Jenn’s Two Cents
Bullying is a topic that has been in the news a lot lately. It has always been a common practice of middle school age kids. And, it has never been acceptable. What is also common, are administrators and teachers either turning a blind eye or throwing their hands up claiming it’s the parents responsibility and it’s not in the job description of school staff to deal with. Even schools that say they have anti-bullying programs in place still only scratch the surface of what is a much deeper and destructive issue.
We’ve all heard the news reports of suicides related to bullying around the country. And, in our own back yard, there was Columbine, Deer Creek and Platte Canyon. These, of course, are the handful that you hear about. What we might be forgetting are the elementary, junior high and high school students that experience taunting, teasing and bullying every day but do not express their torment to anyone. How does it affect their schoolwork, their relationships with peers and their overall judgment of how things work in this world?
A survey conducted by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (the survey was conducted by Dan Olweus (pronounced Ol-VEY-us), who is considered the founding father of research on bully/victim issues) shows that 17% of students in elementary, middle and high school report that they are bullied with some frequency (2-3 times per week). Some reports say this is as high as 30%. This percentage is too large to ignore. Why? Because 10% of these kids have indicated that they have also bullied. These kids will soon become the adults of our society, teachers of our children, managers of business and leaders of this country. National research shows the effects of bullying can last a lifetime. Do we really want 17% of our population having a history of being tormented and tormenting others? I think not.
What I believe works are peer or buddy programs that empower students to report, prevent and protect. There is no stronger influence than your peers at this level. We tell our kids not to tattle, teachers tell students to work it out for themselves – it’s no wonder victims become victims – because they are afraid to tell. If it’s not cool to taunt then it simply won’t happen as much. Teller Elementary in Denver does a good job of this with their P.E. Aces (which cleverly spells out “peace”) program started by P.E. Teacher Christine Baumgartner. The program empowers 4th and 5th graders to become advocates and mentors for their younger peers out on the playground.
My two cents is in order to decrease this bullying epidemic, we must take a multi-dimensional approach and concrete action. Schools (administrators and teachers), parents, and students must all be responsible and act upon any incident – no matter how small. Actions speak louder than words.
Kerri’s Two Cents:
Recently, while chatting with some friends, the issue of bullying came up. It’s such a hot topic right now. We all wondered why bullying is so prevalent today. It’s existed for years but why do we hear about it so much now. And, who is to blame for the bullying? Is it the parents, school administrators, or the kids themselves? Are kids not being taught morals and values in the home these days or does the rise in bullying have to do with the incredible explosion of technology? Today, bullying happens not only at school but continues outside of school through the Internet (social networks or emails) or a cell phone text (cyberbullying). No matter who is to blame, the problem needs to be addressed and drastic measures need to happen.
I think it’s important now more than ever that we ALL do our part in educating children about this topic and the effects it has on others. Children are taking their own lives because they feel so powerless, alone and don’t know who or how to ask for help. Parents have to teach their children morals and values, empathy and tolerance. This can be taught through books, discussions, every day life, and by example. Schools have to teach some of these topics as well and start teaching children at a very young age (personally, I think the sooner they teach it the better results they’ll garner). Anti-bullying programs can’t just be an introduction in the schools but rather woven into the curriculum some how. We must empower our children with the tools they need to stand up to bullies, protect their peers from being bullied and refrain from becoming a bully themselves. Schools that empower kids to be leaders and mentor other students in dealing with this issue or schools that teach tolerance and celebrate diversity are off to a great start in diminishing bully behavior. Jenn mentioned a program over at Teller Elementary. Why can’t more elementary schools create a program such as this especially if it’s working? Why can’t more children become peacemakers in the classroom assisting their peers in dealing with conflict resolution or children acting as school ambassadors, mentoring young children to make better decisions throughout the school day. Another beneficial way to teach children more relating to this topic could be through role play. After all, the more engaged the child, the more vested they are in their learning.
A friend of mine watched a PBS documentary recently called “This Emotional Life.” Click here: to view a clip from the documentary. My two cents includes encouraging parents to watch a documentary such as this or read a few articles regarding bullying so we, the parent, are better informed in helping guide our own children to become more thoughtful, accepting, and respectful toward others.
Here is one positive effort that Colorado is making on the anti-bullying front. This program was funded by The Colorado Trust and it’s called Safe2Tell.org – An organization that’s set up for anti-bullying and school safety by allowing kids to leave anonymous tips on a phone tip-line or on a website. They have also set up a Safe2Text program as well. Law enforcement and the schools follow up on each tip. Since its inception there have been over 8,000 calls and over 2,500 reports resulting in an investigation throughout Colorado. As of October 19, 2010, there have been 67 arrests from these cases.
Also check out Resources on Bullying and Cyberbullying to learn further about about the bullying issue.
Does your school have an anti-bullying campaign? Please share your comments on bullying here.