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Creating Safe & Welcoming Schools

Sep 27, 2017, 10:53 AM

It is my belief that EVERY student has the right to feel safe, welcome, and supported at school. Yet, one of the largest studies regarding the annual rates of bullying in our schools show that 2,027,254 youth are involved in moderate bullying and 1,681,030 youth in frequent bullying. (Nansel, 2008). A legislative panel of experts described bullying as a “national epidemic”.

Bullying has become a buzz word in our society, therefore; I prefer to address the topics of bullying, discrimination, and harassment under the umbrella title of “Safe Schools.” To create safe schools we must focus on a positive school culture and climate. In addition to student safety, research has found “that a positive school climate is recognized as an important target for school reform and improving behavioral, academic, and mental health outcomes for students” (Thapa et al., 2012).

Bullying, discrimination, and harassment create a toxic school environment where academic performance is compromised, and where social and behavioral problems run rampant. Negative school climates cause a social disconnect for many students which lead to higher absenteeism, truancy, poor academic achievement, higher dropout rates and more.

Divserse_StudentsI believe in a proactive and preventative approach to school culture reform. A positive school culture and climate can be achieved through a systemic approach. A safe school’s initiative must be on-going, comprehensive, school-wide, and solicit the support and efforts of all stakeholders.

“While approaches that simply crack down on individual bullies are seldom effective, research has found that when there is a school-wide commitment to end bullying, it can be reduced by up to 50%” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009).

To solicit the support and efforts of all stakeholders we must provide education and awareness for administrators, students, staff, parents and community. Schools need leaders who will not sit back waiting to be reactive to problems that our children and society face. Our schools and our children need leaders who are willing to be proactive!

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing.  Action always generates inspiration.  Inspiration seldom generates action” – Frank Tilbot

I will be writing a series of safe schools articles that will be promoting a call to action through an increased level of education and awareness among my National PTA readers. My focus will be the role of parents by examining our own knowledge and beliefs about bullying, discrimination and harassment. We will learn how to educate and empower our own children, family and community.

I will encourage my readers to examine current safe schools efforts and initiatives in your school(s) and community. How to review local and state laws regarding these issues and what we should all expect our schools and school districts to be doing in regards to safe schools initiatives. Also, to provide information, programs and resources to help schools in need of support and reform.

I believe in the power of prevention! We must unite as parents, educators, families and communities working together for a common cause. Creating safe schools requires a conscious deliberate effort. Stay tuned for part II.

 “You don’t have to be great to get going, but you have to get going to be great” – Les Brown

Brent Burnham has 30+ years’ experience as a professional educator, school counselor, and adjunct faculty member at Utah Valley University. He is an ASCA National Counselor of the Year Finalist and Utah Anti-Bully Coalition Executive Board Member. Brent served on National PTA’s expert panel at the National PTA Youth Summit and is the  founder of Social and Emotional Behavior Programs (SEBPrograms).