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Anti Bullying Ambassadors: Stamping out bullying for good

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Anti bullying concepts are continuously evolving and there are varying statistics regarding how many children experience bullying, some range from 1 and 4 children, others claim around 6 in 10. Regardless of which figures are the true reflection of bullying, the fact is, one child being bullied is one too many. Bullying doesn’t just make a child’s life at school miserable, it can have an enormous impact on their future, both academically and personally.

The effect of bullying

Bullying can cause kids to become introverted, lose confidence, develop eating disorders, start skipping school, lashing out at others, cause grades to slip, the list is endless. You hear countless stories of A grade students being the victim of bullying, then grades dropping and their behaviour changing and in the worst cases, children have committed suicide feeling it’s their only way to get away from the bullies.

Why do kids bully?Anti bullying ambassadors: Stamping out bullying for good.

Schools have been trying to tackle bullying for a long time, some with greater success than others. Every school is required to have an anti-bullying policy and if a student or parent complains about bullying it should be taken seriously and dealt with, but all too often it isn’t. Kids bully other kids for different reasons; they may have been bullied previously, they might have insecurities of their own, they might be egged on by other kids or they might be going through tough emotional issues at home and vent their frustration out on others in the form of bullying.  Schools have just been using teachers to try and stamp out the problem, yet we all know that children often find it difficult to relate with adults and a teacher telling you ‘it’s not nice to bully anyone’ can have no impact whatsoever.

USA leading the way

In some states in America, legislation has been passed to make bullying illegal as a result of increased suicides among children. Bullies can be prosecuted and schools held accountable – a huge step forward that really addresses the seriousness of the damage caused by bullying. As a result, many anti-bullying initiatives have been developed across the US, the most successful of which and a blue-print for others, was started at White Pine Middle School in Ely, Nevada. In 2006 when Aaron Hansen started as the new Head teacher, it had a terrible reputation for bullying. He has now turned the school around and it’s leading the way against bulling and is one of 30 national ‘model’ schools in the whole of the United States.

They have managed to promote a culture of kindness among all pupils and have done this not with teachers trying to do all the work, but with influential pupils in the school being part of a leadership programme and spreading the message within their peer group.

How do Anti Bullying Ambassadors work?

Such a simple yet effective idea – kids look up to other kids, kids react to other kids and kids will influence other kids. The key to this is empowering the influential or ‘cool’ kids. In White Pine, they were named ‘the defenders’ and every child in the school was made aware who a defender was and that they could speak to them about regarding bullying at any time.

These influential defenders are committed to setting the right example to other children, showing that it’s cooler to be kind to each other and being unkind isn’t cool or acceptable. At lunch or break times the defenders would wear T shirts as a visual representation of who they are while providing a physical presence that clearly show’s the school is serious about tackling bullying. The other kids can clearly see who the defenders are and by being kind and supportive to all, the defenders are leading by example.

Leading by exampleAnti bullying ambassadors: Stamping out bullying for good.

Getting kids to enrol on the leadership programme isn’t always easy, many have worried they will be seen as geeky or a teachers pet and then become the victims of bullying themselves. However the benefits of getting the right kids on board are tremendous. In one such instance, the most prolific bully in the school has become a defender. Not only did this change of attitude affect how he dealt with his own emotions and issues affecting him at home (that were the root cause of the bullying behaviour) but other bullies he influenced changed their attitudes too, kids that were terrified of him were starting to look up and respect him not because they were scared but because he was seen as a positive role model for others. This boosted his own self esteem, empowering him to spread the message further that making others miserable, won’t make you happier.

Bringing it to the UK

In a recent documentary, ex glamour model Jodie Marsh, who suffered terribly at the hands of bullies, highlighted this new approach and set out to bring this anti-bullying model over to the UK. With the inspiration from the leadership programme in White Pine School, two schools in the UK were selected to trial the programme and did so with outstanding results.

Children were invited to become part of the programme and the influential students in each class were asked to become leaders and really put the programme into practice. The students were asked to think up a name like the ‘defenders’ and put a strategy together in order to show others that in order to gain social status, you have to be kind.

A blueprint for tackling other issues

This form of empowerment and influence within peer groups isn’t just limited to beating bullying. Once the programme is established it can be used to highlight the dangers of drugs, under age drinking or safe sex. Not only has this method helped stamp out bullying, but it’s influenced and redefined a generation – reducing suspensions, reducing expulsions, increasing attendance and more importantly has helped save the lives of children who would have felt that the only way to escape bullies is by taking their own lives.

It’s something that is proven to have a positive impact on bullying as well as a schools ethos and the UK needs to welcome it with open arms and roll it out across schools in Britain as soon as possible.

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About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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