Recognize and take steps to help prevent bullying

Published 10:29 am Sunday, October 23, 2016

By Bill Spitzer

P & I Coordinator Parenting Resource Center

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In order to create awareness, Austin Public Schools encouraged students to wear orange and/ or purchase a T-shirt with “Be the Change” printed on the front of the shirt on National Unity Day, which was Wednesday Oct.19.

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As we all know, bullying has and continues to be a prevalent issue in our community. In fact, according to Julie Hertzog, the Director of the National Bullying Prevention Center (NBPC), “One of every four school-aged children will be bullied this year —upwards of 13 million students.”

We as a community need to be aware that our children as well as adults are exposed to this type of behavior. Children need to feel safe, and creating awareness is a start.

Our first step in creating awareness is to identify bullying behavior. Some people, including adults, confuse the term bullying with conflict. There is a clear difference between conflict and bullying. In conflict both parties are free to express their own views.

Now, just because the other person doesn’t have the same view as you or you have ongoing conflict does not make the other person a bully. Bullying is clearly negative behavior that exerts power and control over another person. Power and control can be displayed in many different forms such as gossip, threatening an individual, or using physical force. We often think of the overpowering person on the playground physically intimidating another, however, bullying can also be emotional.

What should parents do first? Talk to your children. Parents have a gift of knowing when something is wrong. The hard part is having the right conversation with your child. The NBPC offers a checklist if your child tells you about a situation:

•Does your child feel hurt, either emotionally or physically, by the other child’s behavior?

•Has your child been the target of the negative behavior more than once?

•Does your child want the behavior to stop?

•Is your child unable to make the behavior stop on their own?

In our world of social media and text messaging, we see many complex forms of bullying. Bullying is also a complex problem because we tend to automatically want to report it to police. However, we know that reporting is an important step to stop the behavior and we sometimes struggle with whom to report the bullying. So, who should we report it to?

School personnel are a great resource to start with, as oftentimes the person being bullied knows the bully from school. Each school has personnel that has received training and have dealt with these types of issues including the various types of bullying, including cyber bullying. In fact, each year school officials receive updates on how to handle these types of incidents.

Did you know we also have a local organization? CAB — Community Against Bullying — is a resource that helps families connect with area resources, especially within schools.  The CAB connection is 507-440-8857. For more tips and resources, check out the National Bullying Prevention Center at

Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation Coordinator for the Austin community and will be working with our schools and community as part of a 5-year grant focusing on Positive Community Norms. Bill is located at Austin High School where he can be reached at 507.460.1800 ext. 0361 or via email This grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the Parenting Resource Center, Inc. The Parenting Resource Center provides prevention education, services, and referrals. If you would like to learn more, visit their website at or call (507) 437-8330.