Friday, April 24, 2009

Bullying IS A Problem Within Our Current Society! What Can We Do About It?

First of all, we need to look at the definition of what bullying is? A person is being bullied when he or she is exposed repeatedly to negative actions on the part of one or more persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. The definition has three important components:

Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative action.
Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

Bullying can take on several forms. Bullying to one individual may actually be just playing around to another individual. Perception of the one who is receiving the signals is extremely important. In many cases the student is doing the bullying because it makes the student feel better about themselves because of problems with their self-esteem. They actually project their problems with their self-esteem on others by conflicting pain. However, in many cases the student has learned this type of behavior from his or her parents. So many times we unknowing realize what we are teaching our children by:

* Verbal bullying by making bad derogatory comments and bad names in front of our children (particularly in divorce situations)
* Bullying through social exclusion or isolation of neighbors and individuals we work with or individuals who are different from us regardless of the reason
* In many cases due to problems with family violence situations children see physical bullying in their own home by parents and siblings hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting (How many times have you heard or thought it is normal for brothers and sisters to fight? Is this appropriate and should this be normal?)
* Many times we bully others in front of our children by lies and false rumors about individuals we do not like.
* Many times children see racial, sexual, and disabled bullying by jokes we tell or just by our actions. Actions say things words never have to say. How many inappropriate bald jokes have you told to someone losing their hair? Things like this may be funny to the person telling the joke but may be extremely painful to the receiver of the joke.
* Many times we Cyber bully on this website and do not even realize what we are doing as we are just voicing our opinions (Cyber bullying is via phone or internet) From time to time most of us on this site are voicing opinions of individuals without all the facts which may cause pain to someone else. Often when we expressing our opinions on this site it may make us feel good, but the false rumors we may spread may devastate the rumored person.

Each of us needs to examine the example we actually are setting in front of our children. As teachers sometimes we have this saying that normally the apple never falls far from the tree. In reality, when I meet many parents through me 29 years of teaching I do see the behaviors many times of parents that are so much like their child’s behaviors. I leave parent conferences on occasion when there are behavioral issues, and in the back of my mind I totally understand where the child’s behaviors are coming from. The child sees these behaviors from a parent daily. Our schools appear to keep in check racial bullying but have problems with sexual orientation and sexual bulling. Could this be because of the example we exhibit in front of our children regarding this topic? Do our children think this is not a serious offense?

But enough about us as parents, why do some students bully in school? Many students who bully have strong need for power and negative dominance. Many students who bully find satisfaction in causing injury and suffering to other students. Many students who bully actually have low self-esteems so bullying makes others look bad and makes them feel good about themselves. Many times students who bully are often rewarded in some way for their behavior with material or psychological rewards from their peers.

Bullying is a serious issue in our schools. By looking at the following data you would never suspect bullying was against 36 state laws:

* That twenty three percent of students in grade 4-6 have been bullied several times or more
* Twenty percent of students 4-6 in grade indicate that they have bullied others
* Seventeen percent of students in grade 6-12 report having been bullied “sometime”
* Eight percent of students in grade 6-12 have been bullied once a week
* Nineteen percent of students in grade 6-12 said they had been a bully to others “sometimes”
* Three out of four students report that they have been bullied.
* Ninety percent of students felt being bullied caused social, emotional, or academic problems.
* Each year, 1 out of 13 kids under the age of 19 attempt suicide, a rate that has tripled in the last 20 years. Last year, more than 2,000 of them succeeded — a staggering number that can be blamed largely on bullying.
* Victims are mostly boys, but girls are increasingly being bullied. Bullying is reported as most severe in grades 7-9 with 4-6 next.

* Sixty-nine percent of students believe schools respond poorly to reports of bullying and victimization.
* Ridicule/teasing, verbal harassment, and practical jokes are the most frequently reported forms of bullying. Physical attacks are reported less frequently.
* Forty-four percent of teachers believe disruptive school behaviors are getting worse.
* Each month over 250,000 students report being physically attacked. One in five school students report avoiding rest rooms out of anxiety about safety.
* A high percentage of students who are absent from school can be blamed on bullying. Students have a high level of stress related illnesses when they are being bullied.

We also must also teach our students or our children not to be bystanders and allow this to happen around them. We need to teach our students/children to tell the student bullying to “Stop” and to under no circumstance allow anyone to bully another student in front of them. We need to make sure the student who is bullying does not receive any positive feedback for his or her actions from our children/students around him.

