The transition from summer to the classroom is challenging for many K-12 students. But for some, heading back to school also means heading back to bullying.
One in five students reports being bullied, an experience that can cause effects ranging from a drop in academic performance to severe mental health issues like depression, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and other harmful behaviors.
In addition, with smartphones and social media at their disposal, bullies now have access to more tools than ever before.
As students head back to school, one school counseling expert shares valuable insight for parents to take action.
“The most common types of bullying that take place in K-12 schools include verbal bullying, cyberbullying, physical bullying, and relational bullying,” says Cameka Hazel, assistant professor in New York Institute of Technology’s School Counseling, M.S. program.
Hazel notes that cyberbullying, in particular, can present especially difficult. The media has the potential to reach a wide range of viewers and [posts can be] difficult to remove. The emotional damage stemming from large viewership cannot be easily undone, even if the post is taken down,” she says.
Public schools report that bullying is highest in middle school (28%), followed by high school (16%), combined schools (12%), and elementary (9%). Considering this, Hazel urges parents of all K-12 students to familiarize themselves with the anti-bullying policies at their child’s school.
“All 50 states are required to have anti-bullying laws in [K-12] schools,” said Hazel, who specializes in the supervision and training of professional mental health and school counselors. These policies should cover students’ interactions on school property and school buses, as well as school functions held off campus, like field trips.
According to Hazel, typically, all support and academic staff receive training on the state’s anti-bullying policies. The school’s administration would then designate individuals to serve as anti-bullying coordinators, or a committee to oversee bullying reports and disciplinary actions.
“All students and parents should be made aware of who the anti-bullying coordinators are and how to file a bullying complaint,” she said.
Hazel also advises parents considering a new school to request the school’s anti-bullying policies and inquire about additional initiatives (outside of the mandated policies) that the school is taking to cultivate healthy peer relations among its students.