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Bailey 2013

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Students with Dyslexia and Bullying

[1] Children with dyslexia are at an increased risk of being bullied and teased. [Bender and Walls, 1994]. Unfortunately, because bullying is usually done when adults aren't around, teachers are often unaware that a child is being bullied. Many times, even when asked directly, a child will tell a teacher "no" out of fear of being bullied even more or because he doesn't think the teacher will believe him. Students go through their school days in isolation and fear and their self-esteem, emotional well-being, academics and sometimes their physical health all suffer.

Children of all ages, from the very young through college, deserve a safe environment where they can learn. Unfortunately, children that are different, those that have physical limitations, learning disabilities or different beliefs are often the target of bullying. Teachers can and do play a major role in making their classroom safe and secure for all their students.

A bully is someone who uses their power (stronger, smarter, more popular) to hurt another person. This can be physically, emotionally or by causing someone public embarrassment. When bullying takes place at school it is normally at recess, in the hallway or bathroom or other places where there are only a limited amount of supervision. Although not always true, boys tend to use physical force more often and girls use hurtful gossip or social exclusion.

[2] Some bullying behaviors include:

Repeatedly pushing, shoving, punching, hitting or being physically abusive toward another person
Spreading rumors (can be through conversation, notes, emails, texting, instant-messaging, social networking sites)
Teasing or name calling
Excluding others from activities or purposely ignoring others
In older children, bullying can also include making sexual advances, grabbing, touching, using vulgar language or other intimidating, unwanted actions.

The first step toward making your classroom bully-free is to be aware of what is going on:

Stop by the playground and observe students interacting with one another. Watch for direct, inappropriate behavior such pushing or shoving as well as teasing and name-calling. Keep your eye out for any students standing by themselves or being excluded from playing with other children. One incident, although wrong, does not constitute bullying, but should be addressed immediately to prevent further harassment.

Enlist the help of other teachers. Because you are looking for patterns of behavior, there is a good chance you will not immediately notice anything amiss. Talk with other school personnel who see your students on a regular basis. This could be the physical education teacher, the art teacher, classroom aides, lunchroom aides. Ask them to let you know if they see any signs of bullying and ask for names of students who might be bullying and those that might be victims. Notice if the same name comes up several times.

Discuss bullying with the class. Explain what bullying is and why you won't tolerate it in your classroom. Doing this in the beginning of the year as well as several times throughout the year will help reinforce your no-bully policy. Talk to students about what they should do if they see someone being bullied or if they are being bullied. List several adults in the building students can feel safe approaching about being bullied. Let your class know you will listen if they come to you.

Ask students to use a blank piece of paper and write down the number of times they have been bullied in the past year. They should not write down their name or the name of the person doing the bullying. Have the students fold the paper in half and walk around the classroom to collect each one. The responses will give you an idea of how rampant bullying is in your classroom and your school.

Have students list appropriate, respectful behaviors. Use this list to create a poster you can hang in the room and remind your students that this is the type of behavior you expect to see at all times.

Let students know that if you see bullying or if you are told about bullying, you will intervene, even if that person did not mean to hurt the other person. Explain what the consequences for bullying will be, such as an immediate apology, a time out, losing a privilege, going to the principal's office, calling parents. Explain that consequences will be more severe if they are caught bullying again.

Remember, when talking with a child about bullying, do so in private. Disciplining a child in public is humiliating.

Make sure you are approachable and all students feel they can come to you if they witness bullying or feel they are being bullied.
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