Without a doubt we need to hold teachers, administrators, school board members, and the superintendant responsible to make sure our schools are safe from violence of any kind and to make sure that bullying is not occurring in anyway in the DeKalb County Schools. We also need to hold them responsible to make sure every parent who walks in with a concern gets the same respect as the president of the PTA or a school board member. However, in my personnel opinion, we do not need to project all the blame on these individuals. We do need to take some responsibility as members of a society that does not show respect and acceptance to individuals who are not like us. We need to think about the joke we are telling or rumor we are spreading about someone. We need to teach our children tolerance and set an example of the behaviors we would like to see. We need to teach our children to tell students who are bullying to “STOP” or leave the student being bullied along. The way the school system handles a bullying situation is definitely only part of the problem. The problem is much bigger than this, and we must all look in our hearts to see what changes each of us might be able to make to change the bullying situation in our society. It is worth making the changes in each of our behaviors, to try to prevent one child or one person in our society from feeling the pain of being bullied.

Based on the above my recommendation to lawmakers and policymakers would be the following law or school board policies in schools regarding NO TOLERANCE FOR BULLING. On the first offense I would suggest the student would be given consequences and the parents would be called. On the second or subsequence offense the school system must report the incident to the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFACS) for a formal investigation to help determine the percipitating cause of the bullying and to allow DFACS if necessary to remove the child from the home or require other needed services or consequences for the bullier.

What do you think? What can you do to make a difference?

55 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

Each year the students and parents have to sign the "Code of Conduct" indicating they have read and understand the DCSS policies. The students then take a test on the "Code of Conduct". As I was riding around doing errands today, I thought to myself, silly as it sounds, "what happens if the student fails the test"?

Cerebration said...

To me, the best part of that story is that you were driving around thinking about it. If only everyone would spend time and energy thinking about how to improve and support the systems we have in place.

It's very hard for many of us to imagine the difficulties many others of us endure just to make it in this world. If you have been blessed with a good education, background, employment, etc - I think it's only good for your soul to use your gifts to find a way to lift others.

I'm very sad that Jaheem's family didn't get the extra support and leadership that we are assuming the system is providing. We really need to find some checks and balances so that we can eliminate the possibility of future Jaheem's feeling so lost and hopeless.

Maybe if we all could just slow down for a minute every day. Maybe if we had daily discussions in our schools - among the staff and parent leaders - about the spirit and soul of the school and the children in it we could identify and hopefully resolve issues before they become a crisis.

Anonymous said...

Having middle and high schoolers and their parents sign a Code of Conduct is meaninless. I doubt if my student ever read it.

I would like to see DeKalb county schools have and ENFORCE a Code of civility. I am sickened when I walk through the hallways of our high schools and hear the cursing, trash talk, and sex talk. Bulling is just one more extreme type of inappropriate communication and actions that should be banned. I cannot imagine that students at schools like St. Pius, Marist, Pace, Woodward, etc. would tolerated such slang or bullying. I would like to see DCSS lay down the law on the first day of school and stick to it. Stop the excuses.

Kim Gokce said...

Amen. It does boil down to what it accepted by those at hand (students, parents, teachers, and admins) and the larger community of stakeholders.

I know of a recent example where the parent of a child turned him into the administration for punishment after discovering the child was distributing marijuana to his high school class at one of those private schools mentioned. The student was summarily expelled.

My understanding is the parents were looking to teach their child something about consequences. Can you imagine this taking place at any of our public high schools in DCSS? Perhaps an extreme case but I think important to consider.

What about the responsibility of parents? Especially for those with children under 16, aren't we culpable in cases like Jaheem's?

Remember the woman who actually posed as a classmate on the Internet and taunted a child to the point of despair and suicide? She was directly culpable. Aren't we indirectly culpable when our children under 16 do the same thing?

I wonder what the parents of those who tormented Jaheem think of this suggestion. I wonder if our broader community will let these parents rationalize away their own culpability.

Cerebration said...

I have posted my opinion of the Code of Conduct several times. I refused to sign it after an incident at Oak Grove years ago with the worst bully I've ever seen. Those of us whose children were victims of the bully ALL felt ignored, marginalized and put off. The bully's parents got all of the attention and had all of the power (they also employed an attorney).

Basically, unless and until there is something in that code for GOOD kids and parents - descriptions of what it means to be a victim - and ways to report and get support - I will never sign off. My children have never bullied anyone, brought a weapon to school, destroyed property, stolen anything, bullied anyone - or any other issue that students must sign off on in the "Code". However - they have both been victims at times, and I find that there is no obvious place to turn and very little support in place - for VICTIMS of students who break the "Code".

They have finally, incorporated this text about state law into the "Code" - but it needs to be more fully promoted (perhaps posters around schools?) Obviously, Jaheem and his mother weren't aware of this program.

Sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, the HOTLINE provides a 24-hour reporting system for students to report weapons, violence (including bullying), or drugs anonymously by calling 1-877-SAY-STOP. Information is recorded and shared with the local school system and local law enforcement. An investigation is conducted upon receipt of the report.

Cerebration said...

