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Schools emphasize inclusion during Bullying Prevention Month

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The Great Kindness Challenge is among the programs students will participate in during Bullying Prevention Month. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco as a city, and SFUSD take pride in having a history of being welcoming and inclusive. We also know that sometimes children can bully one another. We don’t want any of our children to feel excluded or to be bullied.

For San Francisco Unified School District, we believe it is part of our job to teach and model to children how to get along and what to do when they are mistreated. It’s not only part of educating the whole child, it’s also tied to academics. Because when students don’t feel safe and cared for, they are less able to concentrate on learning in school.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Our schools are promoting positive interactions between peers and celebrating diversity, fostering inclusion and promoting acceptance.

Through our health education curriculum, social-emotional learning framework and support services, we build a supportive and inclusive school environment in the classroom and school community.

In addition to these ongoing lessons, many schools including George Washington Carver, New Traditions and Sunset elementary host school-wide events specific to addressing bullying.

Jean Parker Elementary is doing the Great Kindness Challenge. Students will take on the challenge of doing as many kind things as they can in one week. As part of the challenge they get a checklist of ideas including smiling at 25 people, playing with someone new at recess, or entertaining someone with a happy dance.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students still experience bullying more than many of their peers. Several schools are bringing awareness to the bullying LGBTQ students face by participating in Purple Spirit Day on October 18. Students pledge to stand up for LGBTQ rights and wear purple to show their support. In the spring, students may choose to participate in the Day of Silence to highlight the silencing and lack of inclusion of LGBTQ people at school and in our society.

We are also offering training for TK to 5th grade teachers, “Be An Ally and Stand Up for Peace.” The training emphasizes violence prevention curricula and best practices for addressing bullying.

No one should have to experience bullying. But, when bullying does occur, our schools are taking an approach to educate — and discipline — that aims to do more than just punish, we aim to change the behaviors of those who bully and offer opportunities for the victim to express how they’ve been harmed.

Educators proudly take on the responsibility to prevent bullying and we are happy to partner with parents and community members in these efforts.

What to do if your child is being bullied

What is bullying?

Bullying can include repeated physical abuse like slapping, kicking or punching, but also harmful is bullying in the form of gossip, name-calling, or mocking (all of which can be done online with just as much damage.)

What you can do if you think your child is being bullied at an SFUSD school:

SFUSD investigates every bullying complaint.

Call or email your child’s teacher, school social worker, counselor or principal to describe what is happening and ask for help.

Remind your child that, if possible, they can walk away from the situation and seek help from adults at school. Ask who the adult at school is that your child can go to.

If you feel the situation is not being resolved with the school staff, call the SFUSD Office of Family Voice at (415) 241-6150.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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