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." 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.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.