My point is -- simply creating programs doesn't make them effective. In order for them to remain effective, these programs need constant attention, communication and support.

I'm impressed with this PTA committee I read about at Peachtree MS. I realize that there are many schools with a weak PTA or none at all and therefore a parental body of oversight (the best kind, IMO) is missing. Maybe we could utilize volunteers from successful schools to implement committees at schools that need help...?

School Climate Action Team: Responsible for working with grade-level administrators to ensure that consistency in discipline is
maintained. Responsible for enrollment eligibility policies, attendance issues, dress standard, character education, and enforcing
academic / behavioral agreements and related standards for students.
.

Also, there's the program I posted on another thread, used by Clemson and others - This program could serve as a bridge - it's a program to be implemented in the schools - by a committee composed of staff, teachers, parents and students.

http://www.olweus.org/public/index.page

No Duh said...

Everything the Peachtree Middle School Climate Action Team claims responsiblitiy for is the PRINCIPAL's job.

"Responsible for working with grade-level administrators to ensure that consistency in discipline is
maintained." is this to say that when a parent has a complaint that their Johnny was treated differently than someone else's little Janie, that Johnny's parent needs to complait the PTA-sponsored SCAT?

"Responsible for enrollment eligibility policies, attendance issues," is this to say that PMS parents should demand proof of residency from other parents?

"dress standards" is this to say that PMS parents roam the halls telling students to pull up their pants?

"character education" is this to say that a special group of PMS parents oversee other students' character deficits?

"enforcing
academic / behavioral agreements and related standards for students." is this to say that a PTA group is to oversee students' IEPs and decide suspensions, etc.?

Most of these topics (particularly the last one) are confidential. No way would I want my next-door neighbor telling me they are enforcing my child's behavior at school.

When our child first started middle school, and the talk started about fighting in the halls and in the restrooms, a group of adult male neighbors starting talking about being willing to hang out in the restrooms between classes to serve as a deterent. Can you imagine the liabilities and complaints DCSS would get from parents whose kids complain to them about adult males in the restrooms! It's a double-edged sword.

Sadly, there aren't enough school personnel to keep every kid perfectly safe from negative interactions with other out-of-control students. And using parents to police the schools is fraught with legal issues.

Cerebration said...

Well, there's that. I didn't see it that way, no duh. Good points. I guess this committee is a reaction to the fact that these issues are not being addressed as they should by the staff.

So, do we have an issue with leadership not doing their jobs? Are their jobs too vast and difficult? Should we appeal for help from other public systems - like juvenile court or DFCS? It would seem that if they could address problems within schools, perhaps it could lighten their loads in their offices? Maybe some cross-communication needs to happen?

Just brainstorming here. I just see so much apathy in school administrators. Maybe they are overwhelmed. One friend, whose child was failing 5 of 7 courses in high school, asked for an appointment with his counselor and was scheduled for one -- 30 days later!

No Duh said...

Send in the Marines! :)

Ella Smith said...

I do think so many of the things mentioned are correct. Administrators of schools and parents must be on the same page.

The suggestion of including DFACs in my post was recommended by my husband who is an attorney after reading my post. I added it because I do think bullying is a serious matter. I do think after so many incidences DFACs does need to be involved. My husband's reasoning for the recommendation was that parents do not want DFAC involved regarding their children so he felt parents would take the situation of bullying much more seriously than most of them do currently which would definitely make parents make sure their children did not bully other children.

I have been without the internet, cable and the phone this week-end. I did not realize how important the internet or cable tv was until I have been without it most of the week-end. It is almost as important to me as electricity and water.

Ella Smith said...

One area that we all also must think about is warning signs of our children being the victim.

Cerebration said...

Per your DFCS idea - I found this article (it's kind of old - November 06) at their website. Notice that they mention the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program I've mentioned here before. Maybe it's good -- maybe we should try it.

Bullying among Georgia students a problem but state prevention efforts are working

November 2, 2006

ATLANTA – Although bullying is considered a problem in Georgia schools, prevention efforts across the state are seeing reductions of up to 50% as a result of model programs that engage school-age children as young as 6- years-old.. According to state surveys, 1 in 10 Georgia students report being bullied by class mates, and many experience significant psychological consequences. Also, a higher number of girls are now participating in bullying via the internet and text messaging. Bullying prevention efforts are a part of Safe and Drug Free Schools funded by the Georgia Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases’ Office of Prevention Program and Services which allocates more than $250,000 yearly.

"For close to a decade, we have worked with school districts throughout the state in implementing bullying prevention programs," s aid Brenda Rowe, Chief of the State Prevention Office of Programs and Services. "What we know is that the earlier we teach children the proper social behavior, the more successful they will be in school or in any other social setting."

