Bullying Prevention and School Safety

Bullying prevention and school safety; are the victims safe and what are the schools really Doing? According to the NCES, 1 in every 5 students are bullied (Pacer). Schools are making claims of preventative measures, but they are not acting on those claims. Everyday my 13-year-old daughter wakes up and begs me to not have to go to school. At 8 years old she stood in my kitchen and told me the 5 most horrific words no parent ever wants to hear; “I wish I was DEAD.” Every muscle in my body felt as if they failed me all at once. My rambunctious child, the one who was always smiling, and singing had slowly disappeared right before my eyes. We approached the school for help and it never really seemed to get us very far. We moved, sent her to a new school and it helped but over the past 2 years it is all coming back. While I’ve received some help from her guidance counselor, I still receive no response from her principle about the issues we are facing.

On Oct 5th, 2018 my daughter attempted to take her own life. Even after warnings and numerous calls to the school before and after I have yet to receive a call or even an email from the principle. This has caused me to really look further into this subject. It has made me want to research how many children have tried to get help and what is happening to fail them. What is or what isn’t being done? How can we help? Is there anything we can do differently? According to the Webster’s dictionary bullying is defined as the “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.” (Merriam-Webster). There are numerous forms of bullying; being teased, threatened, called names, having sexual remarks made toward them, things stolen or damaged, having rumors spread, or being rejected by others due to others influences. In my daughters 28-page student handbook there is a short paragraph for Rule #15, on page 15 they address disrespect, intimidating, threatening, or disgraceful acts (including sexual harassment).

During more research I found the last time bullying was addressed in the school board meetings was February 12th, 2012. In the meeting they talked about a report they ran, the Bullying & Harassment Discipline Report. Dr. Moore and Mrs, Cottingim stated the reason the numbers were so low was because “certain bullying events would be classified as other areas based on the severity of the event of things such as assault” (Dr. Moore). Dr. Moore advised he would run another report later to try and get it more accurate. This is the first- and only-time bullying was mentioned in any of their board meetings since this date. During October they hold Bullying prevention days. The children wear a new outfit every day. When I talked to 10 individual children from my daughters’ school about their thoughts on the event, 7 out of 10 said they do not feel it helps. My youngest daughter stated, “I feel it makes it worse; there are children who do not dress up because they either do not have the things to wear or their parents can’t get them the stuff, so it is almost signaling certain kids out even more.” (Arcuragi). In an article authored by Catherine P. Bradshaw she suggests students and teachers view bullying in different ways and that is why schools have difficulties combating the issue.

From school officials being unaware of how serious the situations are, to school officials feeling bullying is not as prominent in their schools as it is. She found that most teachers felt they didn’t need to intervene because most children resolve the situations on their own. She found that teachers were able to spot bullying easier in elementary student’s vs adolescent students. She states, “physical forms of aggressive behavior decline but social forms of aggression increase during the transition from childhood to adolescence” (Bradshaw, pg. 2). In the article she also found that teachers are more likely to categorize physical forms as being bullied vs nonphysical forms. She states the teachers feel “nonphysical forms are less serious and easier to cope with.” (Bradshaw, pg. 2). During her research she discovered that “84% of teachers believed they intervened “always” or “often” in bullying incidents, whereas just 35% of students reported that teachers intervened” (Bradshaw, pg. 2). Her study showed that 49% of students said they were bullied. 30% of students said they bullied others. 40.6% of students said they were frequently involved in some form of bullying while 23.2% said they were frequent victims.

When staff was asked what percentage of students, they felt were bullied two or more times in a month. 71.4% responded with 15% or less. The report showed 33.7% of elementary schoolers, 32.7% of middle schoolers and 22.7% of high schoolers stated they were bullied within the month. (Bradshaw, pg. 8). Bradshaw found that 70.6% of students reported they have witnessed bullying within a month. 70.4% of Staff reported they had witnessed bullying within a one-month period. 35.42% of middle school students and 40.32% of high school students (35.42% reported they just “ignore it or do nothing” (Bradshaw, pg. 9). 25.11% middle schoolers and 25.31% of high schoolers said they try to stop it when they see it. With 11.90% of middle schoolers and 13.40% of high schoolers saying they joined in. When asked about the severity of bullying in their schools, 55% of middle schooler felt bullying was a moderate to serious problem in the schools; with 59.9% of middle school staff felt the same way. When asked how the students perceived bullies 60% of middle schoolers and high schoolers perceived the bullies as “popular” with 40% of elementary students saying the same. Staff felt the bullies were feared but not disliked. (Bradshaw, Pg. 9)

