Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. And although it has always been wrong- on so many levels- it has never been more rampant. The heart breaking stories we hear on the news almost weekly. Children being terrorized to the point of suicide. This is an emergency.
Bullying is on the rise and there is no doubt about it. But what’s really alarming is how young these bullies begin to terrorize. Obviously, the key is early education. Parents need to be proactive, they need to be on top of things. They have to watch for the signs. Their child may be the victim of a bully or their child might be the actual bully.
It is clear that bullying behavior needs to be stopped early on. It’s starting in pre-school. It must to be addressed and stopped immediately. Still, most people do nothing. There is a prevalent misconception that these children will miraculously “just grow out of it”. But they don’t, they grow up and become adult bullies. Parents have to catch this early and nip it in the bud.
Speaker and author Barbara Coloroso claims we are living in a “culture of mean.” She told a story that should serve as a wake up call. Coloroso says it’s imperative to acknowledge bullying regardless of age because the behavior often progresses.
She described a case last year in Washington State in which a group of sixth-grade girls made an animated video set to a Hannah Montana tune and put it on YouTube. Titled “Top Six Ways to Kill Piper,’’ the video showed two girls shooting their classmate, shoving her off a cliff, poisoning her, and making her kill herself. The perpetrators, 11 and 12 years old, were disciplined by their school, but no criminal charges were filed.
Many aspects of the media and society have directly contributed to this rise in bullying. Everything from reality television to children’s shows seems to glamorize bullies. It seems that all the popular shows today illustrate that “mean” is equal to “cool & popular”. This is especially true with girls and women.
Anyone can be victim to a bully. It’s empowering to see so many celebrities coming forward to tell their own sad stories of being victimized by a bully. There are a group of musicians that have formed an organization called ‘Make Beats Not Beat Downs’. According to their website, “Make Beats Not Beat Downs” is a non-profit uprising dedicated to presenting alternative help to bullies & the bullied youth through all aspects of music. Through partnering up with some of the most talented musicians, nation wide, we vow to make sure that bully victims have a voice. MBNBD and these dedicated musicians are here to say, “We, like you, have had enough. We’re going to stand up for you. We’re going to stand up for each other. Who’s with us?”
They also list some alarming statistics that I will share with you. Keep in mind; the numbers continue to rise every month…
– It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association.
– American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center.
– 1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
– 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
– 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
– 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
– 1 out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.
– 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
– Those in the lower grades reported being in twice as many fights as those in the higher grades. However, there is a lower rate of serious violent crimes in the elementary level than in the middle or high schools.
– 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying
– Among students, homicide perpetrators were more than twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied by peers.
– Bullying statistics say revenge is the strongest motivation for school shootings.
– 87% of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”
– 86% of students said, “Other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them” causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in the schools.
– 61% of students said students shoot others because they have been victims of physical abuse at home.
– 54% of students said witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.
– According to bullying statistics, 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.
– Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75% of school-shooting incidents.
This is an epidemic! Why isn’t it being stopped? Research indicates that many bullying incidents are not reported to school officials, but I must question how many teachers turn a blind eye. According to the California Department of Education:
“Today, bullying behaviors at school are recognized as dangerous and harmful acts that victimize the targeted student and bystanders. Bullying can no longer be dismissed as harmless teasing or as a normal yet undesirable behavior. Rather, bullying is a pattern of deliberate, negative, hurtful, aggressive acts that works to shift the balance of physical, emotional, or social power.
Behavior motivated by bias or hate is similar to bullying and is intended to cause emotional suffering, physical injury, or property damage through intimidation, harassment, bigoted slurs or epithets, force or threat of force, or vandalism. Hateful or biased behavior is motivated in part or in whole by hostility toward a person’s real or perceived race, nationality, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. (Education Code sections 200, 220, 233, and 48900.3 describe policies and intent specific to hate-motivated violence. Penal Code sections 422.6, 422.7, 422.75, 422.8, 422.9, 422.95, and 628 define what constitutes hate-motivated crimes.)”
Well, that sounds like a good start, right? Bad news- that was released in 2003!
It is said that these anti-bullying programs have about a 15% success rate. If this is the case, what now? In 2004, The Canadian Public Health Association published its Safe School Study- and reports that we need to look at bullying as a public health issue.
To avoid confusion or doubt about what constitutes bullying behavior, researcher Ken Rigby proposes a definition of bullying:
“A desire to hurt + a hurtful action + a power imbalance + repetition (typically) + an unjust use of power + evident enjoyment by the aggressor + a sense of being oppressed on the part of the target.”
Once thing is certain, Adult intervention is one of the best defenses against bullying. This is where it gets fuzzy. Research shows that teachers may be unaware. They also often miss different types of bullying, especially social bullying. Parents struggle with recognizing and acknowledging bullying as well. This becomes even trickier due to the fact that the child that is being bullied is sometimes embarrassed to tell anyone.
