Bullying is a serious issue. It happens with all age groups. It happens in all communities. White, brown. Rich, poor. Public schools, private schools. Girls and boys. It has also been happening for many years and has not been taken seriously. Now we have children dying because of it. We can no longer turn our back to it. We can no longer be quiet about it.
For the purpose of addressing the bullies it has been recommended in the school system that the schools:
- Increase supervision is inadequate in unstructured locations, such as the school bus
- Ensure there are consequences for bullying
- Have the perpetrator have conferences with a counselor
- Have the perpetrator have a conference with administrator
- Notify the parents of the incident, both from the perpetrator perspective and the victim
- Establish a disciplinary write-up which includes parent contact
- Escalate to the law enforcement officials.
For the purpose of addressing the victims it has been recommended creating a program to help children prevent assaults and other victimization. These programs typically include:
- Helping children identify dangerous situations;
- Teaching children techniques for evading these situations, such as saying ‘no,’ yelling and screaming, and running away;
- Encouraging children to tell an adult about the incident;
- And assuring the child that the incident is not his/her fault.
Children Against Children Research Center (CCRC) researchers have investigated the efficacy of such programs. Among the findings:
- Children appear to acquire the concepts that are being taught in these programs.
- Children involved in school-based prevention programs were more likely to use the school-taught self-protection strategies when victimized or threatened; were more likely to feel they were successful in protecting themselves; and were more likely to disclose to someone about the victimization attempts.
- Children in school-based prevention programs were not able to lessen the seriousness of assaults and, in fact, received more injuries in sexual assaults.
It doesn’t surprise me that the students understood the concept of the bullying program and perhaps improved the reporting of the occurrences. I don’t believe that it is true that the students were more likely to use self-protection strategies. Once again the burden is on the child. The child realizes there are repercussions with these strategies, and who is going to be there when they don’t work. Remember the same strategies are being taught to the victims and the perpetrators. And finally as it states above, there has not been an improvement in the seriousness of the assaults.
I don’t have the all of the answers, but I think there needs to be zero tolerance for acts of bullying, whether that be teasing, harassment, or bullying. I don’t care what you call it. All I know is it is detrimental. Zero tolerance means immediate consequences. What do we do in the adult world. If an individual assaults another person, and it has been proven to be true by the legal system, the perpetrator losing his rights. Why are we not doing the same with children? I really don’t see how any of the tactics described above are going to “change” the bully, and ensure that it is changed.
The only thing I suggest is that everyone needs to be much more observant. When an incident occurs or is suspicious it should be seriously investigated and addressed. The only way a bully will change his actions is if he knows what the consequences are, and the consequences are severe enough that would dissuade the bully from continuing with this deviant behavior. There should no longer be a private enforcement of consequences. How many times have you heard through the grapevine that so and so got detention, or so and so was sent home, or so and so had their parents brought into school? When a bully makes the decision to harm others he has taken a public stand, and he has lost the right for privacy. Make it public. Set an example. These kids need to know what fear is.
As for the victims, once again we need to be observant. When an incident arises, whether the victim reports it or other students, the situation needs to be addressed. Immediately. All of the students, both victim and perpetrator should recognize that it is being addressed. Once students recognize that the adults are truly taking care of the situation, including protecting the victim, they will be more likely to report such incidents. And finally, no child should be taught that they need to deal with peer issues all by themselves. This is too much for a victim of bullying to be responsible for. Children do not have the ability to judge what they should do. This action alone is a punishment to the victim. You may say, but that is going to require judgement, and who is going to be responsible for that? Well right now we are making the victim be responsible for the judgement, and this wrong. We need to quit punishing the victim, and start punishing the bully. . As an adult I have this right, then so should our children.
Olweus, D. (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in schools: The plight of the vulnerable and the victimized. New York: The Guilford Press.
Teasing . . . another form of bullying
Bullies and their victims . . .