Most schools have a “no-bullying policy.” But do they really enforce it? Numerous schools across the United States are aware of the problem with bullying, they see the problems such intimidation causes students, and they realize the harm it can produce. But what are they doing about it? Here is why we need No Bullying Policies.
No Bullying Policies: THE NEED FOR ACTION
As a school counselor, I have seen and heard of incidents outside of my district, which are appalling, involving bullying that continued to occur, even though it was reported, but nothing significant was done to stop it. Many of these are from schools who claim to have a no bullying policy in place. If we are to fight this enemy of our children, parents must take an active stance in working to make the changes necessary to ensure that bullying gets stopped at the point it should: the same day it starts.
Being proactive is a teacher’s job, as well as for parents, to be more involved in their students’ lives, so that they are aware of any situations that may crop up. And this starts with knowing the students. So teachers can take an active role in this issue by talking to their students, not just about required coursework and responsibilities in their classes, but also how life is for them outside the classroom environment, at home, online, and anywhere else bullying may abound.
STATISTICS ON BULLYING
Statistics on bullying is alarming. According to one source, 2 out of every 3 teens will be verbally bullied or physically harassed sometime during the school year this year alone. (DoSomething.org, 2013) This means that teachers need to be much more vigilant while on recess duty, or at school events to see exactly what is going on. Bullying can occur almost anywhere, where others do not see what is actually happening. Bullies usually prefer to find their victims alone, but they occasionally will approach them when they are with their friends, especially if the friends are equally submissive in their demeanor. Like animals hunting for game, bullies tend to go after the weak. The Darwinian phrase, “survival of the fittest” does apply to bullying. So educators should watch carefully for any strange confrontations between kids, paying special attention to the larger more dominant kids and how they react and play with younger, less capable children.
FAILURE TO REPORT
Another problem with bullying as it occurs is the fact that many victims do not report the incidents. They hope it will just “go away” with time, or that the bully will go on to someone else. Sometimes this happens, but more likely than not, if the bully is getting some type of gratification from picking on a particular student or students, it will continue, sometimes all through the school year.
Parents can get involved by asking the teacher if their child has ever reported any specific incidents of other kids bothering them. If so, ask the specific details of the incident and what was done in each case. Building a record of behavior may indicate whether their child is being bullied on a regular basis, or if it was a one-time incident, or a misunderstanding. If necessary, the parent should talk to the school principal or counselor, to express concern over the situation, and ask how they can help at home. Sometimes, just the recognition that the parent is involved may incite school personnel to better look out for their child, and investigate the situation further.
Prevention of bullying starts with everyone involved in the child’s life. I have seen some kids who will tell immediately if someone bullies them, and others that will not say a word, for fear the bully will retaliate, or make fun of them in front of their friends. Ironically, this is often exactly what happens. Once the bullied child tells on the bully, the bully will use this to put even more pressure on the victim, calling them “cry baby,” or ridiculing them, in the hopes to get them to comply.
BULLIES IN THE ADULT WORLD
It is a good point for adults to ponder that there are bullies in the real world too. Adults face this sometimes in the work place, when particular persons, such as supervisors or other employees try to make the work situation unbearable by making the victim feel that they are doing something wrong. The same advice for children applies to adults as well. If someone is bullying you, you do not have to tolerate it! This is harassment and should never be tolerated, in the work place, or anywhere else.
BULLYING IS HARASSMENT
We see this also in cases of other forms of harassment, such as sexual harassment, where the victim is afraid to report the offense, due to the fact that they need to keep their job. This same fear created in the hearts of the victims from work place bullies is the same dynamic that drives the bully on the playground: “Give me what I want, or pay the consequences.”
As parents and adults, we must be a good role model to children that we will not tolerate bullying in any shape or form. Show them how you will tell on anyone at work that is harassing you, and they be more likely to report a bully at school who is intimidating them. Children tend to follow more what we DO, rather than what we say.
CYBER BULLYING: THE UNSEEN MONSTER
Cyber bullying is another problem, and it is rampant on the internet every day. Facebook allows kids to be members of their social media site if the child is only 13 years of age. This means kids just have to check that they are 13 in order to be a member. Bullies are no different online than they are in the real world. They use the same tactics, only they are often worse due to the issue of anonymity. Someone can do all the things a regular bully does in the real world, use methods of intimidation, post cruel jokes or pictures “photo shopped” in with image editors, showing the victim in various scenarios he or she never participated in, all while masquerading behind a false identity. This is unfair and cruel, but it is happening everyday. Parents can work on changing these laws by contacting their local representatives and government lawmakers, to try to get the laws changed and enforce harsher penalties for bullies. Until that day, parents must be even more vigilant than ever to make sure their child is not a victim of cyber bullying.
The safety of kids is at stake when they are online, and also in the real world. Parents can and should get involved in every aspect of their child’s life, in order to take an active role when their child is being mistreated. Many times parents are the first to talk to a teacher whom they believe is not treating their child right, but they forget that their child’s worse enemy may be the kid who sits in the seat next to him.
Prevention starts with everyone. Meetings should be held regularly to discuss any issues arising in the schools which require greater assistance in decreasing the problem of bullying. One final point to keep in mind: Bullies tend to pick on kids who act, dress, or look different. Remind kids in a general assembly that some of the greatest minds of our day were considered “different.” If the school as a whole takes a “zero tolerance” stance on the issue of bullying, coordinates their efforts with parent groups, and models the behaviors they want to see in kids, we may finally put a stop to some of the senseless tragedies that result from bullying.
A final note: If schools will not do anything about the bullying of your child, you can and should seek legal advice. There is nothing like a letter from an attorney to make the school sit up and take notice when a bullying situation cannot be stopped any other way.