the intervention project.  Additionally, the actual interventions within the school setting will rely on the reporting from the victims. However, most victims choose not to talk about their experiences. Ideally, they fear to aggravate the situation by reporting the bully to disciplinary authorities, but even if their identity is protected they are unlikely to openly speak of their experiences.

It takes constant reassurance and trust for the victim to report a bully and even accept to participate in a restorative confrontation. Bullies also may not be willing to admit to their mistakes in front of the authorities and this makes the restorative process all the more difficult. To effectively deal with these challenges, the teachers would have to work to create a system of trust where no bullies are punished. Instead, working towards transformation in both social and emotional fronts will be required. The authorities, in this case, would have to agree not to apply any punitive measures against the student whether at home or at school. These assurances will help to boost collaboration while also helping the students to trust the process. 

How the Project Will Influence Social Change

To have any meaning, the project will have to leave an impact on the society in question. Therefore, there must be some significant change in the prevalence of bullying not only at school but also outside the school campus. The project is meant to deal with the issue of bullying by focusing on the bullies and assisting them to deal with their underlying issues without trying to put others down. The current social order recognizes bullying not as a norm but as a highly prevalent vice amongst school-agers and adolescents. This project will be looking to help the bullies to enable them to be more peaceful and happy within their contexts so that they can stop inflicting their pain on their colleagues. If the project is effectively implemented, some long term effects on the society can be expected.

First, there will be fewer, if any cases of bullying within and outside the school setting. In most cases, there are often a handful of students who are bullies in a given school. To effectively prevent bullying the system would have to focus on the identified bullies and effectively deal with their underlying issues that make them resort to bullying others as way of feeling powerful. Similarly, those tasked with responsibility of counselling in the project will be focusing on the social and emotional development of the bullies to shape their attitudes towards others and themselves, and to make them better at expressing their frustrations without negatively affecting those around them. This will be more productive than suspending or expelling bullies as a way of deterring the vice. If the child is punished, the victim is not miraculously avenged. The effects of the bullying remain to haunt the victim for most of their life. Thus, there is need for justice instead of vengeance. The victim needs closure and sometimes the closure requires understanding why the bully singled them out and probably got an apology and assurance that the same would not happen to anyone else. 

Secondly, to provide closure, it is also pertinent for the bully to be taken through effective remedial strategies that would keep them from harming themselves or others in the future. Punitive measures often focus on eradicating the bully from the school. This means that the society will still have bullies even if they are not within the school campus. The victim thus continues to live in fear especially considering that the punitive measures only worsen the relationship between the bully and the victim. The restorative intervention on the other hand works towards completely eliminating bullying in the society and mending broken relationships between the bullies and their victims.        

Conclusion

The prevention of bullying for school-agers and adolescents requires a more effective long term strategy that will not just punish the bullies but change them into better and more peaceful members of the society. This is because the concern against bullies is not just limited to the school setting but also to the society in its entirety. The restorative intervention project that is proposed, in this case, enables the teachers and counselors to offer bullies the right environment and opportunity to identify and resolve their underlying issues. Similarly, those who bully others must be made to apologize to their victims, and seek social and emotional support growth to help them mellow into peaceful and friendlier individuals in society.

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