Building Barriers to Bullying
Bullying continues to be one of the top issues plaguing students both at school and increasingly online. All too often bullying is the underlying cause of poor mental health leading to suicide and even school shootings. Finding means to prevent bullying and mitigate its effects on students is a constant battle for school officials and parents. However, recent studies show extracurriculars can be a positive counteract to our bullying epidemic.1
Victims of bullying are frequently students who have not found a connection to their school community. They often sit alone at lunch and don’t participate in classroom discussions. Because of this isolation, these students become “easy targets” to be bullied. They become labeled as “weird” or “different” but can often lose these labels with the means and encouragement to join an extracurricular. By joining an extracurricular activity, students find a group of friends which becomes a bulwark against bullies.
Studies indicate students who participate in school extracurriculars report fewer instances of being bullied.2 Once students find their group, they have commonalities with their fellow classmates and begin to shed their “different” identity. With students to sit with at lunch, older teammates to high-five in the hallways, and peers to hang out with before and after school, school becomes more enjoyable and a safer space. Just like in nature, the hunter, or bully, is less likely to attack the whole herd. Thus, the more connections students have with their school community means the less vulnerable they are to bullying.
Last year we asked the students in the drama program about their experience with fellow drama students. The most frequent response was how they now had a group of friends; they felt like a family. Extracurriculars build friendships and bonds which support a student’s sense of belonging within the school community. The connections drama students created bolstered their mental health allowing them to mitigate negative impacts of any bullying they may have experienced.
Every student has something positive to contribute to their school community - a talent, an idea, a kindness. But without a means to participate in school extracurriculars, a student can become an outcast, a loner, the victim of bullying. This October, National Bullying Prevention Month, armor our students against instances of bullying by supporting their participation in school extracurriculars and giving them a community of friends.
1 Taylor & Francis, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/26408066.2019.1705958 (11 October 2022)
2 National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26149310/ (11 October 2022)