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A Layered Approach to Preventing Bullying in Schools

by Morgan Sears / June 27, 2024

In my most recent blog post, we discussed layers of security measures that can be put in place to prevent school shootings. When the topic of school security is brought up, it’s common for school employees and families to be most worried about a school shooting. However, statistically, a shooting is one of the least likely events to occur during a child’s time in school. More prevalent school security issues must also be addressed.

Bullying - both physical and emotional - is a widespread issue in the United States and poses a significant threat in schools. How can we protect our children's safety and mental well-being in the face of this common threat? Addressing bullying in schools requires a comprehensive, layered approach. This blog will explore the five layers of school security - electronic security, exterior physical security, interior physical security, policies and procedures, and communication strategies - and some examples of each that can help prevent bullying and cyberbullying.

A Look at the Multilayered Security Measures

Electronic Security

Cameras, monitors, and digital video recording (DVR) are key to preventing and addressing bullying in schools. Cameras should be placed throughout the hallways to provide as much coverage as possible. Areas such as stairwells and between lockers may be more challenging to capture. Still, it is a best practice to check camera angles through monitors continually to ensure maximum coverage. Staff can view monitors to observe suspicious behaviors in real-time or retrieve and review recorded footage from the DVR after a situation has occurred.

Cyberbullying, particularly through social media, has become endemic within our schools. In many school districts, students can access their phones during school hours. While many schools forbid using phones during class, monitoring phone usage can be tricky.

Implementing a secured Wi-Fi system accessible only to staff is crucial to mitigating cyberbullying during school hours. Strict enforcement and daily monitoring of security protocols on school-issued devices are also essential. 

Physical Security- Exterior

School districts should cultivate a positive and inclusive environment that prioritizes safety and respect for all students. This effort starts with creating an inviting exterior for school buildings. The physical environment plays a significant role in shaping the school's overall climate.

Clear and concise signage is key to establishing expectations in a school before students or visitors enter the building. Clear signage indicating school rules and values promotes a culture of respect and inclusion. 

It’s also important to design open and visible spaces to prevent bullying from occurring unnoticed. Installing visible security cameras and providing well-lit areas on the school’s exterior can also deter potential bullying incidents.

By incorporating these features into the school exterior design, schools can create a welcoming and safe environment that supports positive social interactions and reduces incidents of bullying.

Physical Security- Interior

Staff and administrators should closely monitor places where bullying is more likely to occur. Teachers and administrators should be strategically placed in potential bullying hotspots during high-foot-traffic times within the school, such as class changes, lunchtime, and early mornings before classes start. Locations in the school where bullying is most likely to occur are hallways, stairwell areas, restrooms, and the cafeteria. Teachers should be stationed in hallways near restrooms to listen for issues.

Teachers should provide safe havens in their classrooms by organizing regular classroom meetings and engaging in one-on-one conversations with students. These meetings serve as valuable forums for students to discuss school-related matters beyond academics. One-on-one discussions are particularly beneficial for students who may feel hesitant to speak in front of their peers. Furthermore, these interactions enable teachers to inform parents about school updates and their children's well-being.

Policies and Procedures

Having a clear plan for addressing bullying is crucial. Prompt and consistent intervention by teachers and administration sends a strong message that bullying is not tolerated. Ensure that the consequences of bullying are age-appropriate and more severe for repeat offenders.

Administration should schedule at least one session per school semester for teachers and staff to facilitate bullying prevention activities in the classroom. These sessions should also equip teachers and staff with the skills to effectively identify and address bullying behavior. The types of bullying and cyberbullying threats regularly evolve, so regular training is vital to keep up.

Communication Strategies

It’s important for schools to encourage families and students to communicate and support bullying prevention strategies. Keeping parents informed about their child's grades, friends, behavior, and attitude in school is fundamental for involving them in their child's education. Parents and teachers can consistently encourage more appropriate behavior by working together.

Empower students with the tools and knowledge to report bullying effectively. Utilize accessible communication channels like phone apps, websites, and text messaging, enabling students to report incidents outside of school hours, including concerns observed on social media. Offering anonymous reporting options can alleviate students' fears of potential repercussions for speaking up.

Utilize promotional materials and host events consistently throughout the year to bolster the school’s anti-bullying initiatives. Just as repeated physical training enhances muscle memory, frequent presentations of important information increase the likelihood of retention among students and staff alike.

Available Resources

Many resources are available to educate schools, parents, and students on bullying. Below are a few examples.

StopBullying.gov offers comprehensive bullying prevention education and tips for parents, teachers, and students. The website also includes additional resources to assist parents in safeguarding their children online and maximizing the benefits of technology while minimizing associated risks.

Findahelpline.com offers free bullying and cyberbullying hotlines throughout the United States. Many hotlines are available 24/7 and provide multiple ways to communicate with counselors, such as texting, calling, or online chat, to accommodate a child’s comfort level in expressing their concern.

The Choose Kindness Project provides grant funding for communities to promote a more inclusive environment and expand anti-bullying toolkits. 

Final Thoughts

Implementing a multi-layered approach to bullying prevention is vital to protecting students. Combining electronic security, physical security, policies and procedures, and communication strategies ensures that schools are standing strong in the fight against the common threats of bullying and cyberbullying. 

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Tags: School Security

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Morgan Sears

Morgan Sears

Morgan is a planner and data analyst with Fentress, Inc. She has a Master’s Degree in Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice. She enjoys baseball, running and spending time with her husband and son.