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A Systematic Approach to Bullying Prevention in North Carolina

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Experts say bullying affects the dynamic of the classroom. Credit: Jody Durham/Morguefile.
Experts say bullying affects the dynamic of the classroom. Credit: Jody Durham/Morguefile.
October 20, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – Schools are often "ground zero" for bullying, with national data showing about one-in-five students between the ages of 12 and 18 reporting being bullied at school.

North Carolina districts are working to address the problem during National Bullying Prevention Month. Christel Greiner Butchart, chair of Peaceful Schools NC, says the consequences of bullying resonate beyond the victim.

"The fabric of the whole peer group can be thrown off if there are some really unhealthy dynamics, or a lot of aggression happening," she says. "There are so many different layers that this affects in the whole experience of the student, of the classroom and of the school community."

Greiner Butchart says all those present in the school environment can help to build a systematic approach to bullying. A good start, she says, is creating a positive learning environment where all students can thrive.

Educational leaders will gather Saturday at Duke University for a panel discussion on the issue, and to learn about successful school models addressing bullying.

According to Greiner Butchart, many schools struggle with how to respond to bullying when it does occur. She suggests a proactive perspective on discipline.

"When students make mistakes, how can we look at that as an opportunity to support their growth rather than what I think has been traditional in terms of punishments," she asks. "How can we have something that's more like restitution or restorative justice?"

Peaceful Schools NC works with districts to reduce school violence by educating students, parents, and all school personnel about the dynamics of bullying. Greiner Butchart says while conflict is a natural occurrence, bullies, victims and bystanders all play a role.

"It's hard to imagine a world in which conflict and bullying is not going to take place," she says. "But how do we handle it and address it when it does happen? How can we empower our kids to be able to manage this so it doesn't escalate to something that's going to be dangerous for anybody in the school community?"

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, victims of bullying experience negative mental, physical, social and educational issues. Similarly, bullies are at risk for alcohol and drug abuse, early sexual activity, and criminal convictions as adults.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NC