October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a month dedicated to bringing awareness to the current bullying crisis, as well as sharing resources to help end it. Bullying continues to be a pervasive problem in our world, and with digital technologies following students from the classroom to their home, avenues for bullying continue to proliferate.
The Effects of Bullying in Schools
Locally, 1 in 3 middle school students and 1 in 4 high school students report being bullied within the Austin Independent School District. The effects of such bullying are sobering: kids who have been bullied may experience depression and anxiety and are more likely to skip or drop out of school, leading to decreased academic achievement and lower test scores, according to StopBullying.gov. In a small number of cases, bullying can even lead to violence, including suicide, or even school shootings.
Bullying isn’t just a childhood problem: identities formed by hurtful words and harassment can follow students into adulthood leading to low self-esteem and confidence, and resulting in less opportunity.
That’s the opposite of what we envision for our students’ futures. At Creative Action, we’re committed to helping students develop strong emotional intelligence, confidence, and other interpersonal skills so that they can succeed in their relationships and in life.
Below are just a few of the ways we accomplish those goals.
What We Can Do to Stop Bullying
General Social and Emotional Development
The general development of youth social and emotional skills is at the heart of what we do at Creative Action and permeates all of our programming, including the four programs listed below. The following SEL skills help stop bullying in schools in several ways:
- Celebration of difference
- Ability to work with others
- Emotion management
Most importantly, the development of these skills helps prevent youth from becoming bullies by teaching them how to manage and regulate their emotions in healthy, mindful ways. Students learn to visit a Calm Corner, open a Peace Box, “use their words,” or employ other mindfulness tools when they’re feeling upset, encouraging them to navigate confusing and complex emotions in non-violent ways. Likewise, teaching young people how to be collaborative, cooperative, and generous leaders prevents them from seizing power positions in ways negative or belittling to others.
For students who are victims of bullying, the social and emotional skill of resilience can help lessen the harmful effects of harassment, while the self confidence gained in our programs can help keep their self-worth intact.
Though all of our programs focus on SEL skill strengthening, the four referenced below work in tandem to create school communities that are emotionally intelligent and capable of stopping bullying.
Courage to Stand and Courage in Action
The Courage to Stand and Courage in Action are two of several interactive theatre programs Creative Action offers in local classrooms. Though all of these programs teach the crucial anti-bullying skills of emotion management, resiliency, and empathy, Courage to Stand and Courage in Action explicitly focus on bullying.
In Courage to Stand, students explore historical of courage, including moments from the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement, to become Courageous Bystanders who intervene in a bullying situation. Through this process, students develop social studies, literacy, and social emotional skills, including healthy risk taking, listening, communication, critical thinking, empathy, and leadership.
In Courage in Action, students explore activism through the story of civil rights leader César Chávez and gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be allies and leaders in their communities. They also learn how to verbalize when they recognize a problem, resolve conflicts positively, and educate their peers about issues they face.
In our interactive theatre programs, and in the classroom, students are taught to reach out to a teacher, if they see or experience bullying. As trusted adults, educators and administrators must be ready to respond to these reports and must be able to recognize bullying as it occurs.
In our Professional Development workshops, we work with teachers and school staff to help cultivate inclusive and welcoming school cultures. We provide tips on de-escalating tense situations as well as communicating with others non-violently. It’s extremely helpful — for adults as well as students — to have a plan in place for addressing bullying situations rather than reacting to a situation in the moment.
Harassment and bullying can also occur in the workplace, not just among children. Teaching administrators the tools to address bullying amongst students also helps them strengthen interpersonal skills more generally, creating positive relationship models for the young people they serve.
As with our Professional Development workshops, our parent workshops addressing bullying help parents be anti-bullying allies to their children, whether their child is a bullying victim or a perpetrator.
In these workshops, parents come together to discuss the importance of discussing bullying with their children, as well as learn tips to broach the subject.
The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, Creative Action’s teen theatre program, introduces conversations about bullying through the frame of teen dating violence and relationships. Each year, the program members write and produce an original play using those themes drawing on their own lived experiences with depression, abuse, relationships, and bullying. The teens then tour the play to local middle schools, performing and then sitting for a talk-back where they discuss the work with the audience.
This past spring, Changing Lives’ original play especially focused on teens’ experience with social media, opening up a necessary conversation with middle schoolers about the role the Internet plays in romantic, platonic, and family relationships.
Learn More About Creative Action’s Anti-Bullying Programs
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. To recognize the crisis, Creative Action is hosting a community luncheon to shine a light on what we’re doing to end it in Central Texas, and how community like you can be part of the solution.
We invite you to join us at Everyone Belongs: A Benefit Luncheon on October 24 to learn more and to meet others invested in ending the bullying crisis.