Acronyms are the cornerstone of our cultural understanding about bullying.
These acronyms show several things. First, there is not clear mechanism for reporting. Second, acronyms like SAFE make the victim responsible for stopping the bullying, which is not always possible. Out of these three, Bully, which focuses on the bystanders of the issue appears more effective but still reflects common sense notions. So, we may need a new acronym as we enter 2020.
- Say Something
- Ask for Help
- Find a Friend
- Exit the Area
- Stand up to the bully, and use your words to tell him to STOP hurting you.
- Take appropriate action to get away from the bully, walk or run if need be, or get an adult.
- Open up to a trusted adult in your life, like your parents, a teacher or school counselor.
- Protect yourself from bullies.
- Be a friend
- Use kind words
- Look for and report bullying
- Learn to use empathy
- You can stop bullying
The Basis for A New Approach
Successful reporting systems meet the three points listed below. Using these for the basis of coming up with a new acronym reinforces the ideas behind these systems.
- Protect the student doing the reporting and the ones involved in the situation
- Are monitored to ensure effectiveness and updated consistently
- Offer an accessible reporting mechanism that can be used by any student
The goal of a successful system is to continue to receive reports, so the system needs to show students that it works (so that they are encouraged to report), that action will be taken, and also that the person reporting is not harmed by using the system. In order to successfully process student reports, it’s essential to manage every part of the in-person student reporting pipeline.
If there is a hitch in the process, it can break down. For example, if the reporting system hinges on the student reporting to a specific teacher, it would be important to ensure that this teacher is prepared to deal with the issues, pays attention to all student reports, and is not overtly taxed to the point where they are not able to meet the demand of student reporting. Educators, think of your own school’s circumstances and consider the reporting mechanisms in place, formal and informal.
Student problems are real. Many people in the students’ lives, often even their parents or closest family members, dismiss or minimize their problems. Others may not be equipped to deal with them but school staff should be. The problems are real and deserve attention. It’s important to make sure that the report management does not minimize student problems and allows them to be dealt with appropriately.
- Build trust with your students through consistent and constant communication with their educators. It’s important that students have positive experiences with low-stakes situations that will encourage them to report high-stakes situations. Students need to know they will not be dismissed.
Easy to report
- Students need to have an easy way of making reports and know when and where to go. Even the ideal student to school counselor ratio of 250:1 isn’t enough to manage. Increase the number of people receiving reports. In addition to seeking support in the student counselor’s office, students report incidents before school, after school, during lunch, and in other situations. The process for every reporting location can be different but students should know where they can report and that they will receive a positive response.
Listen without judgment
- An important step is to affirm student’s feelings and problems about their situation. Regardless of the validity the educator feels, it must always be assumed that the student is being sincere, and the educator should listen with this in mind. Assure the student that they are valid, heard, and valued. Students whose reports are received with respect are more likely to report in the future and may recommend the reporting process to other students.
- It is imperative for educators to remember that the intensity of a student’s emotion is valid to the student. Any attempt to diminish or minimize the severity of the situation will feel unsupportive to the student and will prevent them from reaching out in the future.
Identify the course of action
- Assess the severity and time-sensitivity of the report. Consider whether you are in a position to take action and, if not, who should. Consider the intensity of the student’s emotion and the potential impact of the situation. Ask who the student reported to and why and what did they ask for. What kind of support do they need?
- Sometimes, the person who received the report will be in a position to take action. But if they are not, they need to consider how to escalate the report to the appropriate administrator. Which educator does this student need to engage with? Who can support them most efficiently. Escalation may need to happen for the student to receive the necessary support and help, and the system should allow for escalation as a normal part of the reporting process rather than an undesirable or a difficult thing to manage.
- Making students feel heard and cared for by following up with incidents is important. You need to make sure that the problem was addressed and that the student doesn’t feel that their report was ignored. Also, following up can help prevent negative consequences from reporting, helping students feel safer and more likely to turn to their educators for support.