How Kids Can Change Their School Climate and Prevent Bullying

Learn why kids are the best ones to initiate change in school climate


Bullying impacts the quality of school environments often creating a climate that is both tense and hostile. Research also shows that bullying undermines the academic achievement of every student within the school. And while there are steps schools can take to improve a school’s climate, the real success stories begin when students make efforts to change the climate at school.

When students take ownership of their school and then take steps to make the environment more positive, remarkable things happen especially with regard to bullying.

If the kids are the ones developing the programs that promote kindness and empathy, they will be more effective at changing the way things work within the school’s social framework. Suddenly, it becomes cool to spread kindness and goodwill and unacceptable to spread hate and engage in mean behavior.

And there are many examples of kids taking steps within the walls of their schools to change things for the better. Here are three ways kids have made a difference at their schools.

Uplifting the School with Positive Post-It Notes

When high school student Caitlin Prater-Haacke became a victim of cyberbullying, she didn’t let it get her down. Instead of dwelling on the pain she felt when someone suggested she die, she decided to do something that would uplift her school community.

Prater-Haacke made positive sticky-note messages for every student in her school and placed them on their lockers. She left messages like “believe in yourself” and “you’re great friend.” And the response was overwhelming.

Not only did her fellow students love it, but the city she lives in passed a resolution supporting the “Positive Post-It Note Day.” Since then the Canadian branch of 3M, the company that makes Post-It notes, has indicated it would like to help with the next Positive Post-It Note Day.

Opening Doors Can Lead to Open Hearts

After his father died, Josh had pictures of his dad hanging in his locker as a reminder of who is dad was and what he meant to him. But the kids at his small-town school saw it as an opportunity to harass and bully him. As a result, he withdrew socially and felt like an outsider. So his mom moved him to a bigger city hoping to give him a fresh start.

Josh wanted to share with others who he really was, so he started opening doors for others at school. At first, the other students thought it was strange and called him “the door man.” But soon they started to look forward to seeing his smile and friendly greetings. Eventually, his small act of kindness led other students in the school to start doing kind things for others as well until the entire school climate changed. The school was so moved by his actions that they even voted him prom king. Now Josh is a motivational speaker that helps others navigate bullying and learn to be themselves.

Building Friendships with Buddy Benches

Christian Bucks, an elementary school student from Pennsylvania, wanted to do something for his classmates that felt lonely during recess.

His solution was to install a “buddy bench,” which is a designated bench where students feeling lonely or upset can seek out friendships.

The way Bucks’ buddy bench works is if students feel lonely on the playground without anything to do, they can go to the buddy bench and another student will come to the bench and ask if they want to play or to talk.  It is a great tool for encouraging kids to develop friendships and for instilling empathy.

Sometimes kids will develop programs like these on their own without any help from adults. Other times, educators need to do a little prompting. By organizing a group of leaders within the school building and empowering them, teachers and administrators can improve their school climates by empowering students to make a difference.

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