Most states have laws on the book about bullying. Check out this handy graphic for more info.
As of when this was written, the only states without bullying laws are the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Many states, like Massachusetts are considering additional legislation.
Like anti-bullying policies in school, legislation is a good start. As a society we need to send a clear message that bullying is unacceptable.
Every society needs rules and guidelines. If we’re going to say that respect for others is a cultural value, then we need to define consequences for those who choose to act otherwise.
Although it’s a good start, it’s exactly that… A start…
What’s dangerous is believing that laws, rules, and policies are solutions.
I live in Ohio, a state where there are anti-bullying laws on the books. I know first hand that bullying still happens.
Here are four ways to make the most of anti-bullying laws, rules, and policies.
1.) Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Bullying
There’s a terrible misconception that bullying is a part of growing up. People seem to think it’s a “right of passage”.
Many parents, teachers, administrators, and other adults have traditionally ignored bullying when it happens. Many folks have even told me that they feel bullying is good for kids because it “makes them tough”.
I know it seems obvious but…
The first step to eliminating bullying is by not turning a blind eye to it.
2.) If A Child Reports Being Bullied, Do Something!
This is another big thing we hear from kids. “I talked to [insert adult] and nothing happened! They didn’t do anything!”
There is nothing more frustrating than hearing this. Getting kids to find the courage to report being bullied is hard enough. If the first adult they trust ignores the problem or brushes it off, chances are they won’t try again.
It takes a lot of courage to tell someone you’re being bullied. If a child trusts you please don’t break it. Even if you don’t know what to do about the problem. Find someone that can help and make sure they follow through.
3.) Teach Kids to Take a Non-Violent Stand
Obviously an adult can’t be there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It’s important to teach kids how to take a stand without resorting to violence.
One of the first ways to do this is to have them surround themselves with people that will be uplifting. There is strength in numbers. Encourage kids to join clubs and other extra curricular activities where they’ll meet new friends.
Another thing to do is teach the victims of bullying to control their responses. This is HARD, but there’s an old saying. “A performer won’t perform for an empty audience.” If the bully doesn’t think they’re getting through, they’ll move on to an easier target.
This is one of things we teach in our anti bullying school assembly program.
4.) Teach Bullies to Be Considerate of Other’s Feelings
Many bullies are unaware of the consequences of their actions. It’s rare, but occasionally there are some kids that don’t understand they’re being hurtful.
You have to make it clear to the child that their behavior is having a negative effect. This gives them an opportunity to self-correct.
If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to make them understand that their actions have consequences. This is where having established anti-bullying laws, rules, and policies comes into effect.
Laws, rules, and policies give adults guidelines for how to proceed. These situations can be filled with so many gray areas. It can be hard for an adult to know how to proceed. Laws and policies are tools to help teachers be effective.
But they’re just that: tools. They’re useless if nobody is willing to use them.