Beyond the Classroom: Addressing bullying is complex for schools
Anti-bullying initiatives are a large part of the educational landscape today. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2003 only 7.1 percent of students reported being bullied. In 2005 that number was 28.1 percent and in 2007 it was 31.7 percent. There are some studies which report that bullying has not increased, there is simply a better and more inclusive definition which is called bullying, as well as more research and more publicity about bullying, making acts of bullying reported more often. This is according to “The Journal Times”, a newspaper printed in Racine, Wisc.
Still, there are others who say that much of what is classified as bullying today is really just part of everyday life.
According to a Huffington Post article dated Nov. 13, 2013, “Is It Bullying or Drama?”: “Bullying is… a repeated pattern of harmful or rejecting behavior that occurs over a period of time, leaving you feeling excluded, isolated or humiliated on a large scale. Your life feels seriously interrupted, and you can’t see an end in sight.
“Drama is… the everyday difficulties that all teenagers experience, including relationship rifts with friends or people you’re dating, onetime instances of classmates being jerks, and conflicts that eventually blow over. People involved aren’t victims or perpetrators – they’re just part of the social world where mean things sometimes happen.”
It is difficult to tell the difference between behavior which is called bullying and people just acting like, in the words of the article, “jerks.” The author of “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy”, Emily Bazelon, says that “If bullying is every single mean thing that happens, then there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
Bullying is defined in North Dakota Statute (15.1-19-17) as
a. Conduct that occurs in a public school, on school district premises, in a district-owned or leased school bus or school vehicle, or at any public school or school district-sanctioned or sponsored activity or event and which:
1) Is so severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive that it substantially interferes with the stu-dent’s educational opportunities;
2) Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of harm;
3) Places the student in actual and reasonable fear of damage to prop-erty of the student; or
4) Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.
“Conduct” includes the use of technology or other electronic media.
From the above discussions it is apparent that bullying is complex issue. Other definitions of bullying exist which divide bullying into three main categories.
1) Verbal bullying, which is saying or writing mean things. Teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting and threatening to cause harm.
2) Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes: leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children to not be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone and embarrassing someone in public.
3) Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things or making mean or rude hand gestures.
Of these three categories, physical bullying is really the easiest to deal with from an administrative point of view. Most of the time a physical action of some sort will have some witnesses. Verbal bullying, unless it is written down, or some other sort of evidence is provided, is very difficult to counter. Many times instances of verbal bullying simply turn into one student’s word against another.
Social bullying is also difficult to deal with in unstructured situations such as the playground. Especially situations where children are left out on purpose. We, as adults, can make children allow other children to join a game, but it is very difficult to make children actually play with other children (throw them the ball, run after them in tag, etc.).
All forms of bullying should not be tolerated in a school setting, however, as stated previously, actually stopping verbal or social bullying is difficult to say the least, if not impossible. So what to do? The answer lies in education. Education both at home and in school. Parents have to talk to their children at every possible opportunity to explain that saying mean and hurtful things to others is not acceptable.
Even though society is more aware of bullying, the sad fact is that there will be bullies in this world, because of that, parents must also teach their children that some forms of verbal bullying needs to be withstood. Even though words can, indeed hurt, children must be taught that they can only hurt, if they let them.
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