Taking the “bull” out of bullying and school safety training

Posted by on May 25, 2012

School boards and administrators do not need new programs and expenses to manage bullying. In fact, most school districts already have strategies and services in place to adequately address school bullying.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sharing this message to about 100 school board members, superintendents and top school district administrators who registered for my Early Bird pre-conference workshop on “Managing Bullying without New Programs and Expenses” sponsored at the annual convention of the National School Boards Association in Boston.

The Hype on Bullying and Anti-Bullying Training

School board members publicly and privately acknowledged that the politicizing of bullying, media hype and increased parental questions about school anti-bullying efforts were all driving factors that brought them to sign-up and pay extra to attend my half-day workshop.

I was proud of those board members and administrators who felt it was important enough to double-check their current approaches and keep an open mind to make sure they are doing all they can to keep schools safe.

I was even more proud to learn most are handling anti-bullying efforts in a common sense manner and appreciated a voice of reason, along with the practical tips I shared on how to communicate their efforts with their school community.

Managing Bullying without New Programs and Expenses

My approach to the workshop was not like many of the self-serving speakers, cry-on-command presenters and opportunists who have exploited emotional parents and school officials to make a buck off the bullying craze. It is pathetic to hear about some presenters and anti-bullying consultants who  exploit (and likely embellish) their own childhood bullying experiences, the experiences of their children and family members, and the cases of those who have had legitimate bullying cases in the public eye.

A principal in a recent CNN story on a motivational “anti-bullying” speaker summed it up best when he said the best role models are not those one-shot speakers who come in to pull on the heartstrings and emotions of vulnerable kids and teachers to tell their embellished personal tales of bullying and alleged childhood victimization. The best role models are the adults the kids see and interact with each day.

If you stop and think rationally for a moment, the vast majority of school principals could reach out to their own faculty and staff to find a dozen people who could share the same (and probably less dramatic) personal story with children, if that is what they feel is really needed. Why waste thousands of limited dollars on an outside presenter to do the same thing?

Taking the “Bull” Out of Bullying

I was honored by the NSBA attendees who applauded my message that school leaders can manage bullying without new programs and expenses. Over the course of the three hour workshop, we talked about practical, cost-effective practices in my anti-bullying model (not a “program,” but a model using existing practices) that includes supervision and security, discipline, school climate strategies, mental health support, and other measures already in place in schools.

It’s time to take the “bull” out of bullying and school safety training. In times of tight budgets, school leaders should weed through the drama kings and queens on the presentation circuit, use their own local resources and when reaching to outside consultants, focus on those who can teach them how to maximize, and package and communicate their existing strategies and resources to do practical, meaning anti-bullying and school safety practices.

Do your school leaders manage bullying emotionally or with practical, cost-effective coordination of existing programs and resources?

Ken Trump

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3 thoughts on “Taking the “bull” out of bullying and school safety training

  1. Chuck Hibbert says:

    Well stated, Ken. One issue I see over and over again is a lack of an administrative plan to deal with bullying and what to do when it spills over into the community and media. Your point about not needing additional programs is valid, what schools need is a comprehensive approach to this unacceptble behavior. Frankly, I’ve not yet met a person who hasn’t been bullied in their lifetime. We must take a common sense approach to this issue and, as you stated, use the resources at hand.

  2. Andres Durbak says:

    Congratulations for getting that face-time with school board members at the NSBA. They are a serious group of civic minded volunteers, before whom I’ve had the pleasure to speak, as well.
    Your approach is correct in every respect, and I hope that school board members from Chicago heard your message. School leaders need to be exposed to your ideas also, because often they’re the ones being “herded” by the “bullying prevention industry”. It, like the past “antiterrorist industry” and the “anti-drug industry”, agitates for scarce funding to be spent on plans, programs and equipment that have no lasting or discernible benefits.
    Unfortunately, some school board members and leaders have employed the cover of the “bullying umbrella” to hide the very real problem of violent, criminal, victimization in and around schools. I recall instances from my own experience, where street gang recruitment was reported as “bullying”, so as to continue the pretense that there were no street gang problems in those schools. Avoidance of the “crime” label, and the consequent involvement of law enforcement, student arrest and juvenile court, has become paramount in importance.
    So the “bullying prevention industry” has benefited from this confluence of shared interests, but it is doubtful that student victims of violence have benefited, as well.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Thanks for your support and candor, Andy. Sadly, it’s all politics.

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