Lynn University education professor explores the issue of bullying

Boerger says, “It takes everyone getting involved to put an end to bullying. One incident is too many.”

Published Apr. 11, 2013

Bullying is a nationwide issue and Priscilla Boerger, assistant professor in Lynn University’s Ross College of Education, is a strong advocate for educating adults, particularly teachers and parents, to help make people aware of what actions they can take and what they need to know to prevent it.

“It takes everyone getting involved to put an end to bullying. We all have to be willing to have the courage to take action,” says Boerger. “No longer can we say 'boys will be boys' (not to leave out girls who are as equally, if not more, capable of bullying). As unfortunate as that is, what used to be such an innocent statement is now a cover up for incidences that lead to the loss of life.”

Boerger recently presented at the 2013 National Bullying Conference in which she discussed the course she taught for Lynn's Citizenship Project class, “From Bad to Beautiful: Turning Bullies into Good Citizens,” in which students explored the issue of bullying in school settings through readings, discussions and guest speakers and discovered strategies on how to address it, how to identify it, bystander responsibilities and strategies on how to make a change.

Bullies into good citizens

But as her course asks: Can you turn bullies into good citizens? 

“This truly starts at home,” says Boerger. “We have to work to educate parents, and society as a whole, that in order for us to put an end to losing our young children to bullying and violence we have to be exemplary role models of appropriate behaviors. It is significant that we teach our children to be mindful and accepting of differences among society.  We need to nurture deep caring in our kids, teach them to resolve conflict nonviolently, and to not have contempt for others. We need to teach victims of bullying, and bystanders, to take action and try to change their peers.”

Though the headlines may suggest that bullying is more prevalent today than say 50 years ago, Boerger says that’s not really the case.

“The difference is that what used to be called 'teasing' is now referred to as bullying,” she says. “Schools used to deal with these issues of 'teasing' and notify the parents, but because incidences are taken to a much deeper level of aggression and violence today, all of society has to be involved (schools, homes, churches, privates organizations, law enforcement).”

Preventing bullying

The key is preventing bullying and showing the effects it can have, especially for educators who spend so much time with children. 

“Because of the number of hours that teachers spend with children (a child spends more time with his/her teacher than their parent/s in a given day) it is essential that we use our educators to be a leading force in changing the culture and the way our children think and behave,” she says. 

Boerger cites alarming statistics: 

  • more than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school  each day from fear of being bullied
  • 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month
  • 8 percent of students miss one day of class per month for fear of bullies
  • 43 percent fear harassment in the bathroom at school
  • 24 percent of all children have been bullied

“If these statistics don't cause great concern in an individual, I don't know what will,” says Boerger.

Making schools safe

In an attempt to make our schools safer, the School District of Palm Beach County has a department of Safe Schools that is called upon for assistance when incidences of bullying occur, and school districts have safe environment policies in place to make our schools safer. The state of Florida has the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for ALL Students Act (2012) which states that bullying and harassment are prohibited of any student and employee of a public K-12 educational institute.

“I am hoping that in the near future I can partner up with the Anti-Defamation League and have our education students (or any other Lynn students who want to get involved) go out to local schools and talk to young children about the dangers and fatal outcomes of bullying,” says Boerger.

And on behalf of her role as not only educator but as a mother and member of society, Boerger sums up the impact of bullying in a quote from Jeffrey Johnston's goodbye letter:  "Hello friends, I'm just writing to tell you all I won't be in school anymore. I decided to commit suicide because my life is too hard ... It's just difficult to explain ... I hope none of you miss me ... I'm really sorry."

“One incident is too many,” says Boerger.  “The lives of our children are precious and should never be taken unnaturally.”

More on Boerger

Priscilla Boerger, assistant professor in the College of Education at Lynn University as well as the K-6 Elementary Education program coordinator and the Director of Clinical Experiences, began her career in the public school sector as an elementary school teacher in Miami, Fla. During that time she was a lead teacher and the secretary for her school’s Educational Support Staff Advisory Council committee. She also trained teachers on classroom management strategies, held parent workshops and was involved with the school’s PTA. She is a board member of Florida Association of Teacher Educators and works closely with several departments within the School District of Palm Beach County. She received her B.S. at Florida International University, M.S. and Ed.D. at Nova Southeastern University.

Boerger can discuss: bullying and the whole child, elementary education (1st – 6th), ESOL Endorsed Areas of Scholarship and Professional Practice, organizational management and leadership in education.