October is National Bullying prevention month and this is a very important cause to me because of my experience with bullying. It happens at an alarming rate, 2.7 million children were bullied in the United States in 2010. Many states have adopted anti-bullying laws to help reduce the rate of bullying and related suicides in their state. Unfortunately bullying and the related suicides have continued. I have seen people comment on facebook that they wish there was a law in their state. There has been a law in my state, Ohio, since 2007 but I am not sure how much it has helped.
Recently a local school in Ohio had at least four suicides related to Bullying over a two year period. I would still recommend that you look up the law in your state so that you are aware how your state defines bullying and what your rights are. In Ohio The Ohio Legal Rights Services is one of many good resources for legal advice. On their site I found a synopsis of the anti bullying law in Ohio and what to do if your child is bullied. It does provide good tips such as reporting it to your school and also to contact a lawyer if that does not help. Next week I am going to be posting my thoughts on what to do based on my own experiences.
On the Ohio Legal Rights Services website it states that every school in Ohio needs to have an anti-bullying law. Our school has a policy and I have had it quoted to me many times.
My schools zero tolerance policy:
ZERO TOLERANCE: No form of violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior including excessive truancy will be tolerated.
How I have seen this applied in my son’s case is the other kid hits my kid or taunts him and then when my kid hit the other kid my son was punished because there is “Zero Tolerance”. The principal would actually say he knew my son was provoked and he was really sorry but he had to punish my son for retaliating. Great policy and great enforcement of it, not. I understand my son shouldn’t have hit the other kid but the school needs to deal with the other child that was doing the taunting to begin with.
I recently found an article by a psychologist that analyzes why anti-bullying and zero tolerance laws do not work. I agree with most of what is said. Yes students should be taught how to deal with aggression and I am going to cover that in next weeks post. I think that the bully should receive some type of intervention, and punishment or consequences may not be the best way to deal with it.
The reason students need to be taught how to deal with aggression is because even the best schools and teachers can not be everywhere. I found a great article about a school in NY that empowers students to help another student if they witness an incident on bullying. For example my son would get bullied at the bus stop where there were no adults to intervene. We had to teach my son how to handle the aggressor without getting into a fight. My son believed that fighting would make the other kid stop but in our case the bully continued harassing my son.
From discussions with other kids and parents in the neighborhood this bully was constantly harrassing other kids. From my brief interaction with that kids parents and accounts from other parents it was quite clear this bully’s parents were not addressing the issue and had no intention of doing so.
It was always the fault of the other child involved. In my opinion what they should be doing is figuring out why their kid has so many issues with so many other kids at school and in the neighborhood. Clearly my kid was not completely innocent and I as a parent dealt with that and took him to therapy to work on his behaviors. As a parent it is important to know when to stick up for your child and when your child is having an issue that needs to be addressed.
The schools could actually help in this type of scenario. Instead of just having a zero tolerance policy involving punishment the schools should have to implement a different type of intervention. If the child is involved in more than one incident then someone should take the time to figure out why. I completely agree with the concept that behavior is a form of communication. What is the bully communicating? I personally think they have a low self esteem themselves and it is a cry for attention and help.