Twenty percent of school age children are directly affected by bullying. The number gets larger when you consider the negative affect it has on students who witness bullying, yet they do not say anything. Bullying has significant ramifications on a child’s developments. Children that suffer at the hands of bullies easily become depressed, have suicidal thoughts and suffer from poor health. Fortunately, the law allows parents, onlookers and other supporters to take an active stance against bullying. How do we create a Zero Tolerance policy now?
Bullying is different for many children. As a parent, or a concerned individual, you have to be able to recognize what bullying entails in order to improve the laws affecting bullying. Yes, bullying consists of harassment, intimidation and the perpetuation of these behaviors, but are you aware of subtle forms of bullying?
There is no exhaustive list of what constitutes bullying because children are creative and develop new ways to harass their peers on a daily basis. However, the following behaviors provide a broad definition of what is considered harassment.
- Bullying must be intentional.
- It may be direct or indirect.
- Bullying can be psychological as well as physical.
- Bullies can inflect harm both verbally and non-verbally.
When children bully each other in school they mostly do it in a nonverbal manner. In fact, 77% of the reported cases involve:
All of these behaviors require you to act. Each time you witness these behaviors and fail to act, you increase the likelihood of a child suffering from anxieties, low self-esteem and depression. Simply taking the time to acknowledge and report the behavior will have a resounding effect on the victim and onlookers. When you act, you empower the victim and onlookers who feel their voice may not be heard. You encourage them to respond in the same manner in future instances of bullying. The more you stop bullying when you witness it, the more you spread the message that bullying is not an acceptable behavior.
Bullying online, also known as cyber bullying, causes problems for children as well. Advances in technology enable children to connect with people from all walks of life using social media. Unfortunately, people online capitalize on the autonomy afforded to them by being online. Additionally, unlike regular bullying, cyberbullying is always present in some form online.
- Embarrassing pictures
- Fake profiles
- Websites (Hotornot, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
When cyber bullying goes unchecked the effects on students are damaging. Students want to avoid going to school, they start using drugs, their grades fall, and they allow their health to fade. All of the issues are avoidable with a keen eye on your children’s Internet behavior. You can also teach your children how to overcome cyber bullying. Educate them on what to look for, teach them how to block abusive users, and always remain aware of their actions while they are online. When you drop the ball you allow bullies to enter your child’s world.
Bullying Policies and Laws
You are armed with a legal war chest to combat bullying. Laws concerning discrimination and harassment allow people against bullying to fully exercise their duty to take measures to enforce their zero tolerance position. Since many bullies base their behavior on race, sex, disabilities and religion you can stand firm on your beliefs and cloak your child and other children in your community in established laws that protect their rights.
Children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender experience bullying on a regular basis. Yes, they can take advantage of the aforementioned laws, but there are more measures being introduced to ensure that bullies understand their behavior will not continue to be tolerated. The hope is that they will be able to utilize LGBT community. Jared Polis, the Congressman responsible for the SNDA states, “Discrimination is completely unacceptable in schools.” Although the bill has been introduced in the legislature, unfortunately, it is still pending.
State Laws and Policies
When you consider state laws and policies concerning bullying, most states broach the subject in different ways. However, Stopbullying.gov, a federal website interested in keeping everyone informed, identifies eleven common anti-bullying laws that are common to all states, which require states to:
- Establishes a mean to report bullying (including school personnel).
- Requires an investigation and response to bullying accusations (including notifying parents).
- Requires maintenance of written records.
- Prescribes a disciplinary action for bullying.
- Requires staff inform parents and students about community resources available for mental health issues that appear as a result of bullying.
It is important to keep in mind that these laws and policies are not limited to behaviors that happen on school grounds. Children are protected when they are participating in any activities pertaining to the school For instance, if they are traveling to sporting events, or if they are utilizing technology owned by the school, your child is protected by these policies. Additionally, discrimination and harassment laws protect your child regardless off campus.
State laws concerning bullying are there to create a safer environment for your children, but you have to use it. Since the laws vary from state to state, it is in your best interest to take the time and educate yourself on what measures you can take to safeguard your child. You can visit Stopbullying.gov to learn more about specific laws in your state.
How to Enforce Zero Tolerance within Your Community
There are many things you can do when you witness bullying. Of course, your approach significantly affects the situation, but with the right approach you can teach every child involved a valuable lesson. Consider the following strategies when you interrupt a bully.
