When Violence Begets Nonviolence: How Schools Are Using Nonviolence Against Bullying

Brittany King, Contributing Writer

Bullying is an epidemic that takes on many forms. It can be physical, emotional and occur online, making it difficult for a child to escape. No matter what form it takes on, the negative effects are clear. In the United States, one in four students reports being bullied at some point during the school year.

Oftentimes, students suffering from bullying say they feel that they have no one to talk to about it. Or they’re worried about whether speaking up will actually stop the bullying. This is why64 percent of students who are bullied, do not report it causing thousands of students to suffer in silence.

Students who are bullied often find it difficult to concentrate in class and on school work at home, causing them to perform poorly in class. Students who engage in bullying deal with difficulties too. Most notable, bullies have an increased risk for substance use and violent behavior later in adolescence and adulthood. Both bullies and the bullied suffer from depression and anxiety at alarming rates.

However, amongst all the bad, there is some good. Students and school administrators are collaborating to come up with solutions to stop bullying in its tracks. These institutions aren’t just disciplining the bully, they’re putting systems in place that support victims of bullying as well.

In Canada, the government, school administrators and parents have recognized that in order to stop bullying, initiatives have to include everyone in the conversation. Each year in November the city of Calgary, Canada hosts a Turn off the Violence Week in all of their schools. This week involves different activities for parents and the greater Calgary community so that they can better understand how to spot when violence is occurring among the youth. The city also holds an art competition where children create their own artwork of their school sans bullying and other forms of violence. Children are then encouraged to take their artwork home and hang it up in a space where they can see it and reflect on it every day.

Participants in a school-based conflict resolution program created by the mayor of New Orleans

Participants in a school-based conflict resolution program created by the mayor of New Orleans

At Dover High School in Dover, Delaware Associate Principal Tiff McCullough is giving students the reins. He has created an anti-bullying task force that is comprised of mostly students, from all walks of life. McCullough choose to attack bullying in this manner because he wants his students to learn how to stand up for what’s right. Students serving on the committee speak to the bully and the bullied face to face to have conversations about the actions that occur. McCullough has also set up “No Bullying Boxes” so students can anonymously submit when they experience bullying or see someone being bullied. This plan was prompted after the school passed out bullying surveys to assess the climate of the school. The surveys showed that 15 percent of students are bullied every day at the school. A number that McCullough believes is far too high.

As for cyberbullying, Delaware doesn’t have strict laws against that yet, but McCullough is encouraging his students to screenshot instances of cyberbullying so the task force can talk about it.

Soquel High School is taking an extreme approach, extreme sports that is. The Santa Cruz, California school invited the ASA High School Tour to its campus this spring to talk about the serious effects of bullying and to put on an awesome show.

The ASA High School Tour invites top athletes that compete in the X Games to schools all over the country. Their message; there’s no place for hate. Amongst presentations of BMX biker Mykel Larrin shredding the half pipe the emcee gave alarming statistics on bullying, letting students know just how fatal the violence can be. The presentation also included a message of hope, giving advice to students on how to be an ally for their peers when they see them being bullied.

The ASA High School Tour is sponsored by the U.S. Marines, making it free for schools. All that’s needed is the space to make it happen.

These types of alternatives to the lecture approach that bullying initiatives have had in the past gets students thinking. It allows them to take a stance on the future of their school. Calagry’s method of letting students create a new reality of a school without violence allows students to look within themselves and commit to doing better. Dover High School’s peer mediation bully task-force puts students in the driver's seat. Stopping bullying with this tactic become less about getting someone in trouble and more about standing up for what is right while supporting both the bully and the bullied. Lastly, the ASA High School Tour makes an impact in an unlikely way, showing students that everyone suffers from bullying and the cost of not speaking up as a bystander, can be deadly.

But putting a stop to bullying doesn’t just happen at school. Change can be made in the home too. By showing children how to treat people with respect and love. Treating bullying as something that is everyone's problem is key. When the community gets involved and agrees that enough is enough, policies can begin to change.