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How To End Bullying: Participants Talk Action at National Summit

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By guest blogger Madeline Will

In the four years since the first Bullying Prevention Summit, there's been an increased awareness in the country about the serious consequences related to bullying.

Today, at the fourth annual antibullying summit hosted at the U.S. Department of Education headquarters, participants discussed how to move from awareness to action. The daylong event was livestreamed, with multiple panel discussions, breakout sessions, and youth-led focus groups. Panelists included researchers, experts, and officials from several federal agencies.

School culture is a key factor when talking bullying prevention, several panelists said.

One panelist, Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, said schools need to shift from actions like counting on bystanders to intervene (too large a responsibility to place on children, he said) and zero-tolerance policies to skill-based social and emotional learning. That includes training for all adults and children in the school, encouraging students to chart their feelings on a "mood meter," and incorporating this approach in the curriculum.

Another panelist, Michael Lu, the associate administrator of maternal and child health of Health Resources and Services Administration (an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), said moving from awareness to action will take different sectors—educators, policymakers, youth, doctors, etc.—coming together to effectively prevent bullying. The plan for the near future should be considering knowledge of what works and what doesn't, advancing a social strategy, and growing political will, he said.

The four youths who led the focus groups joined a panel later in the afternoon to discuss their personal experiences with bullying and their ideas for change. They called for more mentoring and peer-to-peer education about bullying. One student, Cameron Sanford, said his Tennessee high school found that banning cellphones in school drastically cut down on bullying reports.

All four of the youth panelists talked about their commitment to supporting other bullied students.

"When a 12-year-old commits suicide because of bullying, that's an epidemic," Cameron told the audience. "It's a disease, it's traveling, it's treatable—we just need to have more people out there to do it."

Some of the other (there were many!) topics discussed during the summit: bullying of students with disabilities, the health effects of bullying, and cyberbullying. To get a sense of some of the conversation, check out #BullyingSummit14.

Stats and figures

Over the course of the day, speakers and panelists gave a lot of different data points that I thought were interesting and relevant. Here are some:

  • Nearly one-third of all young people in school (ages 12-18) report being bullied, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  • The gender gap in bullying is widening—in 2011 (the most recent data from the center), 31 percent of female students (ages 12-18) reported being bullied as opposed to 25 percent of male students. In 2005, the gap was much smaller—29 percent of girls compared to 27 percent of boys reported being bullied.
  • The most common location for bullying in school is in hallways and stairwells, but inside the classroom is second, according to the center.
  • Some interesting findings from the Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools initiative's school climate survey: 41 percent of high schoolers reported that other students tried to stop a bullying incident. About 61 percent said students of all races are treated equally at school. And only 66.5 percent said they feel like they belong in school.
  • Students who are in schools that teach LGBT issues and who know an "out" LGBT teacher as well as where to go for information and support are less likely to hear daily LGBT slurs at school, according to data presented by Project SPIN, a coalition that works with the Los Angeles Unified School District to end bullying and suicides among LGBT youths.

Resources unveiled

Evie Blad wrote on this blog about the free app for parents, "KnowBullying," unveiled at the event by the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA, along with the departments of Education and Justice, also announced at the summit a video resource for parents and educators.

The video, which is over 12 minutes long, is narrated by actor Morgan Freeman and defines the differences between harassment and bullying, as well as gives the legal obligations for these situations in schools.

Check out additional resources at StopBullying.Gov. And educators and parents—please share your best practices for bullying prevention in the comments below.

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