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Have Your Child Thrive, Not Just Survive



Bullying is a word that is constantly associated with the education system. And unfortunately, all the consequences of being a victim of schoolyard bullying can have a negative effect on a child’s social and emotional well-being.

Dr. Ken Rigby wrote in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry that there are four categories of negative health conditions that can result from bullying in school. These categories can be identified as low psychological well-being, poor social adjustment, psychological distress, and physical unwellness (Rigby, Consequences of Bullying in School, p. 584). The listed negative health conditions can often go unnoticed in large school environments, especially urban schools, where the teacher-student ratio does not allow for proper social supervision.

So, what’s the alternative?

Students shouldn’t feel as though their thoughts and feelings go unheard by the school administration, and they shouldn’t ever have a fear of going to school. The answer to this long-standing issue is easier to obtain than it seems. Go small.

Now to explain more of what that means, Deborah Meier wrote in the peer-reviewed Journal of Education Leadership, "Smallness can facilitate governance, respect, simplicity, safety, parent involvement, accountability, and student belonging (Meier, The Big Benefits of Smallness, p. 12). "Small educational environments breed respect and community. Families are closer, parents talk, teachers know all students throughout all grades, and bullying is visible to adults if and when it occurs. Being in an environment where bullying can be identified can help school administrators and teachers address the issues before any adverse effects can permanently alter the well-being of a child.



Bullying will still happen because children are still developing and learning to understand the social norms by which society operates. But the ability to have greater oversight can address issues of bullying and harassment in an effective way. School should be a safe haven, not a breeding ground for fear and mistrust.

When looking for a school for your child, seek out an institution that has implemented bullying prevention processes and looks for trust in the administration and faculty. Make sure the teacher-to-student ratio extends beyond the classroom and ask questions about oversight on the playground. Bullying is preventable; all it takes is creating the right environment to

change the attitudes and behaviors of children. And a smaller environment can foster bonds and prevent violent behavior that can extend into adulthood. According to Dr. Stuart Grauer, "A 1999 U.S. Department of Education study found that schools with more than 1,000 students had far higher rates of violent student behavior than schools with fewer than 300 students, and teachers and students in small schools were far less likely to be victims of crime. But students are not only physically safer in schools of less than 400; they also feel emotionally safer and more connected with adults, which positively impacts learning (Grauer, A Primer on the Power and Tradition of Small Schools, p. 2)."


Small spaces are safe spaces. To learn more about bullying prevention tactics, visit www.stopbullying.gov.


References

Grauer, S. (2019). A Primer on the Power and Tradition of Small Schools. Small Schools Coalition, 1-4.

Meier, D. (1996). The Big Benefits of Smallness. Educational Leadership, 12-15.

Rigby, K. (2003). Consequences of Bullying in School. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 583-590.


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