Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Bailey Robb
UpStanders coordinator HMREC 

Promoting safer schools: Quick tips for students, educators, and parents


Going back to school can be one of the most exciting times of the year. For most teens, it is a time to reconnect with friends, teachers, coaches, etc. For some students however, the thought of returning to school can lead to serious anxiety.

In particular, some students that fear they will be taunted, teased, and mistreated by their peers would rather stay home than return to school. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly one in three students (27.8 percent) reported being bullied during the school year.

Students who experience bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor academic performance. The good news is that research is emerging on best practices in bullying prevention and many Central Florida schools are taking a stand.

Tips for students:

The UpStanders: Stand Up to Bullying initiative of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida is fostering more positive school climates in Central Florida middle schools. The UpStanders program encourages students to stand up and speak up when they witness bullying at their school and in their community.

According to The Youth Voice Project, a study conducted by Stan Davis and Charisse L. Nixon, students who experience bullying report that allying and supportive actions from their peers (such as spending time with the student, talking to him/her, helping him/her get away, or giving advice) were the most helpful actions from bystanders.

The UpStanders program teaches student bystanders who witness peer mistreatment to check in regularly to see if the mistreated student is doing ok. Simple actions such as asking how you can help and giving compliments can rebuild self-esteem.

Tips for educators:

Students in the UpStanders Program are also encouraged to tell a trusted adult if they witness peer mistreatment. There are many strategies teachers and administrators can take to ensure their school is safe for students. First, it is important for educators to make the distinction between bullying behavior and other kinds of mistreatment that may call for a different kind of intervention. Bullying is a repeated action that hurts, humiliates, or intimidates and requires an imbalance of power.

Increased adult supervision in ‘hot spots’ where students have reported seeing bullying behavior can significantly lessen incidents. For mistreated youth, the most helpful adult actions are listening, providing encouragement, and checking in regularly. Too often, adults focus on the mean behavior or see bullying as a part of growing up rather than supporting the mistreated student. Providing a safe space for one-on-one conversation goes a long way.

Tips for parents:

With a rapid increase in technology use, parents play a key role in bullying prevention when it comes to monitoring the use of cell phones, the internet, and social media. Be sure to talk to your kids about internet safety and encourage them to avoid negative and inappropriate users. Encourage your child to ‘think before they post’ and to always consider others’ feelings. Young people have to understand that just because they cannot see the other person does not mean their words do not have an impact.

If your child is the target of bullying, offer encouraging words to rebuild their self-esteem and check-in regularly. If the behavior is repeated and begins to negatively impact school performance, document the information and contact a school administrator.

The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education of Florida is an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice with the ultimate goal of developing a moral and just community through its extensive outreach of educational and cultural programs. Whether you are an educator, parent, or student, each of us plays a vital role in promoting a school where everyone feels respected and safe. For more information on bullying prevention and intervention, contact the Holocaust Center at 407-628-0555 or visit: www.holocaustedu.org/education/upstanders or http://www.stopbullying.gov.


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