Monday, April 27, 2009
Bullying – An Information Clearinghouse
You may have found this article because you are desperate to find help and support for you or your child who is being bullied. If so, please know that as a community of parents, we are here to help and support as much as we can. Most of us have been navigating DeKalb County School System for many years and we are here to help you by serving as a guide to the best of our ability. That said, the school system is your first line of defense, and we strongly encourage you to use it, find the people in the system with authority, ask for their help and never give up. Start with your child's teacher, move up to the school counselor and if necessary, on to the principal or the system administrator in prevention/intervention.
This thread came about after the tragic suicide of one of our DeKalb students, Jaheem Herrera, a fifth-grader attending Dunaire Elementary School in Stone Mountain, who was so deep in despair, his mother says, due to relentless bullying at school, that he could not see a way out other than taking his own life. We all grieved and continue to grieve over this 11 year old boy’s senseless death and together have pledged to at least create a place to offer information and serve as a guide.
We have learned that according to experts, bullying refers to intentional actions repeated over time that harm, intimidate or humiliate another person [the victim] and occur within the context of an imbalance of power, either real or perceived, between the bully and the victim. Bullying can be physical, verbal or relational, meaning that it can involve excluding or isolating the victim.
Now, we have to add cyber-bullying as a whole new type of abuse. In fact, in Missouri, responding to the suicide of a Missouri teenager who was teased over the Internet by an adult woman posing as a teenaged boy, state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill making cyber harassment illegal. The bill updates state laws against harassment to keep pace with technology by removing the requirement that the communication be written or over the telephone. Supporters say the bill will now cover harassment from computers, text messages and other electronic devices.
Bullying is not something to be brushed off as part of growing up says Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander. Ms. Coloroso gave this advice - do not minimize, rationalize or explain it away. Bullies must be held accountable. Restorative justice for bullies requires restitution, resolution and reconciliation.
In fact, The Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says Children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. Some victims of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to endure such harassment and punishment.
PROGRAMS IN PLACE in DEKALB SCHOOLS
• DeKalb County Schools has an exemplary anti-bullying program according to many experts. Click on the comments link below to view what the DCSS Code of Conduct has to say about bullying.
• The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) works with DeKalb Schools in implementing their program called No Place for Hate® and the Community of Respect. ADL's No Place for Hate® program empowers school communities to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.
Becoming a No Place for Hate® School is simple, but requires commitment and follow-through. Participants sign a Resolution of Respect, complete at least three anti-bias activities, and document those activities through a fulfillment form.
• In addition, a HOTLINE sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education 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.
Programs that DCSS may wish to look into, or individual principals and parent groups may wish to implement in their own schools include:
• Dr. Dan Olweus, a Norwegian research professor of psychology, developed a bullying prevention program that was implemented in Norway, Clemson University and other U.S. schools. Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is designed to reduce fighting, vandalism, theft and truancy. Cobb County uses this program and 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.
• Flyers found at the Cobb Schools website, can be downloaded and given to parents when their child may be a victim of bullying and or identified as a bully. The flyers cover the following topics: 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 and the Bullying Podcast (mp3) of a radio interview with Jeff Dess, Cobb's Prevention/Intervention specialist.
One of the flyers lists the following facts regarding bullying:
• Children are more likely to be bullied in elementary school.
• Most bullying is non-physical behavior such as name-calling.
• Most bullies use bullying behaviors with more than one victim.
• 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.
• Bullying is most likely to occur during school hours.
• Most students think that they should be involved but do not know how.
• Class size does not increase the frequency of bullying behavior.
• Students who bully have average to above average self-esteem.
• Most victims who are bullied are not bullied because of external deviations like red hair, glasses, etc.
• Empathy crystallizes in elementary years.
• 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).
• Bullies do not pick on others at random but instead engage in a shopping process targeting preferred victims.
• 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.
• Children who are potential victims must learn to recognize the importance of body language.
• 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.
• 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.
The point that consistently jumped out in all of this research is the fact that the Bystander is the Key. Training students to step in, diffuse, protect and tell will go a long way to creating safe schools.
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 peace on bullying.
Call it what it is, bullying behavior, and insist 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.
Bloggers, please share any links, information or helpful tips regarding bullying in the comments section below. We will keep this post going for as long as it takes. We will create a photo-link to it on the right hand panel so that it will never get buried.