The topic of bullying has come to the forefront again following tragic cases like that of 17-year-old Jesse Buchsbaum, a high school student who was found hanged to death after reportedly being the subject of bullying at school. Jesse’s mother, Louise, told news sources that Jesse had a learning disability and didn’t socialize much with other students. She alleges that bullying may have lead to her son’s suicide.
All children want to feel safe at school, and parents, teachers, and administrators want to make sure that school is a positive learning environment where students can concentrate on academic success. No longer are bullies confined to targeting other students in classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds. The use of technology allows cyber-bullying to occur through social networking sites like Facebook and students also report being bullied via text messaging on cell phones. While teachers and school staff have little control over what students do outside of school on cell phones and computers, they can take a proactive stance on bullying while children are on campus.
No Bully defines bullying as when someone repeatedly does or says things to someone else in an effort to scare them, make them uncomfortable, have power over them, or intimidate them. Bullies sometimes call other people names, spread rumors, damage the target’s personal belongings, write negative things about another person, leave someone out of activities on purpose, or engage in acts of physical violence. While all children at one point or another may exhibit some of those behaviors, the difference between normal playful behavior and bullying is that bullying happens repeatedly rather than just in an isolated incident.
The first step in preventing bullying is for school staff to recognize the behavior. Children who feel bullied often will not report it because they fear that the aggressors will engage in even more harsh bullying. Teachers and administrators should observe students carefully in the hallways and classrooms to notice bullying. If you witness bullying, follow your school’s anti-bullying policy. If your school doesn’t have such a policy, encourage your administrator to adopt one. Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools has a Bullying Report form that may be helpful when setting up an anti-bullying policy. The policy should be clear and concise with consequences for bullying behavior. Students who are bullies should be disciplined, but also should receive support from guidance counselors to help them overcome their desire to pick on other children.
Incorporating character-building lesson plans into the curriculum can also be helpful in creating an environment where respect is valued. Many children may not be taught about respect and having good character at home, unfortunately. Stop Bullying Now is a website that provides many resources for character-building and anti-bullying materials and programs. Presenting students with role-playing scenarios and allowing time for discussion of those scenarios can help older students think about behaviors and possibly make positive decisions regarding appropriate social interaction.
Reports: Bullying may have caused Montco teen’s suicide, Mainline Media