As educators, we should never underestimate our power.
That power derives from our calling: We are dedicated to the task of educating other people’s children; and we don’t do it not for fame or fortune, but because we want to do good for others. I like to think of it as “soul-power.”
We’re also powerful of course because there are three million of us and we live in almost every community in the land. So when we unite behind a cause, we can make a big difference.
Bullying prevention is a prime example of educator power. A few decades ago, bullying was treated as a harmless rite of passage—and bullied students were assured, “You’ll get over it.” What’s more, bullying prevention resources were virtually nonexistent.
Today, awareness that bullying is a serious problem has risen to new heights. Moreover, there is now a plethora of bullying prevention resources to choose from—guides, websites and tool kits. (See NEA.org/bullyfree and StopBullying and CommonSense)
Educators and our unions have played a decisive role in powering up the bullying prevention movement. We can be proud of that.
And yet, bullying continues to exact a terrible toll on students’ brains and psyches. And the educational impacts of bullying are well documented in terms of the declining academic achievement and rising absenteeism of bullied students.
In fact, it is estimated that 160,000 K-12 students stay home from school every day for fear of being bullied. One in three students is bullied frequently. One in four adolescents and teens is bullied repeatedly through their cellphones or the Internet.
No child or young person should have to endure this abuse. Our goal of a bully-free learning environment for every student is now within our grasp but not yet achieved.
Research shows that one caring adult can make all the difference in a bullied student’s life. Over 50,000 educators have taken the NEA Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge. If haven’t taken the bully-free pledge yet, I invite you to do so.
Yes, bullying prevention begins when one caring adult reaches out to a bullied student. However, it doesn’t end there. We have seen that when the caring adults involved in a school—parents and staff—work together, they can create a safe school environment in which bullying declines dramatically. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. Student-centered, research-based bullying prevention policies and practices work.
For educators, bullying is an affront to who we are and what we stand for, especially equal opportunity for all.
If some of your colleagues are still looking the other way when bullying occurs, wake them up! You have the power.
If your administrators are still in denial about the necessity of preventing bullying, wake them up! You have the power.
If your district officials are still not providing teachers or education support professionals with the training they need to implement district bullying prevention policies, wake them up! You have the power.
Today, the negative consequences of bullying are well known, and the resources to prevent bullying are widely available. There are no more excuses for inaction.