NAPNAP 2012: Bullying in the School Setting

Kim Farina, PhD

Bullying is on everyone's mind these days. Over the past two weeks, the media has strongly focuses on the trial of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers University student recently convicted of 15 counts, including a hate crime and anti-gay intimidation of Tyler Clementi, his former roommate who committed suicide in September 2010.

Bullying is on everyone’s mind these days. Over the past two weeks, the media has strongly focuses on the trial of Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers University student recently convicted of 15 counts, including a hate crime and anti-gay intimidation of Tyler Clementi, his former roommate who committed suicide in September 2010. The controversial movie, Bully, which opens this Friday, has also drawn the attention of the public. So, it is no surprise that attendees of the 2012 NAPNAP Annual Conference flocked to the bullying presentation given by Nina Fredland, PhD, RN, FNP, assistant professor, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing.

To put bullying into context, Dr. Fredland had audience members talk to their neighbor about any bullying incident that came to their mind—the room was abuzz with chatter as nurses animatedly exchanged stories. It seemed that everyone had a tale to tell.

Bullying occurs over a variety of settings. This talk focused on the school setting where, Fredland explained, the school nurse can play a role in preventing and addressing bullying. Most studies of bullying focus on adolescents in the sixth through eighth grade. She reminded, while these adolescents may seem verbally secure, they have not completed their cognitive development, making it difficult for them to figure out how to handle difficult social situations and relationships.

Bullying intervention strategies may include education focused on social skills or programs that aim to change the norms of the school environment. The latter strategy is a key element of an effective intervention strategy. When you change the environment to one that puts a priority on being positive and respectful, individuals in the environment don’t allow bullying behavior to occur. “The ultimate goal,” she explained, “is to stop it before it begins.”

Examples of primary preventions might involve engaging key adults in the community, arranging a teacher/staff in-service program, maintaining or implementing bullying policies in the school system, holding parent meetings, or establishing a school committee that includes the school nurse, as well as teacher, staff, and administrative representatives.

Dr. Fredland offered tips for counseling and guiding parents on how to address bullying.

  • Never tell a child to ignore bullying.
  • Do not blame the person being bullied.
  • Do not tell a child to physically fight back.
  • Let school or other officials mediate between parents.

She also provided additional resources on bullying in the school setting offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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