Nate Monson is the Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools, the state’s leading LGBTQ youth and anti-bullying organization. Since 2002, the organization has led efforts to pass the state’s anti-bullying law, inclusion of LGBTQ youth in the Iowa Civil Rights Code and statewide training efforts for educators. The organization is hosting the 10th Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth to be held April 3rd, 2015 in Des Moines. For more information about Iowa Safe Schools please visit www.iowasafeschools.org
All students deserve a safe and supportive learning environment. While this statement rings true, we know that students are faced with bullying, harassment and even threats of physical violence in our schools and communities. According to the 2012 Iowa Youth Survey, 57% of Iowa students reported being bullied.
What can you do as a parent or an educator if you know a student is a target of bullying behavior? Here are the three recommended actions you need to take to help any student who is being bullied.
Report – The first action you need to take is to report the incident to the school’s office. There will be bullying report forms available, as required under state law, in every school’s office. After you request the form, ask to speak with the school counselor or school administrator on duty to inform him or her about the situation. This will enable the school to take immediate action while you complete the form in its entirety. A bullying investigation will be conducted following the completion of the bullying report. Every school has a designated bullying investigator, in some cases this will be the principal.
Protect – During this initial conversation, you need to work with the school administrator on the most important thing, a safety plan for the student. This is done to ensure that no further emotional or physical harm is done in the short term. A safety plan should include such items as: securing the route the student takes home from school, becoming aware of social media habits and alerting other educators in the building that an incident has happened. Communication with other school staff is imperative as some may have observed things in their classrooms, and it ensures that the students involved are not unknowingly placed in a group project together.
Support – Bullying takes a high emotional toll on a person. While a bullying situation is being solved, it is critical to support the student. This support can come in a variety of ways such as opening outlets of communication so the student has a trusted adult to confide in or by providing activities to help build the student’s self confidence.
Remember – bullying is not a normal conflict between two people – this is a form of abuse. It is important to respond quickly and consistently to send the message that bullying is not acceptable.There are a variety of resources to help including StopBullying.Gov; TheTrevorProject.Org; and our own website at IowaSafeSchools.Org.