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Bullying: How can teachers step-in

Ever wondered as an Islamic School Teacher (IST) how to intervene in bullying situations, or when you see bullying happening and there is no counselor or antibullying interventions at your school. Here are some steps on how to approach this issue from mental health and best practices perspective with Islamic guidance.

Step 1: Educating yourself and students about serious consequences

The first step as IST is to educate yourself about all the facts about bullying in the U.S. You can accomplish that by taking the free Bullying Prevention Training Course that is available at stopbullying.gov (2017). The training is one hour long, and it allows you to be certified in bullying prevention, and earn two continuing education units or CEUs after passing an assessment. You can then begin to prepare your antibullying intervention in bullying awareness month of October or whenever it is needed. You can decide on doing this intervention in one or two class periods depending on how much you want to cover in your sessions.

On the day of the intervention, you can introduce your program to students by reminding them of the true definition of bullying as a repeated unwanted behavior that can be manifested in the form of physical, verbal, social, or cyberbullying. You can also invite the school principal and school counselor on that day to talk to students about the serious consequences of bullying within your school. The idea is to increase students’ awareness about the fact that bullying is not accepted or tolerated within school premises, and that students may face serious consequences within the school if they choose to continue their bullying behaviors.

As an IST, it is important to realize that you spend a large amount of time with students and that you are one adult that students can look up to and trust to talk to whenever a bullying situation occurs during class periods, recess, PE, or any other time during school. You can motivate students to always tell an adult the moment bullying occurs and not wait days after it has occurred.

Step 2: Educate students about the negative impacts of bullying

For lower elementary grades (i.e. KG to 2nd grade), it is helpful to read a book or play one of the read-aloud books about bullying to students that are available online. This helps students relate to the characters in the book and fully participate in this intervention. The idea is to allow students learn about how bullying can negatively impact students in an interactive way. Also, this provides an opportunity for bystanders, or those who witness bullying, build empathy and compassion for those who are being bullied. You can go over types of bullying and how targets, bullies, and bystanders can all be negatively impacted.

You can explain to students that bullies will continue their bullying behavior if they are not stopped immediately, and this might lead them to act violently in the future. Also, targets/victims feel scared, worried, sad, and isolated, and they have trouble concentrating at school and thus get lower grades. Bystanders on the other hand may feel worried, sad, or scared for those who are being bullied, and they may be too afraid to tell a adult. This is an opportunity to persuade the students to come to you in a bullying situation, and this is not “telltaling”, but it is the right thing to do to stop bullying from happening.

For 3rd and higher grades, you can play videos on bullying such as “Bullying is Never OK!” and “Our Special Super Power” consecutively (Bullyingnoway.gov, 2019). After watching the video(s), try to open up the discussion with questions like “who are the bystanders?” and “how can bystanders help in a bullying situation?”. The idea is to allow students to participate interactively, and come up with solutions as a group of strong bystanders and defenders as Dr. Aida Midgett (2016), the creator of the brief bystander intervention, recommended. For more information on Dr. Midgett’s program and STAC training, please refer to the provided links.

Step 3: Educate students how to intervene in bullying situations

For lower elementary grades, you can remind students to immediately tell an adult if a bullying situation occurs. You can give example of all the adults students can reach out to within your school. For 3rd and higher grades, you could teach students STAC strategies as explained by Dr. Aida Midgett (2016), which offer effective ways of intervening in bullying situation right at the scene. “S” is for “stealing the show”, “T” is for turning it over”, “A” is for “accompanying others”, and “C” is for “coaching compassion”. Students can be involved in role play in the classroom where students can act out different roles and use one of the strategies as explained by Dr. Aida Midgett (2016). The STAC strategies have been proven to be highly effective in preventing and lowering bullying situations in schools and increase students’ confidence in participating in bullying situations as defenders (Midgett, Doumas, & Trull, 2016).

Step 4: Talk about Islamic teachings related to fighting bullying

This is the part as an IST where you can use your Islamic knowledge depending on the grade level. For example, you can talk to students about prophet Mohammad peace be upon him saying or Hadeeth, “No one is a true believer until they love for others what they love for themselves”. In addition, you can mention how we as Muslims should be empathetic, compassionate, and caring towards each other and not try to hurt anyone verbally, physically, and socially. You can also ask some questions like, “is it ok to hurt a cat or dog?”. The idea is to make students think about their behavior, and always think about the other person before they react or act in a mean or aggressive way.

For students in 9th grade and up, you can engage students in critical thinking, and relate a bullying situation to Quran. For example, you can ask students to think of a Surah Yusuf and bullying. Students can immediately relate bullying to how prophet Yusuf peace be upon him was bullied by his brothers in verses 8-9:12 of the Quran. In fact, one of his brothers wanted to kill him. Then ask them to think of another bystander in the story and how he didn’t want to kill him, but rather throw him at the bottom of a well in verse 10:12 in Quran. The discussion can be very interesting and engaging, and students can relate how bullying is even mentioned in the Quran and how Allah Subhanahu wa ta’Ala rescued prophet Yusuf peace be upon him from the bullies.

Conclusion

As an IST, you can use your education from stopbullying.gov training and bullyingnoway.gov resources, Dr. Aida Midgett (2016) STAC training, and Islamic teachings to increase your students’ awareness about bullying, help them stop it, and build good knowledge and character insha’Allah. Islamic education can also provide various learning resources for students to learn that this behavior is not an acceptable or tolerated in Islam. Instead, students can build confidence as a strong group of bystanders to defend bullying targets and take the right means to stop bullying.

References

Bullyingnoway.gov. (2019). Bullying is never ok! Retrieved from https:// bullyingnoway.gov.au/Resources/Videos/Pages/VideoPlayer.aspx?VideoID=183

Bullyingnoway.gov. (2019). Our special super power. Retrieved from https:// bullyingnoway.gov.au/Resources/Videos/Pages/VideoPlayer.aspx?VideoID=173

Midgett, A., Doumas, D., Sears, D., Lundquist, A., & Hausheer, R. (2015). A Bystander bullying psychoeducation program with middle school students: A preliminary report. Professional Counselor, 5(4), 486–500.

Midgett A. (2016). Bullying: How counselors can intervene. Retrieved from https:// ct.counseling.org/2016/06/bullying-counselors-can-intervene/#comments

Midgett, A., Doumas, D., & Trull, R. (2016). Evaluation of a Brief, School-Based Bullying Bystander Intervention for Elementary School Students. Professional School Counseling. https://doi.org/10.5330/1096-2409-20.1.172

Stopbullying.gov. (2017). Bullying prevention and response training and continuing education online program. Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/ files/2017-09/training-module-2016.pdf

Stopbullying.gov. (2017). Bullying prevention training course. Retrieved from https:// www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/training-center/bullying-prevention-training- course/ index.html

Written By: Imene Benslimane

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