October is National Bullying Prevention Month!

Today on the website of the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome, there is a National Bullying Prevention Month story featuring Dr. Stuart Green, who is the director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and an Honorary Committee member of the 3rd annual Youth Advocate 5K.

Dr. Green devotes a lot of his time toward anti-bullying efforts, and his advocacy played a big role in New Jersey developing the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country. After you read the National Bullying Prevention Month article, come back here to read more of Dr. Green’s thoughts about bullying, why it happens, where it happens and how it happens.

Childhood bullying primarily occurs in schools. Bullying is almost always a pattern of negative acts, not a single incident. If not prevented, and then not adequately addressed, it typically extends over the course of months or even years.

The primary cause of bullying is the culture and climate of the school in which it occurs. Although most bullying occurs between peers, the primarily responsibility for preventing and addressing bullying belongs to school leaders and staff.

A critical factor in whether a school adequately addresses bullying is the level of expectation and support in the larger adult and surrounding community, from parents to community leaders. Therefore, the effort a school and community make to have an active, engaged, ongoing relationship, and focus on preventing and addressing bullying, is of great importance.

In this effort, a “town-wide anti-bullying campaign” can be a helpful anchor and motivator. A campaign can help both schools and everyone in the communities be “on the same page” in understanding and addressing bullying. In addition to the school district and the individual schools themselves, the town’s social and business networks, institutions and organizations such as chambers of commerce, the interfaith clergy council, and the town’s recreation department are natural leaders for such efforts.

The faith communities, in particular, should be prioritizing addressing bullying. Every religion’s stated values stand in sharp contrast to the existence of bullying, which is essentially systematic violence directed toward vulnerable children. And there are few experiences more corrosive to children’s spiritual engagement and development than the experience of being repeatedly hurt in settings for which — children well understand –adults are responsible.

The modern understanding of bullying is very different than traditional views. But those mistaken traditional views — the myths of bullying — are still widely held, despite the evidence. Therefore, an important starting point for a town-wide anti-bullying initiative is community education which presents the modern understanding of the nature of bullying, and what can be done to effectively address it.

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