How to Combat Bullying in Christian Schools

Creating anti-bullying procedures can be a delicate process. Bullying behavior often stems from a student’s need to fit in, problems at home, or mental health issues. Automatic suspensions or other rigid practices may be too simplistic to use in every situation. The most promising programs take a comprehensive approach. Consider creating procedures that protect bullied students and minister to everyone involved.

Consider following these guidelines:

  • Set up a reporting method. Create a procedure for students, their families, school staff members, and others to report bullying behavior. Be sure reports can be made anonymously and with protection from retaliation. Designate the appropriate school employee to receive and investigate reports. Share the appropriate contact information with the school community.
  • Be vigilant. Teachers, custodians, food service personnel, bus drivers, and volunteers can help monitor students. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that this behavior is not acceptable.
  • Take action. As soon as they become aware of bullying behavior, employees and volunteers should step in. Separate the students involved (if necessary), make sure everyone is safe, and eliminate opportunities for additional bullying or retaliation. Notify all parents of students involved in bullying incidents, letting them know their child’s role. Call 911 and parents if:
    • A weapon is involved.
    • Serious bodily harm has occurred.
    • There are threats of serious bodily harm.
    • Anyone is accused of an illegal act.
  • Investigate the incident. After de-escalating any immediate conflict, find out what led to the incident. Talk to the involved students separately and take notes about what happened. If bullying did occur, decide on the level of discipline to apply to the perpetrator. If counseling or other services are needed, refer students and their parents to the appropriate providers.
  • Complete a written report. Use a standard form to report incidents. A locally licensed attorney can help you create a form that follows the laws that apply to your school. Keep reports confidential, guarding the privacy of the accuser, the accused, and the victim.
    Be sure to document your school’s policy on bullying and have a local attorney approve it before putting the policy into effect. An attorney should approve any future changes to the policy, as well.

Implementing Procedures

Deciding on procedures is only part of an anti-bullying effort. It’s critical to implement the procedures by training the school community to act against bullying behavior. As you implement your plan, remember:

  • It’s a good idea to distribute copies of the written procedures to school staff members and volunteers. Host training sessions and retrain on a regular basis to keep memories sharp. Ask for feedback. Over time, teachers and volunteers may discover ways to strengthen your anti-bullying plan.
  • Incorporate rules and procedures in day-to-day school interactions. Teachers and students can discuss the rules in class. Students can hold each other accountable. The principal can give an annual “state of the school” speech that reports on the mission.
  • Encourage students to report bullying to school employees and volunteers. Giving students a role can help them contribute to a climate of respect and responsibility. Parental involvement can reinforce these messages at home, too.

Providing a safe and positive environment for students is one of the top responsibilities for Christian school leaders. By creating a culture that discourages bullying, you can better protect students from harm and help them focus on achieving their potential.