She asked if students and staff felt safe in their schools and mostly all the students and staff felt they were. She asked if the students and staff felt retaliation was acceptable, 55.6% of students felt it was ok to hit someone if they hit you first while, 7.1% of staff felt students should hit back if hit (Bradshaw, Pg. 9). Most students said they were bullied for their looks, clothes, of the way they talk. Middle schoolers reported more racial and social economics as the reason. The study showed that between elementary, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and staff they all reported verbal bullying was the most common form. Even though all these students know of bullying and have reported they have been bullied only 21.3% said they have reported it to the teachers. They say they felt staff made the situation worse. 33.6% of middle schoolers and 25.6% of high schoolers stated once staff was told they did nothing. (Bradshaw, Pg. 12)

When the staff was asked how they respond to bullying situations most middle school staff members said they would report the situation to administration or a counselor but were less likely to report it to the parents. High school staff was less likely to do anything. (Bradshaw, Pg. 12). Looking over the data presented in the article staff view bullying as less of an issue as the students, but they all seem to agree on the types of bullying and how bullying is presented. Teachers felt they intervene while students felt they didn’t do much or they made the situation worse. Students felt more students were bullied in a month’s period than staff did. They did seem to agree that bullying was a moderate to serious issue. After reviewing this article, it seems that the teachers were confused on how to effectively handle bullying situation. So, what are the laws around bullying? Are the schools held to a certain standard? Are the states trying to help? In the article Do U.S. laws go far enough to prevent bullying at school? written by Dewey G. Cornell, PhD, and Susan P. Limber, PhD they jumped into what states are doing to protect victims. They state, “today’s laws and policies about bullying are fragmented and inconsistent” (Cornell, Limber).

They state the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorized bullying in three characteristics; intentional aggression, a power imbalance between aggressor and victim, and repetition of the aggression. (Cornell, Limber) By bullying being characterized as these three things it makes it hard to set laws or policies. They go on to explain how intentional aggression can be hard to determine because some people may view it more as Childs play and that it is hard to distinguish the two. They talk about how repetition is required for interventions to be made, but it is hard to prove. It would take someone having to witness the incident numerous times of numerous people with complaints to make it stick. Before 1999 the laws to protect student on student harassment were not present, only teacher vs student laws existed. However, Cornell & Limber write in “1999 the Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999) the Supreme Court ruled that school authorities could be held liable under Title IX for damages in a case involving student-on-student harassment” (Cornell, Limber).

Title IX states “no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (Cornell, Limber). The supreme court have “four conditions that must be met for the accused to be held liable. The first is that the victim must be being victimized due to their membership in one of the categories (i.e. racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and victims of gender harassment or religious discrimination). The second requirement is It must be severe. Just teasing, name-calling and rough play do not classify. Third is school authorities must be made aware of the situation. Fourth is schools can only be liable if they are “deliberately indifferent” to the situation. It states schools are not required to prevent or stop harassment but must try to intervene once aware.” (Cornell, Limber). In efforts to fight bullying in 2015, a law was passed that required school districts to develop policies that would address bullying. 1/3 of the laws require or encourage to report known bullying incidences. 2/3 of laws require or encourage school districts to create procedure to investigate the situations. ¾ of state require or encourage punishment for bullying. (Cornell, Limber)

The biggest issue with the laws are the way they categorize the characteristics for bullying. So, by only putting it into certain characteristics such as race, gender etc. It limits the protection other children have, such as children who are being bullied for being “fat”. Children who are bullied for any other reason other than the protected characteristics basically must suck it up and deal. According to Stephen Joseph’s article The multidimensional peer victimization scale: A systematic review, children who are victimized have a lower quality of life, poor self-esteem, feel lonely and isolated, experience greater anxiety and depression, at greater risk for suicide and suicidal ideation, can become aggressive, and preform less academically in school. In his study he found that boys reported more victimization than girls did. 9 of his studies showed that boys experiences more physical forms of bullying than girls. Showing that girls experienced more social manipulation forms. It also showed that boys have more attacks on their properties than girls. His study shows that victims of bullying suffer from physical health problems and headaches. (Joseph, Pg. 7)

Joseph suggest that “schools could tackle bullying most effectively by tailoring intervention programs in a way that targets specific gender-related behaviors and victimization experiences.” (Joseph, Pg. 18) In an article written by Ken Rigby called Bullying in Australian schools: the perceptions of victims and other students. He investigated the issues of bullying in schools in Australia. He investigated how schools were handling bullying and how students preceded bullying. He suggests students who have been bullied experience an emotional change of the perceptions. In turn the negative emotions they face from being bullied leave them feeling their environment is “unsafe, bystanders as unhelpful, and teachers’ actions as less effective in countering bullying.” (Rigby, Pg. 2) His paper suggests because of this it makes the bullied children view things more negatively than nonbullied children. In his study he took 9 forms of bullying; lies being told about them, being teased in a mean way, feels ignored or left out, was made to feel afraid, hit/kicked, cruelty online, harassing text, racial harassment, and sexual harassment. Here is a table to show the results.

