Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bullying Epidemic- are we making a difference?

***I think we're getting the word out.  My book,  has made it to #1 Kindle Education-Counseling.  Remember what I always say, “With ignorance comes fear- from fear comes bigotry. Education is the key to acceptance.” Let's keep the momentum going!

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time.  I don't claim to be any expert but I have had my own experience with being bullied as a child, many years ago.  I know how deep the pain goes.   It's extremely traumatic. It scars you for life.  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.

Why isn't someone stepping to the plate?  There are many opinions and schools of thought on that topic.  There are several websites that are excellent resources for everyone. 

The government has actually put together a website that can be used as a resource by children, teens, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), parents and educators.  That site is:

Bullying is on the rise- there is no doubt about it.  And what's really alarming is how young these bullies begin to terrorize.  The key is to start educating children at a young age.  Parents need to take an active role, as they have the most influence over the child at this age.

“When we’re talking about 3-, 4-, 5-year-old girls, your ability is stronger as a parent to police your child’s behavior than when your girl is 15,’’ says Simmons, founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that teaches assertiveness skills.

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.

“If we don’t handle it in grade school,’’ Coloroso says, “it only gets worse.’’

Still, most people do nothing. Plus, their have been disturbing cultural changes, that I believe directly contribute to increased bullying.  It seems that all the popular shows today illustrate that "mean" is equal to "cool".  They glamorize bullying.  This is especially true with girls and women. 

Anyone can be victim to a bully.  It's wonderful to see so many celebrities coming forward to offer support with 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.)

The responsibility to establish the school environment lies with the entire school community. The environment evolves from the ideals, policies, practices, and administration of the school. Education Code Section 35294 et seq. requires each school to develop and implement a School Safety Plan as a part of its overall local education plan and to revisit the plan annually and amend it as needed. The first step in the planning process, as described in Safe Schools: A Planning Guide for Action, is to gather a planning committee that actively involves school administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

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.

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 SafeSchool Study- and reports that we need to look at bullying as a public health issue.

Once thing is certain.  Adult intervention is one of the best defenses against bullying. This is where it gets fuzzy.  Research shows that teachers my 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.  

But 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:

Being Bullied
Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
Has unexplained injuries
Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
Has changes in eating habits
Hurts themselves
Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch
Runs away from home
Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school
Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
Talks about suicide
Feels helpless
Often feels like they are not good enough
Blames themselves for their problems
Suddenly has fewer friends
Avoids certain places
Acts differently than usual

Bullying Others
Becomes violent with others
Gets into physical or verbal  fights with others
Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
Is quick to blame others
Will not accept responsibility for their actions
Has friends who bully others
Needs to win or be best at everything

Here are some actions you may want to consider:

Intervene immediately. Separate the students 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 students involved (participants and observers) in the incident separately and ask what happened.
Tell the students 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.

Remember to:
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).
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 Student Who Was Bullied

Check in regularly with the student 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 Student Who Bullied Others

Identify the behavior
Review the school rules and policies with the student
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

For Bystanders

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 Students 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.  
What to Do When Bullying Continues or Gets Worse
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 the 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
Your child is bullied because of their race, ethnicity, or disability and local help is not working to solve the problem

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 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.

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 policy work.

So, please  keep your eyes open.  If you see any bullying behavior- be brave and do the right thing.  Your action could save a life.

No comments:

Post a Comment