By Erin Thwaites, Education Programs Specialist at National PTA

 Autumn is upon us, classes are well under way and many students have settled into their new social circles for the remainder of the school year. Along with the traditional fall celebrations, October also brings National Bullying Prevention Month. PACER (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) originally kicked off the week-long campaign in 2006, and it has since grown to become a nationally recognized month-long campaign.

School plays a huge role in children’s social development since the majority of their formative years are spent in the classroom. Students are not only learning academic subjects when they go to class, but also social skills that will form their future relationships. Unfortunately, for some children, school does not always provide a positive learning environment.

While some may dismiss bullying as a fact of life, it can have many long term negative effects on students and the school climate. We now know that children who have been bullied are more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, and children who bully others are more likely to have unhealthy relationships in adulthood. But, bullying does not have to be a reality for students. Families, educators, and students can work together to create positive learning environments in schools and thereby decrease bullying.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Talk to your child about bullying and what they should do if they witness it, or become the target of it. Make sure you know what policies your child’s school has in place to address bullying.
  • Spread awareness by sharing the new Be More Than a Bystander PSAs on social media. The campaign, developed by stopbullying.gov and informed by National PTA, provides safe tactics kids can use to stand up to bullying.
  • Try out TipTxt, a service from Blackboard that allows students to report bullying incidents via text messages without the fear of retaliation. More information on how to obtain the service for your school can be found at http://connect.blackboard.com/tiptxt.
  • Partner with your school’s PTA to host a Connect for Respect event. Connect for Respect utilizes family-school partnerships to prevent bullying by creating positive school climates.

While October may be National Bullying Prevention Month, the topic is a year-round concern. Kindness, respect, and resilience are qualities that should be instilled in our children daily. Bullying may be a term associated with children, but the underlying reasons for its presence and its effects are not confined to a schoolyard. As Frederick Douglas put it eloquently and succinctly, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Erin Thwaites is an Education Programs Specialist at National PTA, where she supports the development and implementation of national level programs relating to social and emotional learning.

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