According to the table it seems most of the students felt they experiences people telling lies about them more than anything else, with sexual harassment being the least experienced. They were also asked other questions such as do they feel safe from bullying at school, how safe they felt at school if they were unable to defend themselves, bystanders response to bullying, do students tell anyone to get help, what do they teachers do once told, what do teachers do to prevent bullying, and how effective the teachers are in doing something once told. The table also shows the locations in which most children experience bullying. According to his findings it would appear students who were bullied has a different look on the way things were than those who weren’t. 86.6% of students felt bystanders were present during bullying, while 64.7% felt they weren’t. 38.7% of non-bullied students felt the bystanders did something to help, while 27.1% of bullied students felt bystanders did nothing. 64.4% of non-bullied students felt people tell when they see something like this where 54.9% of bullied students felt nobody did anything to help. (Rigby, Pg. 7)

John Cloud a journalist for the Times, wrote an article called the Myths of Bulling. In his article he talks about how school shooting has been labeled to be because of bullying. He references the school shooting involving 17-year-old named T.J. Lane and how as soon as the reports of the shooting came out along with it came the assumptions that he was bullied. He also references the Tyler Clementi and talks about how he was tormented by his roommate for being gay. He states that the case was made to be a bullying situation but in turn was “a muddle that looks like a roommate dispute gone terribly wrong.” (Cloud, 2012) He argues that bullying was a right of childhood but because of high profile cases such as the two above he implies “bullying has become cemented in public opinion as a growing epidemic” (Cloud. 2012). He argues that research shows the bullying “epidemic is exaggerated.” (Cloud,2012) He feels that the procedures that have been implemented are making things worse, because now teachers are feeling forced to “escalate routine playground spats into cases to present before school boards.” (Cloud, 2012)

He argues that the statistics showing bullying is on a rise is contradictory. He argues this by stating “The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that 37% of students don’t feel safe at school because of bullying” (Cloud, 2012) and that that number has been the same for a long time. He claims there is a lot of overlap because in his research he found that 47% of students reported being bullied while 50% had bullied others themselves. He claims that it is hard for teachers to determine between children who are tormented and children who are bullied. He the laws are to stringent stating that a school official (teacher, bus driver, etc.) that witnesses bullying must report it in a certain amount of time to the appropriate school official then they are to report it to the school board. He talks about a case where a boy called another boy a “retard” the incident was reported to the board and now the student who did the name calling will have it on his record. This will show on his application when applying to a state university. Due to the antibullying act he is to be labeled a “bully” (Cloud, 2012).

In his article he quotes the superintendent of New Jersey’s Central Regional School District stating, “I think the new law crosses the line because it is trying to legislate good manners,” he also quotes Triantafillos Parlapanides the superintendent stating, “That is what parents are supposed to be teaching.” (Cloud, 2012) He argues that the new antibullying campaign was designed for nothing but profit. He suggests the companies charge thousands of dollars to school’s districts to help educators learn how to spot warning signs etc. He states, “Strauss Esmay Associates, offers schools a $1,295-minimum deal that provides a two-hour video, three hours of training for two staff members and a manual on preventing bullying.” (Cloud, 2012). He suggests ways to fix the bullying is not by paying for programs, focusing on the bully or the victim but rather the bystanders. Saying that studies have shown schools who focus on addressing the bystander are less violent. He talks about his interview with Robin Lowe, principal of the biggest middle school in Houston when Lowe states “I can guarantee you that no one is an innocent on any of this. Something has come before.” (Cloud, 2012). He goes on to argue that both sides are at fault.

While Cloud makes a good argument and while it does seem to fit some of the situations the statistical facts presented in all the other articles prove to argue differently. After the research presented, I think it is safe to say, Schools are making the claims of preventative measures, but they are not acting on those claims. I feel even though schools are taking a better stance on bullying they are not learning the best techniques to address the situations. It shows teachers are lost on how to address the problems or feel lost on how to address it. Learning to address situations with parents and all parties will help. I do agree that schools should address the bystanders as well.