The reality here is that both parents and educators need to be on guard. They need to recognize the warning signs, intervene immediately when bullying occurs and send the message that bullying wrong and will not be tolerated.
Here are some guidelines furnished by the government website:
How to recognize bullying behavior:
Your child may come home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings. They may claim to have lost items like books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry. They may have nexplained injuries. They may complainof frequent headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick. They may have trouble sleeping or experience frequent bad dreams. There might be changes in eating habits. They may start to hurt themselves. They may be very hungry after school from not eating their lunch. They may run away from home, There might be a loss of interest in visiting or talking with friends. They might be afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
There might be a loss of interest in school work or they might begin to do poorly in school. They might appear sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home. There might be talk of suicide. They might feel helpless. They may feel like they are inferior and blame themselves for their problems. They may suddenly have fewer friends. They might start to avoid certain places. They may be acting differently than usual.
You child may becomes violent with others. They might get into physical or verbal fights with others. They may be getting sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot. They may have extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained, They may be quick to blame others and will not accept responsibility for their actions. They may have friends who bully others. They may have a need to win or be best at everything
Here are some actions you may want to consider:
Intervene immediately. Separate the children involved. Do not immediately ask about or discuss the reason for the bullying or try to sort out the facts. Request more information. Get the facts. Speak to children involved (participants and observers) in the incident separately and ask what happened. Tell the children that you are aware of their behavior. Talk to the students involved separately.Make it a teachable experience. Helping bystanders understand what has happened and why may be important for preventing future incidents.
Report the incident to the right person (the school might consider identifying an official contact, who may be the school administrator, or a member of the school safety committee). Get the parents involved. Consider an appropriate intervention based on the severity and history of the incident and the students involved. Follow up with the students involved to ensure the bullying does not continue.
And then Step Two:
For the Child Who Was Bullied
Check in regularly with the child who was bullied. Determine whether the bullying still continues. Provide a supportive environment..Review the school rules and policies with the student to ensure they are aware of their rights and protection. Consider referring them for professional or other services as appropriate
For the Child Who Bullied Others
Identify the behavior. Review the school rules and policies with the child. Ask for positive change in future behavior. Consider referring them for professional or other services as appropriate. Consider appropriate graduated consequences. Encourage the student to channel their influence and behavior into positive leadership roles. Monitor and check in frequently.
Encourage them to talk with you. Review the school rules and policies with the students. Discuss with bystanders how they might intervene and/ or get help next time. Acknowledge students who took action to stop the bullying
For the Parents of the Children Involved
Describe the incident. Review the school rules and policies with the parents. Describe the intervention measures taken as appropriate. Develop a plan to follow up.
One would pray that these steps put a stop to the bullying behavior. But many times the bullying continues. So, please keep your eyes open. You don’t have to be a parent or a teacher. As a decent human being, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep our children safe. Remember, “It takes a village to raise a child”. If you see any bullying behavior- be brave and do the right thing. Your action could save a life. Please see the list of resources below and utilize them.
Resources for help
If the bullying gets worse and you need additional help, consider the following if:
Someone is at immediate risk of harm because of bullying- Call police 911
Your child is feeling suicidal because of bullying Contact the suicide prevention hotline
at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Your child’s teacher is not keeping your child safe from being bullied -Contact local school administrator (principal or superintendent)
Your school is not keeping your child safe from being bullied-Contact the State School Department
Your child is sick, stressed, not sleeping, or is having other problems because of bullying- Contact your counselor or other health professional
Your child is bullied because of their race, ethnicity, or disability and local help is not working to solve the problem -Contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office on Civil Rights
If your child is LGBT-the organization, the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network has a website with a lot of resources:
Bullying and pressures related to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can feel overwhelming but there are many places that can help you get through this time.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help now by calling the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
Crisis Prevention Resources
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
The Trevor Lifeline is the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Lifeline is a free and confidential service that offers hope and someone to talk to, 24/7. Each year, tens of thousands of calls are fielded from young people across the country. The Trevor Lifeline is accredited as an exemplary crisis intervention program by the American Association for Suicidology (AAS).
General LGBT Support Resources
It Gets Better Project
Itgetsbetter.org is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where our straight allies can visit and support their friends and family members. It’s a place where people can share their stories, take the It Gets Better Project pledge, watch videos of love and support, and seek help through the Trevor Project and GLSEN.
National Center for Transgender Equality
NCTE is social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through Support, to cope with an adverse society, Education, to enlighten an ill-informed public and Advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights.
In addition to the Lifeline mentioned above, The Trevor Project has numerous resources for youth including online discussions and a database of community organizations that can provide local support to youth.
Legal Assistance Resources
American Civil Liberties Union
The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color; women; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people; prisoners; and people with disabilities.
Family Equality Council
Family Equality Council works to ensure equality for LGBT families by building community, changing hearts and minds, and advancing social justice for all families.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public poli