Jessica Kaado, Preventionist

As a parent, sending a child to school comes with a unique set of worries: Will my child make friends? Are they struggling academically? Are they being challenged? Are they being bullied?

There is no doubt about the drastic differences in curriculum and school environment across the decades, but one thing always remains (and evolves): bullying. Bullying has always existed to some degree in schools. So, what can be done if a child is being bullied at school? First, let’s define bullying.

According to the ACLU, bullying is defined as “any gesture or written, verbal, or physical act that is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived distinguishing characteristic and has the effect of causing harm to a student or damage to the student’s property, or reasonable fear of harm or property damage, or of insulting a student or group of students in a way that substantially interferes with the orderly operation of a school.”

The harm mentioned in the definition does not have to be physical — it is also emotional. Studies show that students who are bullied as children sustain mental health issues such as anxiety and depression into adulthood. With 30% of children being involved in bullying each semester, this creates lasting implications for society as a whole and should not be taken lightly. 

Schools in New Jersey are legally required to adopt anti-bullying policies. These policies can typically be found on a school’s website. In New Jersey, the antibullying framework is called Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB). Schools are required to provide HIB prevention education in addition to addressing bullying once it has happened. An example of this is the “Week of Respect,” which is held annually during the first week of October. 

Always report any instances of bullying — on or off school property (including cyberbullying), as the school must investigate and address the bullying. The school will determine if the incident(s) are bullying and apply the appropriate remediation and support strategies confidentially for all individuals involved. 

Prevention of bullying at school is the most powerful tool and most successful as a joint effort between the school and parents/caregivers. Creating a positive school climate that includes all members of the child’s life working together is one of the best tools to ensure every child is safe at school and free from bullying. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help prevent bullying:

  1. Educate students on what bullying looks like. If kids understand what bullying is or isn’t, they can seek out the help of an adult sooner. 
  2. Provide kids with safety tips. Teach kids to stay close to other peers and/or adults in a bullying situation. Also, in extreme cases, teach them when it might be appropriate to involve the authorities. 
  3. Teach kids how to stand up for themselves and their peers. Kids can use different strategies to stop bullying as it is happening, such as diversions or directly telling the bully to stop. 
  4. Encourage kids to identify a trusted adult who they can approach if being bullied. A trusted adult can provide kids with comfort and guidance to navigate bullying. 
  5. Keep the lines of communication open with regular check-ins. If you’re a parent, ask your kids how the other kids treat them and their peers. Try to gain an understanding of what the environment is like in their classroom and around their school. 


Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). (2021, November 10). How to prevent bullying. 

Guidance for schools on implementing the anti-bullying … (n.d.).

Photo by RDNE Stock project

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