Most troubling is the rising number of suicides by teens who were bullied – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now about 4,400 students every year.
So what can be done to prevent this harmful problem in America’s schools? While most anti-bullying initiatives rely on teachers and counselors to serve as watchdogs, one strategy engages students themselves – peer mentoring.
Schools such as Tiara’s that have initiated such programs – where older students mentor younger peers – are not only seeing sharp decreases in bullying incidents, but also gains in grades and attendance.
Tiara and Kelly’s school has declared itself a “bully-free zone.” By mentoring each other, students raise awareness of bullying and engage one another as part of the solution. Strategies include anti-bullying pledges, anti-bullying poster contests, and “bullying boxes” where students can anonymously report incidents.
Cloonan Middle School students recently conducted a survey of seventh graders about these efforts and found that while 63 percent of students had been bullied at school in the past, only 40 percent were bullied in the current school year. Fifty-nine percent reported that the bullying situation at school had improved this year.
Here’s what other schools in our organization, College For Every Student, are discovering about mentoring and how it can decrease bullying and – ultimately – help students move toward college. These programs can:
Create positive peer pressure. Peer mentoring raises standards for student behavior among the students themselves and erodes student apathy about negative behaviors.