Community Engagement

A Bully Prevention Program is only as effective as the community in which it resides. Schools can become islands unless community members assume an active role.  Strong family-school-community connections are particularly critical in impoverished communities where schools often are the largest pieces of public real estate and also may be the single largest employer.  Children and youth thrive in a community where family-school connections are strongest.  Relationships with schools should lot be limited to social service agencies.  Rather, relationships should be created between schools,   individuals, businesses, community-based organizations, postsecondary institutions, religious and civic groups, parks and libraries, and any other facilities that can be used for recreation, learning, enrichment, and support.   Local communities interested in taking part in providing safe environments in which young people can learn and grow up to become active and responsible citizens should create an action plan following the same process that directs the school’s policies.

 Landscape Assessment

A landscape assessment before planning for any community event will help the planners 1. Identify local data relevant to the topic of bullying.

2. Understand the needs and capacities that exist in the community

3. Learn about opportunities to build interest in the community.

 

The topics addressed in the assessment should include:

  1. Using data from national and regional studies to understand the issues related to bullying.
  2. Determining the community perceptions about bullying.
  3. Assessing current bullying prevention strategies and capacities.
  4. Selecting community settings.
  5. Looking ahead.

National data on bullying can be found in numerous places online.  Today one in three children report they have been bullied. Check here and here for additional information.

Ask your school district to provide official reports of bullying incidents to gain a comprehensive understanding of the scope of your local problem. Names can be deleted.  Remember, different schools have different recording practices.

Additionally, you may want to conduct focus groups with students or administer questionnaires that will give you data about the students’ perceptions of the bullying situation in their schools. The Peace Center has extensive experience conducting focus groups and creating questionnaires that will be informative and useful.  We can help you with either of these procedures.

Determining Community Perceptions About Bullying

 

Community coalitions and planning groups should investigate entrenched beliefs about bullying in the community.  These beliefs can affect the way a group strategizes in planning a prevention program.  Bear in mind that a single, tragic incident with its concomitant media blitz can alter long held perceptions about bullying,

 Questions that should be asked of the community-at-large include:

 Do youth perceive most adults to be caring and trustworthy?

Do adults show respect and support for the contributions of youth?

To what extent does the community value the attributes of its youth?

Are adolescents generally perceived to be involved in drugs, crime and/or delinquency?

What critical incidents or media portrayals have occurred recently to enhance or weaken these perceptions?

How receptive are adults to creating safe spaces for children and youth?

Do adults intervene when bullying happens?

 

Assessing what your school already does is crucial before a community undertakes a plan to supplement the school district’s efforts.

Do the schools in your community have a cohesive anti-bullying prevention policy?

Do they have procedures in place for dealing with bullying incidents?

Do they have personnel specifically trained in bully prevention?

What safeguards are in place to prevent bullying?

Are the students offered programs or curricula specifically targeted at the discussion and exploration of issues related to bullying?

Selecting Community Settings

 In order to have the greatest impact on the youth in the community, the planning group should target places and organizations where large numbers of children and youth congregate.  YMCAs, religious groups, and sports leagues are excellent jumping off places. Contact the leaders of these organizations and offer to include them in your ongoing programming.

1. Any community-sponsored event must begin with an introduction.  Encourage community members to share their reasons for becoming involved in an anti-bullying campaign.

This will allow for an event that addresses everyone’s concerns.

 

2.  Always begin with an overview of bullying, the various forms it takes, the long term effects it has on both targets and aggressors, and the impact it can have on an individual, a school, and a community.

 

3.  Using the results of the landscape assessment, divide into smaller breakout groups and discuss how bullying has affected the local school and community.  Discuss what the community’s role can be in a bullying prevention program. Brainstorm ways to spread the word and make our schools emotionally, physically, and morally safe places for the community’s most valuable asset…its children. Begin to make an action plan and set a meeting date to continue planning.

4. Distribute handouts that will provide information and list

additional resources for information and services.

 

Stakeholders

The issue of bullying affects everyone. The following is a list of community members that can play important roles in a community’s anti-bullying efforts.

 

Elected officials/Community Leaders

Health and Safety Professionals

Law Enforcement

Child Care/After School Professionals

Faith Leaders

Corporate and Business Professionals

Mental Health and Social Service Professionals

Educators

Parents and Caregivers

Youth Leaders

City/County Recreation Professionals

 

Build Partnerships

Creating alliances with your stakeholders and maintaining regular communication is imperative.  Co-hosting programs, coordinating fund-raising, offering training, or even intervening on behalf of a child or family, can be done collaboratively.  Consider building partnerships with teachers unions, sports leagues, PTOs, and Chambers of Commerce and faith-based youth groups.

When developing outreach strategies, it is important to target each of these individuals, groups, or organizations. AND, make sure to tailor your efforts to the people you will be targeting.

For example, parents may be most interested in cyberbullying, while schools may find classroom prevention strategies more compelling.  It is crucial to identify what each stakeholder has to gain by participating in a community-wide effort.

 Media

Use local media to your advantage.  Media exposure such as public service announcements, articles, and radio and television interviews can sometimes make or break your campaign.  Additionally, most local organizations have list-serv managers and newsletter editors.  See if you can use their mailing lists to get your word out.  Newsletter editors are continuously looking for copy.  Because bullying has deleterious impact on so many people, most editors would be happy to include an article about a community-wide effort to combat the problem.

 Ideas for Community Action

        

  • Create a local fund for businesses to support bully prevention.
  • Create a community newsletter
  • Provide information on federal, state and local bullying laws.
  • Create an interfaith alliance.
  • Host a town hall or community event.
  • Submit op-eds and letters to the editor.
  • Share personal stories.
  • Help youth develop a media campaign.
  • Hold a PSA contest.
  • Conduct team-building exercises with youth.
  • Create a safety plan for children who are bullied.
  • Train adults on gathering and utilizing bullying data.
  • Develop a follow-up procedure for monitoring youth who have been bullied.
  • Conduct Internet safety workshops.
  • Sponsor training sessions for adults on best practices in bully prevention.
  • Hold an anti-bullying day that includes individual classroom activities as well as school-wide and community-wide functions.

You can find step-by-step strategies for planning an effective outreach program here.