If we accept that changing school culture can help to reduce and prevent bullying, then building healthy partnerships is a central component of that shift. The school is a community comprised of many members: students, parents, support staff, teaching staff, and administrative staff; furthermore, schools are located in a community context, where agencies with relevant expertise or services may exist. Any or all of these groups may have a role to play in helping to resolve specific bullying situations, as well as ongoing or entrenched bullying problems. Finding constructive, respectful and collaborative ways of engaging members of these groups – individually and collectively, both in the short-term, and on an ongoing basis – may bring schools closer to meeting their goals. When intransigent bullying problems arise which defy simple solutions, turning to the whole community to develop strategies collectively can lead to concrete results.
The following guidelines will be familiar to many schools seeking to engage individuals and groups in a collaborative process to end bullying at school. To help reach that goal, schools can:
- Actively seek creative ways of involving the school community to find strategies for dealing with bullying before specific problems arise. That way, the groundwork is laid for collaboration and involvement in periods of crisis. For example: establish a Bullying Response Committee comprised of representatives from all members of the school community, including students, parents and school staff. Such a committee can offer consultation and guidance in applying bullying prevention policies and protocols.
- Consistently apply principles of respectful and healthy communication in interactions with community members. Many of the suggested strategies for use by adults intervening with students in bullying situations can be applied to any situation involving groups or individuals where problem-solving is required;
- Assume the best of people when raising problems with them, by inviting them to contribute to problem resolution and to get involved constructively in some way. For example, when discussing their child’s or teen’s bullying behaviour with parents, invite their input into seeking solutions and include them in meetings and consultations when appropriate.
- When possible, actively consult all parties involved in a bullying situation, those who will be affected by a change in school policy, or the creation of a new procedure, or any other significant event or change, before taking action. For example, call a meeting with the single goal of seeking information and input from those involved in or affected by a situation.
- Get to know the agencies in your community and the services they provide. They may have expertise in areas that are relevant to bullying prevention and be willing to offer services to your school. For example, community health centres may provide programming in health promotion; women’s services may be active in the area of violence prevention; youth services may be involved in leadership development.
Greater community involvement in school life leads to a greater sense of responsibility for ensuring the well-being of all members of the school community.