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Expert: End to bullying requires system change

Posted January 12, 2014

There are a couple of things that Nancy Mullin wants you to know about bullying: Cyberbullying might grab the headlines these days, but the old-fashioned kind of bullying is still the main problem - those taunts and fights on playgrounds, cafeterias and where kids gather. And while bullying prevention often focuses on the victim and the bully, bystanders must be part of the solution.

"The majority of kids are bystanders and they play an important role in supporting the bullying behavior or responding in a way that makes it clear that bullying isn't cool," she said.

Mullin, a Raleigh mom of an adult daughter, has researched and worked on bullying prevention programs for the past two decades. It began first as a special education teacher where she often helped kids with behavior problems or advised teachers on how to handle those issues.

"I became more aware of bullying issues and aware of ways teachers could influence the classroom climate to make bullying and those disruptive behaviors less likely to happen," she said. "As a mom, I learned about bullying from another perspective." Nancy Mullin Expert: End to bullying requires system change

She eventually landed at Wellesley College in Massachusetts where her work included research on bullying, a subject that didn't get much press back then.

"Once Columbine happened, that changed everything," said Mullin of the 1999 high school shooting which linked bullying and school violence.

Since then, nearly every state in the country has passed laws that address bullying in schools. And Mullin, now director of Bullying Prevention Solutions, has focused her work on bullying prevention.

She is a trainer, consultant and author for the Olweus Bullying Prevention program. She also has worked to mentor other trainers. And she works with schools and parent groups on the subject. Mullin's nationally known work focuses on both research and best practices in schools. She emphasizes the importance of including bullying prevention themes in classroom curriculum.

How exactly do the experts define bullying? Mullin said the definition is three-pronged. Bullying is a form of aggression, not a conflict, she tells me. It typically occurs repeatedly and over time. And it involves and imbalance of power that makes it difficult for the bullied person to defend him or herself.

"Getting rid of bullying requires a system change. It has to be broad," Mullin tells me. "... Dedicated bullying prevention at its heart is creating a more just school climate. But it's also making sure everybody in the school is being treated with dignity and respect."

For more from Mullin, watch my video interview with her. Go Ask Mom will be focusing on bullying prevention over the next month with more tips and information from Mullin. So stay tuned for more about this important topic.

For more about bullying prevention now, Mullin recommends stopbullying.gov and violencepreventworks.org.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

4 Comments

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  • BernsteinIII Jan 13, 2014

    I doubt a person with a masters in education is an "expert" on anything. Perhaps if she had a PhD in psychology she could at least fake it.

  • apexwhimsy Jan 13, 2014

    There isn't just one kind of bullying, and that's what I feel schools aren't quite grasping. My child went through a "water torture" kind of bullying where everyday she was treated like she was invisible by her classmates, passed over in things like passing papers out and shoved out of the way in the halls. Why? Because she didn't have an iphone, didn't have Beats headphones or wear Abercrombie. Sure, a lot of it is normal for middle school, but when it's every day, the same group of kids, and for an entire year, it does build up on a child. She tried to take her life because of it, and she is 12. Teaching coping skills is one thing, but when these kids parents are just adult bullies themselves, that only fuels their own kids to be the same.

  • albegadeep Jan 13, 2014

    I remember being bullied and physically abused by other kids in middle school. When I reported it to the teacher, his reaction was "I didn't see it, so I can't do anything about it." Unless that policy is changed, I'm not sure how bullying can be prevented.

  • rymar2 Jan 13, 2014

    To try to help combat bullying, songs can teach children about kindness and tolerance. The song “Be a Buddy, not a Bully” can be heard on YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or7WPUtUnRo