There are steps you can take to help your kids stand up to bullying

By Emmanuella Wagnac

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. For the Mattapan Community Health Center community, it is important that we understand what bullying is and the types of preventative solutions that can be used against bullies.

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior whereby someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.

Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words, or more subtle actions. Bullying is being mean to another kid over and over again. It often includes teasing, talking about hurting someone, spreading rumors, leaving kids out on purpose, attacking someone by hitting them or yelling at them.

The two most common places for bullying are in school and online. Cyber bullying happens through text messages or emails, postings on sites like Facebook, the sharing of embarrassing pictures or videos, and the creation of fake profiles or websites.

How can we protect our children against bullies? Always being aware is essential. If you are a parent, teacher, neighbor, or guardian, look for the warning signs and ask questions. Isolation and fear can cause individuals to stay silent, but their caretakers need to be attentive.

Children also need adult guidance to respond assertively and effectively to the bully, such as by standing tall, looking the bully in the eye, and calmly saying, “No, it’s my turn to play with this toy.”

All staff within a school should know the state laws regarding bullying. They should also know what their school district’s policy is and whether it follows state law. According to the Measuring Bullying Prevention and Intervention, since 2010, all Massachusetts public school districts have been required to establish and maintain bullying prevention and intervention plans under a new state anti-bullying law.

It is important to be consistent when training staff, educating parents, and ensuring that the whole district is consistent when enforcing policies.

Victims of bullying who tell an adult about it are often called “snitches” and this is an intimidation that can sap their assertiveness, social skills, and coping strategies. They say nothing just to fit in. Our strategies for those who feel unsafe are to immediately address it to those they trust. Bullying is never okay and should be taken very seriously.

If you are uncomfortable to addressing this in person, you may contact the BPS bullying Hotline 617-592-2378, which is available at any time of the day seven days a week.

Emmanuella Wagnac is the Violence Intervention Prevention (VIP) coordinator at Mattapan Community Health Center.