A recent national school climate survey found that some groups of young students are more likely to face harassment and bullying– for example, based on disability (Carter & Spencer, 2006), sexual orientation (Kosciw, Greytak, Diaz, & Bartiewicz, 2010), gender identity (Kosciw et al., 2010), weight (Peterson, Puhl, & Luedicke, 2012; Wang, Iannotti, & Luk, 2010), race, or religion. Suicide is a leading cause of death for middle and high school students (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010), and bullying and harassment are blamed for many of these deaths.
The national survey uncovered that over 80 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth reported experiencing bullying or harassment at school. The same survey found that over 92 percent of LGBT youth reported hearing homophobic remarks from other students at school; more than half reported hearing homophobic comments from teachers or other school staff (Kosciw, Greytak, Bartkiewicz, Boesen, & Palmer, 2012). Students with disabilities are subjected to more bullying, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and social rejection than other students (Carter & Spencer, 2006; Llewellyn, 2000; Marini, Fairbairn, & Zuber, 2001; Norwich & Kelly, 2004).
There are many challenges in eliminating bullying and harassment because we all have biased attitudes and behaviors that negatively harm students. Some of us acknowledge this and work to increase our self-awareness and build respectful relationships with students. Others are unaware of their own biases and unknowingly say or do things that discriminate against others. Moreover, some individuals intentionally discriminate against others and refuse to change. For many schools, bullying and harassment are entrenched in their culture and affect school climate. The culture dictates the social norms that determine how adults relate to students and how students treat each other (National School Climate Council, 2012).
School climate is the overall quality and character of school life, including teaching and learning practices, organizational structures, norms and values, and relationships. Because bullying and harassment are so prevalent in the day-to-day life of some schools, staff members and students view these behaviors as “normal” and fail to recognize the severe problem they create (National School Climate Council, 2012).
IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your students and staff members gain an understanding of one’s sense of self and what they deeply value. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Adults can also be trained in antibullying strategies and techniques to build an inclusive climate. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment.