December 21, 2005
Posted online January 7, 2005
Bully Buster Has Advice for Schools and
By Jeffrey Franklin
Once bullied himself, University of Illinois Extension youth
development educator Jeff Franklin has made bullying prevention
an area of expertise.
Franklin and Angie Bailey of the Jackson County Health
Department were recently given the Illinois Center for Violence
Prevention's 2005 Peaceleader Award for their collaborative
work in bullying prevention in Jackson County, Illinois,
"Many parents don't see bullying as an issue unless
their child has been a victim," Franklin said. "They
think kids are just being kids, and it's true that conflict
is a normal part of growing up. But bullying is not a normal part
of child development, and we need to be able to distinguish
between a typical childhood conflict and a bullying
If children attend small, rural schools, parents may have a
false sense of security, he said. "They probably think the
small-town school is safer; they may have chosen it for that very
reason. But bullying goes on in rural and urban settings. It may
be worse in rural schools because teachers have less access to
resources for dealing with the problem."
It's important for schools to take a schoolwide approach
to dealing with the problem, he said. "One teacher's
efforts, while commendable, just won't do it. All staff,
including janitors, bus drivers, playground aides, and classroom
volunteers, should be taught how to respond to bullying when they
"When a school has a really active anti-bullying program,
you can walk in and feel the difference," Franklin said.
"There's so much that goes into a good school plan to
combat bullying. When staff are working with kids on building
positive friendships and learning to accept differences, you
don't see bullying as much." Successful schools
typically kick off their anti-bullying efforts with splashy
assemblies and poster contests, and they work to get parents and
the community involved. "Everyone has to speak the same
language," Franklin said. "That way, when you approach
a student who's behaving inappropriately, you can say 'We
don't allow that here,' and the kid knows where
you're coming from."
All Illinois schools are legally required to have an
anti-bullying policy, and parents have the right to see it,
How can you tell if your child is being bullied? If you really
look, you'll see the signs, Franklin said. Is your child
withdrawn? Is she reluctant to go to school or school functions?
Have his personal items been destroyed or gone missing
altogether? Are her friends changing?
Be aware that girls bully differently than boys do. "Boys
are primarily physical in the way they bully and an incident is
usually over quickly--although the bully may pick on the same
victim again the next day. Girls say, 'If you want to sit
with us at lunch and continue to be part of our group, you'll
have to do this to show that you're our friend.' Also, so
much of what is going on at this age is hormonal, and
cross-gender bullying can cross the line into sexual
harassment," he said.
If you believe your child is a victim of bullying, you can
coach him in some acceptable responses, such as avoiding danger
spots, staying with a group of friends, or seeking adult help,
"It probably won't help to go to the child's
parent," he said. "Bullying is a learned behavior, and
a child bully may have a parent who exhibits similar behaviors
and would be unlikely to listen to pleas for assistance from
"Instead work with your child to help him adopt a posture
or a demeanor that sends a confident message. Or teach him to use
humor to defuse a situation." You can also work to address
skill deficits in your child, Franklin said. Does your child need
help with social skills, forming friendships, or being assertive?
Consider seeking help from a professional counselor or find other
groups for your child to be involved in so she can build some
"But realize, as a parent, when you just don't have
the answer. I would never advise a child to fight back because
things are so different today than when their parents were in
school. The situation can rapidly escalate, kids can get
hurt--badly, or they can be expelled from school," Franklin
Bullies, victims, and bystanders all suffer consequences from
these behaviors, so everyone has an interest in changing a school
climate, he said. "Bullies too are at risk for adult
relationship problems, including spousal or child abuse and
problems in the workplace."
"And some of the most important work we do in schools is
with bystanders, who are the caring majority of the school,"
Franklin said. "Those kids can feed a bullying situation or
they can defuse it. They can walk away from the situation and get
an adult. A bully wants an audience, and if the audience
doesn't cooperate, he or she is thwarted."
Some facts Franklin says you may not know:
• Two to three students spend their day afraid of
bullies in the average elementary school classroom.
• 10 to 15 percent of children say they are regularly
• Bullying behavior peaks in middle school between
grades four and seven.
• Effects can be long-lasting. Bullied children may
have trouble forming and keeping relationships in adulthood. They
can also have continuing problems with depression, substance
abuse, and low self-esteem.
Source: Jeffrey Franklin, Extension Unit Educator, Youth
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