A student is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more persons. These actions can include pushing or hitting, saying harmful and unpleasant things, or making fun of others. According to national bullying studies, up to two-thirds of students who have carried guns to school and have killed other students reportedly were responding to being bullied.

In Cobb County, more than 2,200 teachers are trained each year on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is designed to reduce fighting, vandalism, theft and truancy. Based on pre and post bullying prevention surveys, the rate of bullying has dropped by 40% according to Jeff Inman, Cobb County Coordinator for Safe and Drug Free Schools. "Although state law requires that Georgia grades 6 – 12 have a bullying policy, we have included children as young as 6 years old and believe that early intervention is paying off. Yet, while we are having good results, we are also seeing a rise in girl bullies who use more indirect tactics like text messaging. Consequently, we are conducting new workshops throughout the county on cyber bullying," said Inman.

Safe and Drug Free Schools is one of several programs under the State Office of Prevention Services and Programs which is built on science-based models with proven results. During 2005, more than one million Georgians were served by statewide and regional prevention programs.

Ella Smith said...

If a student does fail the test they get another review from the principal or assistant principal normally and they then re-take the test. You are not allowed to fail or the student must re-take it.

Cerebration said...

Cobb seems to have a pretty good policy too. At least it appears as though they offer more info for victims and ways to seek help.

The following prevention information can be given to parents when their child may be a victim of bullying and or identified as a bully. This prevention information is provided to inform parents about bully/victim behavior. They are formatted in adobe acrobat reader here:
http://www.cobbk12.org/Departments/SS/SSPreventionIntervention/bully_prevention_resources.htm.

Adult Sayings

Bullying Myths

Bystanders

Code of silence

Definition of Bullying

Intervention Strategies for Bully

Relational aggression

Teasing

Tips for Parents and resources

What Does Bullying and Victim Behavior Look Like

Bullying Podcast (mp3)

Cerebration said...

Classroom Rules by Olweus

Rule One: We will not bully other students.
Rule Two: We will help students who are bullied.
Rule Three: We will make it a point to include all students who are easily left out.
Rule Four: When we know someone is being bullied, we will tell a teacher or an adult at home.

Cerebration said...

Oh - this is a good one - you'll like it DunwoodyMom

Adult Sayings
The following are adult saying that foster bullying behaviors to continue:
Bullying is part of growing up. It teaches them to deal with life.
It is good for you. It toughens you up.
Fight your own battles. Don’t tell tales.
Ignore it and it will go away. You must be doing something to bring it on yourself.
Come on! Stick up for yourself. You won’t always have us around to stick up for you.
I was bullied and it never did me any harm.
You’ve got to be tough to survive in this world. You’ve got to take care of yourself.
I never interfere in difficulties between children. They have to learn to sort out
problems between themselves.
Boys will be boys! Girls will be girls!
A Pledge for Parents
As part of my community, I will work in partnership with the schools to
• Pledge to become informed of the school’s bullying policies.
• Be proactive and part of the solution, not the problem.
• Eliminate bullying from my own behavior and model respectful behavior.
• Be empathetic and sensitive toward others.
• Set an example by valuing differences and promoting sensitivity to others.
• Eliminate gossip and profanity from my language.
• Not let my words or actions hurt others.
• Activate bystanders to help stop the bullying.
• Dialogue regularly with my children about how students treat others at school.
• Discuss with staff concerns about bullying behavior.
• Log bullying behavior (or ask my child to).
• Monitor my child while on the computer.

Signature: _____________________________
Date: ________________

Cerebration said...

Bystanders
The ability to stop the bullying behavior in a school or community comes from activating bystanders, those who represent the majority of the student body. There is power in numbers. Besides telling an adult that someone is being bullied, there are several strategies bystanders can use to help support those being bullied:
• Distract the bully. If you are with a friend who begins to tease someone else, quickly distract your friend by changing the subject or asking a question. You would be keeping your friend out of trouble, but, more importantly, helping the person who is being teased or bullied.
• Support the person who is being bullied privately. If you could not get the person(s) to stop the bullying behavior, for whatever reason, go back to the person who was being bullied and support them privately. You could say “I am sorry for what my friend and the other kids said, and I will talk to them to see if I can get the bullying behavior to stop.”
• Support the person who is being bullied openly. I only recommend this strategy to kids who feel confident and have a certain amount of respect among their peers.
• Do not feed into the bully behavior. Don’t laugh at their jokes if they are humiliating someone, and do not promote or gather around a fight. As bystanders, it is your responsibility to de-escalate the situation, not feed fuel to an already hot fire.
The biggest issue in addressing bullying behavior in an adolescent is breaking through the parent’s denial that their child may be involved with bullying behavior. It is important that bullying behavior is identified and labeled. The chances of being successful with intervention strategies are great, especially when the behavior can be identified at an early age.
Jeff Dess, Turn Up the Music- Prevention Strategies to Help Parents through the Rap, Rock, Pop, and Metal Years.
Reasons Why Students Bully
• Lack of coping skills
• Poor anger management skills
• Lack of empathy skills with little remorse for the target
• Lack of impulse control
• Aggressive behavior patterns
• Attention seeking behaviors
• May have been bullied
• Power
• Control
• Boredom
• Jealousy
• Strong sense of entitlement
• Bullying behaviors modeled/physical punishment
• Defiance and oppositional views toward authority
• External locus of control/blaming other

Cerebration said...

