October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a nationwide event by the PACER Center to raise awareness about bullying in America. Bullying is unfortunately an ever-present problem in schools, especially online. As teachers, you can make a significant impact by utilizing this month to educate, encourage, and empower your students to reduce bullying.

Bullying in the United States

In 2017, The National Center for Educational Statistics conducted a thorough investigation of student bullying in the United States. Their data revealed the following alarming statistics:

1. Students most frequently reported being bullied for their race or ethnicity, physical appearance, gender, disability, religion, or sexual orientation.

2. About 20% of students (ages 12-18)—one in five—reported being bullied and stated the following type or characteristic:

  • 13% were the subject of rumors.

  • 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted.

  • 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on.

  • 5% were excluded from activities on purpose.

  • 3% were threatened with harm.

3. Forty-one percent believed they would be bullied again.

How Bullying Affects Students

Peer-on-peer bullying negatively impacts students’ physical, social, and emotional health. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control discovered that victims have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. These initial risks may result in long-term consequences, which can result in self-harm or death. Shockingly, the bullies who were previously bullied experience more serious consequences with mental health and behavioral issues. 

National Bullying Prevention Month’s Student Activities

Prevention programs have been successful solutions to combat the prevalence of bullying. A report by the Congressional Research Service prepared for Members and Committees of Congress found that these programs decreased bullying behavior by 10-23 percent and the victimization by bullies by 17-20 percent. Educators can make a real difference in their students’ lives by introducing bullying awareness and student activities.

School Map   

Most bullying takes place in unsupervised areas. According to the National Center for Educational, students who were bullied reported it happening most frequently in stairwells or hallways (43%), classrooms (42%), the lunchroom (27%), outside on school property (22%), online or by text message (15%), in the bathrooms or locker rooms (12%). The School Map activity helps students identify places where they witness bullying at school and brainstorm ways to reduce bullying in those areas. Teachers may recommend a traffic-light system to mark the map: green for safe areas, yellow for infrequent bullying areas, and red for bullying hotspots. After completing their maps, either digitally or in person, students and teachers can problem-solve ways to reduce bullying on campus.

Anti-Bullying Pledge

Teaching Tolerance shares an Anti-Bullying Pledge that encourages students to own the prevention of bullying at their school. For this activity, students write a personal vow against anti-bullying. It is most effective to use this activity after a lesson about bullying.

Teachers can provide a few prompts, such as:

  • “I will prevent bullying by…”

  • “I will demonstrate kindness by…”

  • “I will support my peers by…”

  • “I will stand up for others by…”

Students can then complete the sentence in their own words and sign it. Teachers may wish to take a photo of each student holding their pledge. These photos can be displayed in a prominent place in the classroom as a reminder for students. During remote learning, teachers can create a shared folder with the class’s photos and pledges.

Culturally-Relevant Stimulus and Discussion

According to an article by Jason Tomaszewski of the Education World, teachers can introduce lively discussions about anti-bullying using excerpts from books, movies, and television shows. Students can then discuss what form of bullying was present in the story, how the victim was affected, and how the bullying could have been prevented. They may also wish to discuss the types of bullying they noticed in the stimuli, such as public humiliation, exclusion from groups, or verbal abuse. This activity encourages students to work on their critical thinking and analysis skills.

The Compliment Circle

Paige Bessick of The Interactive Teacher shares The Compliment Circle, a fun and simple game that unites classmates and improves their self-esteem. To play, all you need is to get everyone sitting in a circle with their legs straight. Choose a student to start and have them compliment someone else in the class. That student will then thank the student who complimented them and cross their legs to signal that they’ve already received a compliment. Teachers may wish to structure this exercise by providing students with a specific question or topic to guide their compliments. For example, you could suggest they write the best quality of their peer or what the student likes most about them. 

This activity can be done during COVID as well, whether it’s through an email thread, a group chat, or a video call. To make it anonymous, choose a prompt for the students, have them submit them to your email, and then read the emails over video chat with the class. Or have students chat in the name of their recipient and the compliment privately to you, and you can read these compliments aloud to the class. 

Take Action

National Bullying Prevention Month in October presents an opportunity to introduce anti-bullying student activities to your online or in-person classroom. Recent statistics prove that bullying prevention programs substantially reduce instances of student bullying. At GoGuardian, we care deeply about the mental health of all students. Beacon is our suicide prevention service, which helps identify those who are silently suffering and activate responses for schools. Explore what preventative methods work best for your class to protect and impact the next generation of leaders.