John Monfredo: Bullying Must Be Adressed at Home and in School
Saturday, February 01, 2014
Thus, when I retired as a principal and ran for school committee bullying was one of my most important agenda items. Several years ago I worked with former State Senator Ed Augustus (now City Manager Augustus) in attempting to enact a law on bullying. The law passed in the Senate but failed in the House. It was not until two students deaths that a law finally passed. Now, you can’t pick up a newspaper without reading about an incident that involves some form of bullying.
The anti-bullying law has been in effect for several years but it’s one of those issues that needs to be emphasized over and over again. Our local newspaper in reviewing the new law last year, called the law a feel good legislation and it creates the illusion of having done something because a certain number of reports were compiled and statistics filed in a drawer or on a hard drive. It did agree, however, that the power to prevent bullying lies within the hearts, minds, and legal authority of teachers and parents. True, but this law is essential for it calls attention to the problems in our society and elevates bullying to an important social issue.
Bullying is a real problem
There is substantial research that states that bullying peaks in the middle school but starts as early as preschool with children using relational aggression. Research states the devastating effects of bullying are long term and far reaching. In the past, adults have said … just ignore it. In this day and age that statement is not acceptable.
Every day across the country children are threatened, teased, taunted and tormented by schoolyard bullies. Now, it’s in children’s homes via the internet known as cyber bullying. Bullies use technology to harass victims at all hours, in wide circles and at warp speed. Physical assault has been replaced by 24 hour online bashing. In this age of technology we must encourage and maintain channels where students can directly communicate with parents, teachers, counselors and the members of the community.
Studies have found that more than half of teenagers have said or gotten hurtful online statements. Many have also been issued threats electronically, but most have not told an adult. Parents should never assume that it’s impossible for their child to become involved in cyber bullying, either as a victim or as a bully. In the era of digital media this type of bullying has increased considerably. We need to teach our children that the internet is a written record. It is exactly the same as publishing an article in the newspaper. Your words can be forwarded, re-posted, blogged, listed a million times over.
Suggestions for parents
The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center suggests that parents review cell phone rules with your child:
· Know and enforce the cell phone rules in your child’s school. Enforce your own rules.
· Educate your children about cell phone abuse before it happens. Bullying and cheating can happen via cell phones and these are not okay.
· Review how to react to abusive or scary messages – save and report them, but DO NOT respond.
· With your child, consider in advance what the consequences will be if rules are broken.
· Consider a “child friendly” phone one that does not permit messaging or has a pre-programmed button only.
· Encourage your child to spend less time online but consider carefully before banning the computer.
· If the problem spills over into school, notify the school immediately
· Any threats of violence should be reported to the police.
· Teach your child to never give out proprietary information about her/him-self or friends.
Most importantly, talk to your child about this topic of bullying and keep the communication open for you need to be your child’s first line of defense. Remember there are ways parents can teach their child to act properly when faced with a bully. First, parents should explain that bullying is not the child’s fault and he or she does not deserve to be picked on. Next, parents can let children know that being assertive but not violent with bullies may diffuse the situation, for some bullies thrive on the fear of their victims.
Please remember bullying is not just a problem in poor schools, nor is it confined to a particular ethnic group: it’s universal. As difficult and widespread a problem as bullying is, it is also a problem that can be solved. Research from across the nation shows that when schools and parents take specific action, bullying can be eliminated. Let’s work together as a community to stop this epidemic.
Suggested web sites to visit on bullying:
Related Slideshow: MA School Districts With The Most Suspensions
Here are the 20 Massachusetts public school systems with the highest number of out of school suspensions, from lowest to highest. The data were collected by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary School Education, and refer to the 2011-12 school year. Data represent the number of total suspensions, not the number of individual students suspended. Dropout reates indicated the percentage of students, grades 9-12, who dropped out of school between July 1 and June 30 prior to the listed year and did not return before October 1. Both in school and out of school suspension rates indicate the percentage of students receiving one or more of the respective suspensions. All data are self reported by school districts.
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