While every issue a student might describe as “bullying” does not equate to the standard definition, all reports should be taken seriously, and appropriate support should be provided to the student. Adults can show care, listen with empathy, and make sure the student is forming the skills needed to build positive relationships and feel safe speaking up for themselves and others. You might be asking, what can adults do to help kids deal with bullying behavior?
Proven Actions to Help Students Experiencing Bullying Behavior
- Create school culture routines. These routines and procedures ensure there is authoritative caregiving being provided at school. Adults are allowing shared responsibility for the school climate and evaluating student voice while holding high and clearly defined expectations for student behavior. Authoritative caregivers know that consequences and punishment alone do not teach skills. Authoritative educators form relationships allowing the student to see a model of positive relationship skills and directly teach skills with evidence-based curriculum.
- Encourage the student who has spoken up. Tell them they are helping promote the safety and security of the school.
- Listen without judgment. Make sure we are listening deeply to the concerns of the student rather than trying to define bullying behavior specifically. The report might not meet the full definition, but it might be a starting point to stop poor peer interaction before it becomes bullying behavior.
- Help the student name the feeling they are having about the situation. Ensure the student has the social vocabulary to accurately describe the level of distress the student has experienced.
- Normalize the experience. Make sure the student understands that they are not alone and many others have experienced this kind of injustice. We can work together to stop it.
- See if the student has received social and emotional damage from the interaction by asking if the targeted student believes the negative comments. If they have low levels of self-confidence from the experience (they believe the negative comments are true), it is important to refer the student to the school mental health support system (counselor or social worker).
- Work with the child to decide the next best steps. Would the child like to practice new skills and try them out? Does the incident need to be reported beyond the conversation?
- Check-in. Create a time and place where you will check on the child and ensure the bullying behavior has stopped.
Minimum Standards for Bully Prevention by TEA
The Texas Education Code defines bullying as a simple significant act or pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression through electronic or physical means that has the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm.
Bullying is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates a threatening, intimidating, or abusive educational environment. It materially and substantially disrupts the education process or orderly operation of the classroom or school environment or infringes on the rights of the student at school.
On January 31, 2023, the Texas Education Agency issued Minimum Standards for Bully Prevention and guidance for district implementation.
For more support from the Region 13 Education Service Center, visit our Behavior page.
Paula Freeman, Ph.D. is a Doctor of Counselor Education and has a passion for interpersonal skill building through leadership and character development. She believes in evidence-based practices in schools. She has experience in teaching students who receive Special Education services and Emergent Bilingual supports. She has been a bilingual Professional School Counselor for the past 20 years in diverse school settings.