Listed below are some facts regarding bullying.
a. Children are more likely to be bullied in elementary school.
b. Most bullying is non-physical behavior such as name-calling.
c. Most bullies use bullying behaviors with more than one victim.
d. In elementary school, most students who are bullied tell a teacher or parent. When students reach middle and high school, children are less likely to reach out for adult intervention.
e. Bullying is most likely to occur during school hours.
f. Most students think that they should be involved but do not know how.
g. Class size does not increase the frequency of bullying behavior.
h. Students who bully have average to above average self-esteem.
i. Most victims who are bullied are not bullied because of external deviations like red hair, glasses, etc.
j. Empathy crystallizes in elementary years.
k. If a child is being bullied, ask the student to log the bullying behavior (where, what type of bullying, when, how and who’s doing it).
l. Bullies do not pick on others at random but instead engage in a shopping process
targeting preferred victims.
n. Bullies consistently see other children as more aggressive than themselves. They see threats where none exists and take these imagined threats as provocation to
strike back.
o. Children who are potential victims must learn to recognize the importance of body language.
p. As a result of a bullying episode, there must be contrasting feelings. The child who bullies may feel excited, powerful or amused while the victim feels embarrassed or hurt.
q. Bullies are as popular as well adjusted students. Victims occupy the bottom of the schoolyard food chain, the lowest rungs of the social ladder and the bottom of the pecking order.

Cerebration said...

Go to the link for the Cobb program and download the above documents (there are more) and share them with your school administrators if you wish.

------

Jimmy Carter stated it well with the following poem.

Peace is active, not passive; Peace is doing, not waiting; Peace like war must be waged.

Our goal then is to wage war on bullying. Call it what it is, bullying behavior, and that it will not be accepted at school or at home. Every student has a right to come to school and not be called names, threatened, ostracized, or isolated. School should be a safe haven.

Cerebration said...

Cobb also has posted this radio interview with an expert online for you to listen to - it's great info -

http://www.cobbk12.org/Departments/SS/SSPreventionIntervention/video/parenting-teenagers-15.mp3

Ella Smith said...

Very nice research Cerebration. You always bring us the research.

Cerebration said...

Thanks, Ella. I hope you will all listen to the radio interview - it's good. Maybe we just need to steal Cobb's Prevention/Intervention specialist, Jeff Dess - or at least hire his consulting services.

Here's his website -

http://jeffdess.com/.

As well as the interview host at Parenting my Teen - good stuff here too:
http://parentingmyteen.com/

Dekalbparent said...

I have wondered whether the "Dangerous School" label is an issue here. If incidents of bullying were dealt with as they should be and the bully(ies) were disciplined appropriately (ISS, OSS), would that amount to an admission on the principal's part that the school is "dangerous school"?

Intimidation and abuse, physical or verbal, are aggressive acts - is this why administrators are loath to admit it - they will at the least, lose face?

Cerebration said...

I think you may have hit the nail on the head, DKparent. I think that having your school labeled as anything other than 'high achieving' is a no-no in DCSS. We need to change to a culture of help and support.

Anonymous said...

These have been interesting discussions about bullying. The fact this is being discussed with many looking for solutions is a positive. It also looks as though many have been either a bully, been bullied, or a bystander at some point in their life.

Following is an expanded version of what a teacher shared:

1. Teachers are hesitant to do write-ups of bullies for fear of their principal.
2. Principals are hesitant to do write-ups provided by teachers for fear of the superintendent.
3. Superintendents are hesitant to do write-ups provided by principals for fear of the school board.
3. The school board members are hesitant to do write-ups for fear of the community
4. The community is fearful to address bullying for fear of the bullies.
5. The bullies fear no one…..

Kim Gokce said...

@Anonymous

Nice. A variant on the "for want of a nail" analogy but, in this case, it is for want of courage. The more I work on DCSS-related issues, the more I note its absence.

Open+Transparent said...

