Necessary Actions & Key People
In order to understand how to combat bullying, it is essential to understand its origin. Any violent behavior, whether it is physical or emotional, stems from dehumanization. This phenomenon transpires when people stop viewing other individuals as relatable. The less one group can identify with another, the less sensitive they will be to each other’s hardships. This is precisely what happens with people with disabilities – those who are not physically or intellectually limited view them as inferior. The lack of connection between the two groups leads to the development of animosity. As people with disabilities are generally restricted in their ability to fight back, their weaknesses are exploited by bullies.
The first strategy is to humanize people with disabilities in the eyes of potential bullies. This method is corroborated by Saracho et al. (2017), who argue for the inclusion of sensitization in teaching programs. The first step is petitioning school boards to make sensitization training compulsory for teachers and students. The second step will be executed by principals who will ensure that curricula include this aspect. This does not necessarily mean that a new subject should be introduced. Sensitization could be incorporated in the form of class discussions that would transpire monthly. Subsequently, teachers would be responsible for the third step, which is planning these discussions. The final step is to encourage parents to foster tolerant behavior at home, which would increase the pressure on students to respect those with disabilities.
The second strategy is to create an environment where vulnerable people would be more protected. This approach is promoted by Earnshaw et al. (2018), who point to lower bullying statistics in institutions with explicit anti-bullying policies. The first step is to file requests to school boards to implement regulations that would specifically target bullies who take advantage of students with disabilities. The second step is for principals to implement these regulations. The most important component is monitoring violations, which can be done through regular anonymous questionnaires specifically designed to ascertain instances of bullying (Falla et al., 2021). The third step is for teachers to acquaint their students with the consequences of bullying. The final step is to warn parents of the implications of the bullying behavior of their children.
The short-term goal is the implementation of strategies that should tackle the issue of bullying. The entire process starting from the moment of sending suggestions to school boards to the implementation of changes by principals, should take no more than a month. This is an adequate timeframe for preparing the argumentation for members of school boards and consideration of appropriate anti-bullying measures. This implies that in one month, both strategies are implemented, and teachers and parents start educating students on the social problem of bullying.
The long-term goal is the statistical reduction in cases of bullying of students with disabilities. In order for the strategies to have a noticeable effect, at least six months are necessary. There are two reasons for using this timeframe in this criterion. First, six months allow for a significant number of anonymous bullying surveys to be accumulated, as the first survey will have results that will not yet be influenced by impending changes. Second, half a year is sufficient time for students and teachers to realize that the new policies and curricula will remain.
The first important resource that should be considered is people. Specifically, it is important to understand how many school board members are willing to investigate the problem of bullying and actually implement corresponding changes. It might be necessary to contact some of them before filing an official request. Once it is clear that there will be support for the implementation of policies and sensitization training, the probability of success will increase.
The second resource is the administrative ability to implement these changes. In order for anti-bullying initiatives to be effective, they have to be adequately enforced. However, unless principals can ensure that curricula and school regulations can be swiftly changed, the efficiency of these policies will be compromised (Earnshaw et al., 2018). Subsequently, school boards need to ensure the administrative capacity of schools before delegating the task of implementing these changes to principals.
The final resource is the tool that would enable students to report bullying. Even if they are not allowed to use smartphones in school, they can still do so while at home. Therefore, each school can create a channel through which anonymous information can be collected. If a bullying victim does not want to disclose their identity or a witness is not willing to compromise themselves, they should have an opportunity to report abuse on an anonymous basis. It can be a hotline, which every student may call. Alternatively, it is possible to include a guest function on the school’s website, which would allow unregistered users to post without disclosing their identity.
The final resource is the availability of educational materials that would spread the awareness of bullying among students. For instance, anti-bullying flies and handouts should be prepared and issued for public use. Another option is to create a social advertisement video that would be streamed for students. One more possibility is to develop a monthly newsletter that would be sent to every parent, containing information about bullying cases over the last month. Ultimately, the goal of such tools is to make students and parents remember the significance of this issue.
The primary stakeholders of this initiative are students and parents. Subsequently, it is important for all these groups to understand the urgency of the issue. As the goal is to gather support for the petition to school boards, these people need to know why this is important. The most effective way to communicate this idea is to launch a hashtag on Instagram, which would go viral.
The principals and teachers should know how to implement these changes. Once enough support is gathered, they should inform students and parents of the new policy changes and how they can participate in the anti-bullying initiative. An effective way to communicate it would be to post fliers on school walls. This choice is preferred because it will allow the mind to “retrieve experienced visual perceptions and emotions that can be recalled by environmental stimuli”, thus accumulating passive knowledge (Nazer et al., 2018, p. 7260). In essence, students will know where to call by simply glancing at a promotional flyer on the wall.
Overall, this plan includes two strategies – sensitization and fostering a safe environment for students with disabilities. Both initiatives encompass four steps: petitioning school boards, changing school regulations and curricula, conveying information to students, and encouraging parents. The implementation of the plan should take no more than a month, while six months are enough to see the results. Public awareness is key to ensuring changes, which is why these strategies rely on the dispersion of information. Once enough people are invested, bullying rates will decrease and students with disabilities will feel safe and welcome.
Earnshaw, V. A., Reisner, S. L., Menino, D. D., Poteat, V. P., Bogart, L. M., Barnes, T. N., & Schuster, M. A. (2018). Stigma-based bullying interventions: A systematic review. Developmental Review, 48, 178-200. Web.
Falla, D., Sánchez, S., & Casas, J. A. (2021). What do we know about bullying in schoolchildren with disabilities? A systematic review of recent work. Sustainability, 13(1), 416-434. Web.
Nazer, M., Mirzaei, H., & Mokhtaree, M. (2018). Effectiveness of neurofeedback training on verbal memory, visual memory and self-efficacy in students. Electronic Physician, 10(9), 7259- 7265. Web.
Saracho, O. N. (2017). Bullying prevention strategies in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(4), 453-460. Web.