Most public schools are still turning a blind eye to the bullying epidemic.
It remains a tragedy that teens are harassed and ridiculed because they are smart, talented, or creative— or because their religion, sex or color differs from the person or persons that have targeted them.
What's worse is that teens are now using social media for this cowardly tactic.
Data released recently by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) showed that violence in schools declined but bullying remained consistent. About 9 percent of students reported being cyber bullied, according to BJS statistics.
The laws under consideration in many states should make it clear to teens—and their parents—that there are consequences for their actions. But school districts must also be more conscientious in complying with such laws.
Currently all 50 states have legislation or policies that address cyberbullying, which is defined as defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”
The Cyberbullying Research Center provides a list of updates to the bullying laws in each state.
Bullying is a violation of our human rights as citizens, and our constitutional rights as Americans.
Too often, principals and superintendents treat bullying as low priority, as “kids being kids.”
But the idea that such actions will eventually stop if school authorities just apply “fence-mending” tactics is wrong.
Beyond the new protections offered by the law, schools need to be pro-active.
As we know sadly from our own experience, bullying—whether online or in person—takes a heavy toll.
Quick action can sometimes make the difference between life and death. It doesn't take much abuse to strip a child of dignity and self-esteem and drive him or her to do something drastic to end the pain.
Here are some steps which every school administrator should take immediately:
- Establish a “three-strike” system that requires a formal response after the third alert to a teacher or principal about a pattern of bullying;
- Place a “Bully Box” in the hallway, so kids can drop an anonymous note about their situation. Repeated notes about the same bully should trigger an immediate interview by school authorities without the need to bring in witnesses;
- Establish “Purple Fridays,” or set some other day during the week or month when faculty and administrators wear something purple to signify that bullying won't be tolerated.
These steps should be part of a consistent school strategy, perhaps including invitations to students who have experienced bullying as way to educate kids about the values of kindness and tolerance—and create a happy, abuse-free educational environment.
This is one way to address some of the pitfalls of teen culture which place an emphasis on fitting in and being “cool.”
Parents have a responsibility as well to take ownership of this problem.
Hiding behind the words “it's not my kid!” is no answer.
As we have discovered to our sorrow, anyone's kid can be a bully—and anyone's child can be a victim.
Jamie Isaacs of Lake Grove NY, launched The Jamie Isaacs Foundation For Anti-Bullying Inc. three years ago after suffering repeated bullying as a 13-year-old middle-school student. Anne Isaacs is her mother and a Child Advocate, as well as the president of the foundation. They welcome comments from readers.