When Crawford Lewis finally gives his whole lotta nothing press conference tomorrow, maybe he can also explain the school system's handling of the Princeton Elementary tragedy from february, because he never addressed it:


http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2009/02/02/child_hit_school.html?cxntlid=homepage_tab_newstab
Princeton Elementary Principal Juanita B. Letcher said through a spokesman that a parent spoke with her last school year about safety concerns at the intersection, and that Letcher herself also had concerns “about traffic in the area,” said DeKalb schools spokesman Dale Davis.
Letcher said she contacted county officials about her concerns. She said county personnel did an assessment — although no traffic light was installed.

----

The county had no record of any correspondance from the principal. But with the DCSS Transportation Dept. having a ton of staff, including at least three making well over $100,000 per year, why didn't DCSS Central Office take the lead when the prinicipal recognized the unsafe situation, which utimately led to the death of 7-year-old second-grader Cameron Dunmore? Seems like the bloated Central office loves to push everything on the principals, at least when there's a situation.

So for tomorrow's press conference about the Dunaire tragdey, Crawford will hem and haw and displace the blame way far away from DCSS Central Office.

He may or may not be the nicest guy in the world, but between him buying a 18 month DCSS car for one-third its value, the Pat Pope sham investigation he personally requested D.A. Gwen Keyes to do, the do nothing before and after at Principal Elem./Cameron Dunmore, the mess with the location of the Marine Academy, and now the Dunaire suicide, where a school with a ton of administrators ignores multiple pleas by a mother, well I for one have no confidence in Superintendent Lewis.

Ella Smith said...

I will be interested in the press conference. I suspect all school board members will be present supporting Dr. Lewis.

This young man must have felt a great deal of pain to have taken his life. He must have felt so depressed and just could not deal with the pain anymore.

Anonymous said...

OK, no one will say it, but the answer is hidden in one of your posts: the victims are at the bottom of the pecking order.

The victims are the least likely to fight back, least likely to squeal.

1. Tell your kids its OK to tell. There has to be a safety net, there have to be consequences. The bullies have to be identified, a paper trail created within administration of the school. If they don't take action, use the discipline record against the bully. Force the school system to address the issue with the student and his parents, but recognize the bully may lash out again.

2. Its not OK to be passive. Don't get into a fight, and don't use violence to counter verbal assaults. Physical bullying, though, can't be solved any other way. Take a deep breath, wait a few seconds for opportunity. Hit him once, square in the jaw, hard. The bully will back off, he wasn't expected to get hurt in the process. It works, but no adult, and certainly no one in a school system, will ever give a kid that advice. Don't start the fight, but don't be afraid to end it. Warning: DeKalb will send the kid home for ten days. The teacher(s) should be contacted to make sure work isn't missed.

3. Tell your kids that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It will be over. Share the research, the stories, all of it. Truth is, this is rare in upper grades (10th and above), it's non-existent in college (which has its own unique pitfalls). Those victims, they are smart, likely college-bound, they need to be re-assured that their future will be bright, that their dreams won't be dashed by a bunch of punks. Give them hope, lift their spirits, fight the depression. And give the bullies a good whack while their at it.

Dunwoody Mom said...

O&T, traffic signals fall into the jurisdiction of Dekalb County, not DCSS, as those of us with children at Peachtree MS can painfully attest to. DCSS can talk until their blue in the face to Dekalb County, but ultimately the county makes the decision with regards to traffic lights.

Dunwoody Mom said...

no duh, I don't know if you are aware that Peachtree is a Charter school and as part of the charter these actions teams work with the administration to support our students. No parents are not privy to confidential information about children, no parents do not enforce the dress code, etc., etc.,

Ella Smith said...

Anonymous, your last post has some merit. Even though I do not believe in fighting for any reason I do agree it is important to teach your children to defend themselves and be assertive.

I remember working with a student at Lakeside which was being bullied when she would start to enter a classroom as several boys would not let her in. In her mind you had to be to class on time as it was a rule so one day she knocked them all down and went into class. She just was not going to break the rules. She was going to be to class on time because it was a rule. Those boys never bullied her again. On this students behave she would have never intentionally been aggression. This was not her nature but those boys stold in her way and she was not going to break the rules and be late to class. I will never forget this incidence as an innocent young lady took care of those bullies and they never bothered her again.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Now, in my day (the "dark ages", lol), students "took care" of bullies during recess or PE and usually, that was that.

However, today's litigous society has dictated that the rules have to be different.

Cerebration said...

I found it interesting that Jeff Dess (expert from Cobb) - in his interview at the link above said that he doesn't consider punching, choking or generally beating up another student bullying. He considers those acts of violence and should be treated as such. When you look at the discussions on bullying and see that we are all referring to what amounts to violence as simple bullying, maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe making better definitions would help sort and eliminate aggressors.

He also tried to explain the fine line between teasing and bullying. That's another thing to think about.

Importantly, he says that most of us are bystanders - and if we can change the reactions of the bystanders, we can make a big dent in the bullying problem.

