Uplift Education is a high-performing charter school network in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We serve approximately 17,000 scholars in a rigorous college preparatory environment, and are in the process of authorizing our schools in the full continuum of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The International Baccalaureate focuses on interdisciplinary lessons, cultural understanding, and character development.
Positive school culture and strong relationships are the underpinnings of high academic achievement. We know that bullying can impact school culture and climate, and we also know that a positive school climate has the power to decrease harmful instances of bullying.
Bullying Hurts Academic Performance and School Climate
Schools need to be emotionally safe environments for all students. According to Hammond (2014), neuroscience shows that when students feel at risk, they are less likely to retain information and engage in higher-order thinking. When a person experiences a threat, whether physical or social, the amygdala is triggered. Through a release of cortisol, higher-order cognitive functions such as learning, problem-solving, and creative thinking stop.
Stopbullying.gov, the federal government website managed by the U.S. department of Health and Human Services, tracks the effects of bullying. Kids who are bullied are more likely to report loneliness, anxiety, and sadness. These feelings can lead to changes in eating and sleeping, a decrease in interest in activities, and an increase in skipping school. As a result, children who are bullied are at risk for a decreased GPA and lower performance on standardized tests.
Bullying affects more than just the target. Bystanders—students who witness an incident of bullying—can react in a myriad of ways. While some bystanders may actively intervene to support the victim, others may encourage the incident. Another common response is to passively accept the behavior while monitoring the crowd for reactions. Students who do not intervene often report feeling powerless to stop bullying, anxiety and guilt about the incident, and vulnerability about being the next target. This impacts the individual scholar and overall school culture and climate.
(Next page: SEL strategies to combat bullying)