Our Bullying Prevention module refers to various strategies to involve all school community members from the outset in the development of a bullying prevention plan. (See Mobilizing Your School.) Whether a school establishes a bullying prevention committee, conducts a school climate survey, reviews and updates its code of conduct, or develops procedures for intervention in situations involving bullying or inequity, initial consultation as well as ongoing dialogue with parents and caregivers (as well as students, teachers and other school staff) are essential ingredients for securing community buy-in.
Consultation, communication and dialogue are characteristics of a healthy relationship based on a partnership model. At the same time, they constitute examples of strategies for creating a space where parents’ and caregivers’ presence and involvement are understood to be normal and welcome. By actively welcoming parents and caregivers into the school, outside of crises or problematic situations, teachers, with the support of all staff members and the administration, can work towards establishing a positive relationship based on trust. Parents’ and caregivers’ response to a difficult situation may be coloured by their pre-existing relationship with the school.
Ideally, such a partnership is advantageous on many levels for all parties. When teachers and other school staff collaborate with parents and caregivers to support students, young people are more likely to receive a coherent message reinforcing values and attitudes that are compatible both at home and at school. Furthermore, by fostering a connection between these two spheres, we increase students’ perception that they are part of a web of support, with many adults they can turn to both at home and at school when needed. At the secondary level, students are more self-reliant so this may seem less necessary. Even in adolescence, however, students need the adults in their lives to work in partnership in their best interests.
Collaborative partnerships among adults need to involve students in order to facilitate their empowerment. In many cases, neither the adults at home nor those at school know everything about a student’s experience, as the student may not have told any adults. Furthermore, young people need to know we have confidence in them and their ability to contribute to solving the problem, as this helps to instil a belief in their own abilities.
We increase young people’s resiliency when we equip them to resist bullying and inequity by giving them as much control as possible over the situation, while offering our support and providing back-up when necessary. We can do so by respectfully involving and consulting them in problem-solving and decision-making on issues that affect their lives. Parents and caregivers together with teachers and other school staff can work together for the best interests of our students with this vision in mind.
Many parents and caregivers may also need support in order to share power with schools. Teachers, administrators and other staff members can devise practical strategies in order to facilitate ongoing communication and to increase accessibility. (See Building Connections.)