Looking forward to what Dr. Lewis says on the issue today.

Cerebration said...

I didn't see Dr. Lewis' press conference, however here is a blurb from WSB Channel 2's website -

DeKalb Reviews Bullying Policy After Suicide
Posted: 11:15 am EDT April 27, 2009

DECATUR, Ga. -- DeKalb County Schools will review an anti-bullying policy and check for loopholes that could have led to the suicide of an 11-year old boy who hanged himself last week after telling parents he had been teased.

That policy says that teachers must report istances of bullying and that three instances is enough to get a student expelled.

Superintendent Crawford Lewis says officials are reviewing how the policy may have failed. Theyt are putting together a chronology of events, includijng how many times the boy's mother may have complained to officials.

Anonymous said...

His press conference needs to be available online at the DCSS website. This is exaclty why we pay the communications staff dept. big bucks...to inform the public.

Dunwoody Mom said...

ajc.com has an article:

school officials have started their own internal review about the events surrounding the suicide of a fifth-grader, with Superintendent Crawford Lewis scheduled later Monday to sit down with the boy’s principal “to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Lewis commented Monday morning for the first time on the death of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera who took his life, his family says, because he was being bullied in school.

Jaheem, who attended Dunaire Elementary School, hanged himself on April 16. His death became public last week, but Lewis was in North Carolina until Friday night at a leadership conference.

Jaheem’s mother, Masika Bermudez, said she had complained to school officials about the bullying and taunts Jaheem endured. On one occasion, Jaheem was choked in the bathroom, she said.

“If she came one time, that should have been sufficient,” Lewis said.

The system’s review, Lewis said, will coincide with talks that DeKalb District Attorney Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming has said she wants with parents and educators involved in the case. The system will cooperate fully, Lewis said.

He also said he would like to meet with Jaheem’s family, which has hired a lawyer to investigate their son’s death. Other Dunaire families have also stepped forward
to complain that bullying is a problem at the school.

System officials announced last week that they will review how all DeKalb schools deal with bullying and how staff is trained because of the case’s seriousness.

Staff members this week will be asked to talk with students about bullying to remind them to “be careful about what you say. Words hurt. You need to be a better friend and a better classmate,” Lewis said.

Still, the case has caused parents at other schools to also speak out. One, Mike Wilson, interrupted Lewis’ press conference to complain of a “cover-up” in the treatment of his daughter when she was bullied over what he said was a three-year period as she attended Evansdale Elementary and Henderson Middle schools.

One of Lewis’ top aides took down Wilson’s information as Lewis promised the complaint would be reviewed.

Cerebration said...

To me, it sounds like Dr. Lewis is trying to take an honest assessment of not only what happened in this case and at this school, but if policy is not being implemented systemwide.

I respect him for his honesty here - he didn't try to gloss it over, make excuses or minimize what happened.

Anonymous said...

Dekalb has more then a little hypocrisy with their "No Bullying"
program.
Last year, I went up to Tucker Middle School to take a project my oldest had left at home. As I was walking through the hallways during class change time, here's what I witnessed.
A group of three seventh grade girls pushing their way through other students down the hall.
Their comment?
"Get outta my way, white boy!"
You can guess how well this would be tolerated if someone
had used the word "black" instead of "white" in this instance.

The prior posting about bullies being popular and selecting their victims is very true. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt (from junior high).
My own personal bully never laid a hand on me in seventh grade.
They did something much worse.
They waited to see if an audience was present, and began to
ridicule. My height, posture, choice of clothes, geeky friends,
all were fair game. I would have preferred a beating- it would have been over and done with.
I wonder if Dunaire's little tormentors laid in wait for lunchtime? Recess doesn't seem to occur at many Dekalb Elementary Schools anymore.
Son of awcomeonnow, over n out.

No Duh said...

P.S.
Just in case people are wondering about the lughead interrupting and spouting off about his child's "issue" during a press conference meant to discuss the tragic suicide of an 11-year-old boy...

I can tell you for a fact that his issues were properly handled by Evansdale and Henderson Middle School. He is a lose cannon. Evansdale has the best counselor in the system and one of the most "play-by-the-rules" principals I've ever met.

Anonymous said...

Cere:

Why not have part of the site
available for parents to report when instances of bullying have occurred and the school system fails to keep up it's end of the bargain?
There might have to be some advance thought on how to structure it so that those doing the reporting won't be inviting a law suit.
One other consideration would be false reporting by the more crazy/ and or vindictive among us. Anybody else have thoughts about this?
Ideally, we'd start hearing
(anonymously) from retired teachers about how the system has failed our children. Ultimately, it
might even have some comments from brave current teachers.

Cerebration said...

hmmm - good idea, Anon. Let's ponder that some more...

No Duh said...

