Bullying: How to Advise Teachers on Warning Signs

February 13th, 2016

Having been a teacher (and still being married to one) I am well aware that teachers and counselors are asked to take on enormous and ever increasing tasks and responsibilities: standardized tests, faculty evaluations, volumes of unending paperwork, etc.. I am genuinely sensitive to that. And state mandates on bullying have made the job even more difficulty. However, teachers and counselors are the core of a school’s anti-bullying effort.

It is unrealistic to expect teachers and counselors to observe all instances of bullying. Bullies are good at hiding their actions and victims are often reluctant to come forward. I know you can’t be everywhere at once (although sometimes you think you are expected to be.) So while you can’t always see the incidents of bullying, you can notice the change in a student’s behavior. You can empower and encourage your colleagues on the faculty to remind them that they know their students better than anyone in the school, and that they can use that knowledge to help identify possible signs of bullying.

Here are some tips to give your colleagues to help identify students who may be targets of bullying.

• unexplained missing or damaged property
• unexplained scratches, bruises or torn clothing
• suddenly developed stammer or stutter
• sudden withdrawal from others
• sudden unfocused, anxious, or preoccupied behavior
• sudden loss of appetite (i.e. not eating their lunch)
• sudden unexplained headaches or bellyaches
• frequent requests to go to the nurse
• desire to stay home from school
• homework starts being incomplete
• decline in academic performance
• clingy behavior
• avoidance of certain locations in school

The more of these signs occurring, the more reason to suspect the student may be a victim of bullying. While none of these “warning signs” in and of themselves are proof-positive that someone is a victim of bullying, they should serve as an indication that extra attention could be given that student to observe if in fact they are being targeted for bullying behavior.