Stop the behavior—stopping the behavior requires that you are constantly on the lookout for instances of bullying. As an adult, you have the ability to discern what constitutes harmless teasing and what qualifies as bullying. Once you identify bullying, acknowledge it as such and educate the children about the ramifications of such behaviors. However, you must be mindful of your tone and approach if you want them to truly hear what you have to say about the matter.
Charge onlookers with a responsibility to act—It is not enough to reprimand only the children that were involved. You must also educate onlookers about their responsibility to stop the behavior. If you are a teacher, you can create a lesson plans that demonstrate the importance of stopping bullies. For other adults, informing onlookers that their presence supports the bully’s behavior will resonate with them and change their mind about participating.
Get trained to mitigate bullying—there are professional organizations that offer training to help others reduce the instance of bullying. Since your approach is central to successfully resolving the situation, taking classes in conflict resolution will help you become successful at resolving these issues.
Start a community initiative—the decision to stop bullying when you see it is a great endeavor, but it limits your actions to you. A better strategy is to effect change in your community with regard to bullying. You can start a social initiative that makes everyone aware of the consequences of tolerating bullies. The more people know about the serious nature of bullying, the less inclined they will be to tolerate the behavior. There are a plethora of online courses and certificate programs that arm you with strategies for reducing the instance of bullying.
Spread the Word in Schools
After launching your community initiative, do not stop moving. You can help implement zero tolerance campaigns in schools across your district, county and state. The more people you have supporting your cause, the bigger your impact.
Once you have launched your own initiative, present your action plan to principals in the area. The following are steps you should take to ensure that your initiative goes off without a hitch.
1. Gather Information
Business people and researchers use statistics to convince others about taking a position all the time. You should do the same. There is a wealth of information online that supports the fact that campaigns geared towards stopping bullies are effective.
2. Determine Your Approach
Since schools do not have the funds to help you in your efforts to stop bullying, you will need to either support the campaign using personal funds or get supporters for your cause. If you choose to get supporters, solicit local businesses that have a direct and indirect link to the safety of children.
3. Develop a Program
It is not enough to simply give speeches about why bullying is unnecessary, and dangerous, even. You have to develop a program, so that anti-bullying techniques are constantly on children’s minds. Consider making presentations for the students once a month. Each time you make a presentation bring guests who are willing to share their stories. Do not simply scare children, connect with them, so that they truly understand why bullying is dangerous.
4. Recruit Others
Developing an anti-bullying campaign requires knowledge of the law and specific policies. You can start by recruiting your friends and family members. Teachers are a great resource for helping you teach others how to learn. You can even reach out to subject matter experts, such as, mental health providers to ensure that you have all the resources you need to have a major impact within the community.
5. Make a Presentation for Principals
Once you have a strategy and key individuals in place, create a presentation and present it to principals throughout your county. It is important that you make a statement, so they are more inclined to act because children can’t wait. It is essential that you convey urgency, so that you are driving home the point that you campaign will help reduce the instance of bullying.
6. Keep Moving
Even if you are met with resistance, you have to continue to pursue your campaign. The first principal you interview may not be an early adopter, consider revisiting their office once you have a few principals on board.
7. Get Students to Take a Pledge against Bullying
Pledges are a great way to gain support and get children active. By pledging, they make a promise that they will not participate in bullying and they will stop bullying when they witness it. During every anti-bullying program that you speak at, encourage each student to stand with you by taking the anti-bullying pledge.
One of the first steps you must take in your efforts to stamp out bullying is understanding what constitutes bullying. Bullying is both physical and psychological, verbal and nonverbal, therefore, you need to pay attention in order to address concerns. Your due diligence will save your children from low self-esteem, depression, drugs and anxieties. Cyber bullying is easily mitigated when you know what your child is doing online. If you find that they are being harassed, you can silence the bully by blocking them from your child’s social media sites. Keep in mind, the more information you have the more control you have over the situation, so educate yourself about ways to protect your children.
Even though knowledge is power, you can’t stop there. Become an advocate for children throughout your community by launching an initiative in school that will reduce the instance of bullying for thousands of students. Create a program and present your idea to all the principals in the school district. Let them know you intentions and how you plan to execute you zero tolerance policy in their school. You have a duty to protect children who are victims, start by expressing your disdain for bullying, and require zero tolerance from everyone.