Cere, et. al:

I think it would be more productive and more motivating for us to set up an area where bloggers could relate instances of Bystanders taking action against bullies.

That was the point of Dr. Lewis' comments (wish we could have heard the whole conference). When he was quoted about "being better friends," etc.

Let's highlight what we can do to stop bullying. Not, fuel the fire with stories (true or false) about kids behaving poorly. Because the fact of the matter is, we can't be sure what really happened -- like this idiot from Evansdale whose 15 minutes of fame are up. His case was properly handled and the bullies were properly punished. But, I guess that's just not enough for this fool. I think he wants a public hanging or something! He has a right to be angry because his daughter's feelings were hurt and aggressive things were said about her, but the case has been closed for a long time and slandering Evansdale with talk of "cover ups" is ridiculous.

And interrupting a press conference about the tragic death of Jaheem Herrera is just classless.

So, let's stick to the positive happenings. Let's highlight times when our students reach out to others to comfort and protect. Let's talk about the bullying instances that were prevented by courageous bystanders.

Cerebration said...

I would agree with that - I would also like to create a resource of educational materials and recommendations for the steps parents should follow through the school system. I really like what Cobb has to offer - maybe we can set up a certain thread just for that with a way to click through on the front page.

Dunwoody Mom said...

no duh, excellent thoughts. Change comes easier through positive interaction and positive suggestions. Let's help our children help others.
Bravo, no duh.

Ella Smith said...

The guy who is still upset about the bullying of his daughter at least three times has every right to feel the way he does. We can not control his emotions. He loves his daughter. Dr. Lewis or someone at the county office should have meet with him along time ago and maybe he still would not be so angry. This incident probable brought out much tramatic stress he felt regarding what happened to his daughter, just like Cerebration also has strong feelings about what happened to her daughter at Oak Grove. She also was not happy with the way it was handled.

People are all different and have different tolerance levels. The guy is apparently very emotional and lose control of his emotions because this little boy killed himself. This brought up bad memories for him I am sure. I am glad that Dr. Lewis met with him today. I do think it is important for Dr. Lewis to know that other parents are upset that they were not listen to also. Maybe the way he handled the situation was not correct but he was heard. If he had not have done this Dr. Lewis may have never met with him. Who knows?

Ella Smith said...

The parents should have continued their complaint to the county office.

Cerebration said...

ok - I attempted to post something for this -- add your comments and your input - please...

No Duh said...

I'd agree with you 100% Ella if I didn't know this guy and his kids.

The point is, the SYSTEM has resolved his child's problem. The bully was reprimanded in an appropriate manner. This guy either wants a pound of flesh or his 15 minutes. I guess he finally realized he wasn't going to get his pound of flesh.

Ella Smith said...

No Duh, I do understand, I just suspect some tramatic stress there on the behave of the father. Was he a war veteran or is this just from this incident with his daughter. It apparently was very stressful for him and you are correct that he does want a pound of flesh. I just know from experience what it feels like to get hurt as a teacher and the lack of support I received. I went to the court and file charges after being attached by a student who was on house arrest for attacking out teachers. I understand this feeling of frustration. I have worked through my frustration. I decided to run for school board because of my concern for safe schools for our children and staff. I just think it is important to get the school board's attention and regardless of who he is I do think he helped do this.

I am sure you know this situation much better and you are correct but most of his emotions could have been dealt with if the county office had treated him differently.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Ella, if the incident was handled properly at the school level, and it sounds like it was, there was no need for Dr. Lewis or the county office to be involved. The principal's can and should take care of this themselves.

Not Buying It said...

A very productive solution in situations like these is for an adult to casually arrange to be near the bully while he/she is alone in the hallways, and mention how easy it is to have a serious accident on the way home from school. It's easily denied later if the bully attempts to report you ("you know how kids misunderstand things"), the offensive behavior most likely will stop, and everyone who matters (specifically not including the little thug piece of @#$E@#@) feels much better. Hopefuly, the parents at Dunaire will take that approach with the useless pieces of human refuse that taunted that kid.

Dunwoody Mom said...

No, that's not the proper way to handle the situation - sorry.

Kim Gokce said...

From the AJC re: Jaheem's final resting place - just to put this back in context: "The blue and white balloons that decorated the church had been distributed to the children in attendance and were released simultaneously in the air during the graveside ceremony. The brisk island trade winds carried them higher and farther away until they were mere specks in the distance, leaving behind Masika Bermudez’s muffled screams to pierce the silence as Jaheem’s coffin was finally lowered into the ground and covered with the first sprinklings of dirt."

May this family find succor where there appears to be none.

Cerebration said...

Oh dear Lord, that does put it in perspective. Thanks for sharing that report, Kim. It brings a harsh reality back to this thread...we're talking about a little boy's life and the heartbroken family he leaves behind.