Bullying Hot Spots and What to Do About Them

Schools can reduce bullying by identifying bullying hot spots

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Bullies are opportunistic. They strike when they know adults are not watching or are absent altogether. As a result, there are a number of places, or hot spots, throughout the school day where bullies target other students.

These locations might be the far corner of a classroom, a deserted hallway, a crowded stairwell, a bathroom, the locker room, a busy school bus, a noisy lunchroom and a bustling playground.

These are all locations in which bullying happens because these spots are either understaffed, empty or poorly supervised.

But schools can do a lot to reduce bullying if they identify where it most frequently takes place and then ​take steps to change the climate in those areas. In fact, research has shown that when adults are present to supervise a particular area and then intervene quickly when they witness bullying behavior with fair and appropriate consequences, the rate of bullying in those hot spots will plummet.

How to Identify Hot Spots

The best way to identify where much of the bullying at your school is occurring is to ask your students in an anonymous poll where they most often experience or witness bullying. Research has shown that in schools that bullying usually occurs primarily in one or two places.

In fact, school hallways and stairwells are the most common hot spots. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center of Education Statistics, more than 47% of students who’ve reported they’ve been bullied said that it has occurred in those locations.

Another 9% of targeted students said they were bullied in the bathroom or locker room while another 6% were harassed on the school bus.

Another way to identify bullying hot spots is to review your reports of bullying for trends. For instance, are the bulk of your complaints about bullying in the locker room during gym class?

If this is the case, then assigning an aide to monitor the locker room before and after gym class will not only reduce the number of bullying reports you receive but dramatically improve the safety of your students. If a poll or a survey is not a feasible option, try conducting random student interviews or using an anonymous reporting box.

How to Reduce Bullying in Hot Spots

School bullying is greatly reduced when steps are taken to address supervision in the school’s bullying hot spots. Here are some ideas for addressing bullying in some of the most common hot spots.

School buses.

One way to alleviate bullying on the bus is to assign seats, placing the kids who have a history of bullying in the front of the bus. Bus companies should also implement a strict code of conduct that specifically outlines what is expected of students on the bus and what will not be tolerated.

One way to deter bullying is to have two adults on every bus. One adult drives the bus and the other monitors the kids’ activities.

Cameras are another consideration. In fact, installing cameras not only acts as a deterrent for bullying, but they are also useful to follow up on complaints lodged by parents and students.

Some schools use a private busing company to transport their students. As a result, they often look to the company to handle the bullying situations that occur on the bus. But most administrators know that bullying that occurs on the bus filters over into the school. As a result, school bullying can be greatly deterred when a bully knows he must face the principal when he gets off the bus. For more ideas on bully-proofing school buses, check out How to Make School Buses Bully-Proof.

Recess.

Most kids look forward to recess every day. It’s an opportunity to burn off some excess energy and the fresh air clears their head and makes for a productive afternoon. There are even studies that demonstrate that recess can actually reduce bullying at school.

But recess also can be a bullying hot spot if it’s not managed properly. To evaluate your school’s recess program, look for blind spots where bullying might occur out of the sight of adults and make adjustments. Consider increasing adult supervision so that plenty of supervisors are visible to the students. Another option is to encourage having recess supervisors circulate periodically throughout all the areas of the playground and its perimeter. For more ideas on bully-proofing the playground, check out Bullying Prevention Tips for Recess Monitors.

Hallways and Stairwells.

Having more teachers present during bell changes can drastically reduce bullying in the hallways and stairwells. This might be as simple as having each teacher step into the hallway and stand by their doors while the kids change classes. Other options include stationing teachers at blind spots during bell changes to deter bullying.

Limiting the amount of times per day that students can visit their lockers also can alleviate bullying in the halls. This also keeps the students moving through the hall to their next class instead of congregating at their lockers. And if overcrowding is an issue, some schools stagger their bell system so that a limited number of kids are in the hallway at one time.

Locker Rooms and Bathrooms.

Bullying in locker rooms is not uncommon. It is usually a crowded space with minimal adult supervision. To alleviate bullying in locker rooms and bathrooms, consider limiting the number of students permitted in the area at one time. It’s also a good idea to have an aide who monitors the gym locker room before and after gym class. And, during sporting events, a coach or an assistant should be in the locker room to deter any bullying in sports. Another option is to separate the bully from the target and not allow them to be in the locker room at the same times.

Lunchrooms.

Perhaps one of the most challenging areas for kids to navigate is the lunchroom. Not only must they deal with cliques, mean girls and ostracizing behaviors, but they also must try to find someplace to sit. Some schools have resorted to assigned seats for lunchrooms as a way to eliminate the stress of finding a place to sit.

Additionally, lunchrooms need to have a significant amount of supervision. One solution is to hire aides specifically assigned to the lunchroom to work alongside teachers who have lunchroom duty. It also might be wise to train the lunch staff on how to handle bullying situations that they witness.

Cameras are another option for deterring bullying. They also are useful when bullying complaints are made because administrators are able to see exactly what happened. 

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