Laying the Groundwork

In all likelihood, parents and caregivers are more likely to take action to prevent bullying and inequity at school when their own children suffer the negative consequences. And yet, large scale and effective prevention based on systemic change is dependent upon widespread involvement and participation of parents and caregivers and other members of the school community. The following three pre-conditions for the success of a long-term and comprehensive bullying prevention program are elucidated by Ken Rigby in his 2001 publication, Stop the Bullying: A Handbook for Schools:

  • general recognition by the school community (staff, students and parents) that bullying is occurring in the school on a significant scale;
  • widespread belief in the school community that peer-victimization at school can have serious consequences; and
  • optimism regarding the outcome for a school applying new policies and practices directed toward substantially reducing the problem.

Laying the groundwork leading to prevention means raising awareness and developing a hopeful vision. As individuals and as a group, school community members need to be willing to examine themselves and to consider change with an open mind. Parents and caregivers are necessary partners and they have an important role to play even at this preliminary stage; however, getting busy and overwhelmed parents and caregivers to care about the issues when their own children are not directly affected can be a challenge and a conundrum.

There are several key messages about bullying and equity that can help schools frame these issues in such a way that parents and caregivers can better understand their roles and responsibilities.

In order to raise and galvanize widespread awareness and concern about the issue, schools need to communicate the pervasive nature of bullying and inequity. Parents and caregivers may be more willing to take collective action when they view bullying and inequity as a school community problem embedded in the school culture. They need to understand that all students are deeply affected by that culture, whether or not they are bullied themselves, and that all school community members benefit from and share responsibility for developing a safe and inclusive school culture.

Working on issues related to the prevention of bullying and inequity, helping students to develop values and attitudes related to courage, compassion, caring and respect, are no less important than academic success. They help shape how children will relate to others and function in the world as adults, for example, in responding to power imbalances and abuses.