When people hear of Audrey Niblo, they often hear the story of a bright and bubbly young woman with a passion for spreading kindness through her writing. They hear of an energetic and enthusiastic person with a gentle heart for animals, especially dogs.
But what many don’t know is that Audrey’s spunky personality, carefree spirit and resilience resulted from the many trials she faced throughout her childhood in the public school system. The bullying that she endured helped her rise above every hardship thrown at her, and her story continues to inspire others today.
An unfortunate reality is that instances of bullying are not uncommon. Bullying is an epidemic in America, something that has been taking place in schools for decades. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of students ages 12 to 18 experienced bullying at school in 2017. Furthermore, 13% of students have reported being victims of rumors, and 5% have reported being pushed, tripped or shoved.
Every semester, students from the Isabelle Farrington College of Education at Sacred Heart University are allowed the opportunity to interview teachers from local public schools to learn how to combat the issues that a first-year teacher will face.
According to one of these interviews, a high school teacher from Bridgeport Public Schools in Bridgeport, Conn., reported that instances of bullying have now shifted to an online setting due to the current pandemic.
“We have seen an uptick in more sexual harassment and inappropriate conversations between students through our digital platform,” she said.
She stated that these inappropriate conversations between students take place on Microsoft Teams, a digital platform that the school district uses to host classes and communicate important information. She said that as a result, the school district banned the use of the chat feature in Microsoft Teams. The school administration now saves all conversations held on this platform and has recently re-evaluated its internet policies.
She also noted the importance of teacher collaboration with different school departments to ensure that bullying does not occur in the classroom.
“We have a bullying office and a Title IX officer that handles interviews and meetings with the students,” she said. “They work with administration and security to have mediation and given sanctions for the behavior.”
In addition to interviewing teachers, all secondary education students at Sacred Heart take a course titled “Societal Issues in Adolescence” to learn how to handle issues students ages 12 to 18 may face in the classroom. One of the most common issues that student teachers taking this course learn about is bullying.
In this course, students read weekly news articles that cover current events taking place in schools, including events surrounding bullying. Students report on these current events during class and hold a class discussion on how to combat them.
Students taking this course also write an “adolescent autobiography,” in which they reflect on their personal experiences involving bullying and other issues that adolescents face. After reflecting on these issues, students optionally share their reflections with the class. Sharing these experiences opens the class to a discussion on how to handle bullying instances in the classroom.
While bullying is undoubtedly a problem in America, future teachers are working to educate themselves on how to combat it and to promote kindness and inclusivity in the classroom.