January 14th, 2010 in response to being bullied, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince decided to take her own life. She rather be dead than live another day enduring taunts, and abuse from a group of her classmates. 9 students were arrested for crimes including, violations of civil rights, criminal harassment, disturbance of school assembly, and statuary rape. (Bullying: State of Affairs, pg 603). December 2017, 13-year-old girl from Yucaipa, CA attempted suicide due to bullying from peers at her middle school. (KTLA, Local News). These are just two of the many tragic stories to be told that all lead back to the same source, bullying. According to a nationwide study students between grades 9-12 found that (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014): 16% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13% reporting creating a plan, and 8 % reported trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey. How many more lives, how many more stories, how many more times do we need to prove that the conversation of bullying is not overrated.
Have you ever thought about schools and what they do to help not only the bullied but also the bullies? As someone who wants to become a teacher, and who was bullied for a majority of their life, I have always asked myself how different my experiences could have been had myself and the kids around me knew more about bullying. After researching what methods, we use to bring awareness to bullying in our schools, I found that a majority of schools stick to one plan of action, one yearly REQUIRED assembly. During which all they suggest is how to stand up, or speak up. I know we have theses assemblies, and awareness week for a beneficial reason, but let’s just try taking a step back to think if there is more we could be doing? I purpose we implement weekly lesson plans about bullying and where bullying begins. Not only for those who are being bullied but those who are the bullies need a better comprehension of the cause and the effect of this problem. Bullies can learn about why they may take their aggression, or insecurities out on others and find better methods to cope with their own issues, and the kids who are bullied can learn a better way to understand and approach the issue without feeling lonely or afraid. We need to do our part in society to bring more to the conversation and really stress to these kids that bullying, is a complex and complicated assault that humans do when dealing with their own issues, and although it is not justified, there is a reason it happens. As adults we have a knowledge as to what causes a child to lash out and tear down others. Talking more and educating more than just once a year could be beneficial to not only the kids but the parents and staff as well.
In recent discussions of bullying, a controversial issue has been whether we are creating enough conversation and education on the subject to our young children. On the one hand some argue that we are doing everything we can to implement anti-bully tactics in the school system. From this perspective, I can understand how far we have come since the days of turning the cheek at bullying, to becoming more active in bringing awareness towards the issue. Schools have anti-bully assemblies and some participate in an anti-bully week. On the other hand, however, others can agree that we are far from getting involved because its not just about educating but internalizing what we have learned and keep the conversation daily, not just once a year or when tragedy appears as result from bullying. In the words of First Lady Melania Trump “As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and oftentimes turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide. I feel strongly that as adults we can and should be best at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life,” In sum, then, the issue is whether we are talking enough about bullying or need to speak up more and keep the conversation alive daily. My own view is that the “one and done” once a year anti bullying mentality of schools is why children are still not properly being taught about bullying. They teach you how to speak up, or tell somebody about the bully, but we are forgetting about teaching kids that bullying derives from personal insecurities and aggression that can be mimicked from multiple things like a bad home life, no discipline, sibling behavior, or many more. Although some might object that the children are to young to learn about subjects like low self-esteem, body insecurities, child abuse, or mental abuse, but these are key factors to why kids bully. Most Television shows they watch already use subliminal methods to speak about these issues.
As a young child you may experience these things that you don’t quite understand and that’s why you susceptive to becoming a bully. It’s not taught, nor spoken about with children by adults which is leaving the bully to be ignorant to why he or she is acting out this way in the first place. “Yet, it should be noted that the majority of studies on bullying are based around scenarios that take place in primary and secondary school settings. Only few studies focus speciﬁcally on the early years (e.g. Monks, 2011; Ostrov & Keating, 2004). However, opinions are divided here, from some saying that bullying occurs at approximately the same rate in preschool as in elementary school (Alsaker & Nagele, 2008; Stassen Berger, 2007), to others suggesting that what is perfectly normal behaviour in the under ﬁve age group can easily be misinterpreted. As such, there is a need for research that focuses speciﬁcally on the preschool age group” (Children as Premoral Agents, pg 234). A parent or guardian might fear that if they admit that their kid is the bully it will reflect poorly on them as a parent. Being afraid to admit that is will only hurt the child more. Schools can also do their part by providing within class an education further on where bullying comes from, and giving the kids confidence to talk to someone trusted if they are struggling with home issues, or self-issues before lashing out. “It has been observed that students who bully have poor attendance records and do poorly academically in school. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption is high among students who bully. They struggle to keep up with their school work, and find that it is beyond their mental capacity” (Bilgili, Naile, et al.). Parents should fear more about their child becoming the bullies and how it reflects their child, not worry so much how it makes themselves look, but how they can help their child be the best they can be. Just because these are the “problem kids” doesn’t mean we have to lose our focus on them. Young children they might not even have the knowledge of why they are the issue. For example, most teachers have that one or two students who constantly pick on others during class, the teacher will just separate them from the others and seclude them causing them to feel even lonelier and could have the potential of making them more resentful. They will give negative feedback to parent which then turns into a punishment not only in class but at home as well leaving the child to feel like no one has their back either. Obviously there has to be a consequence for the bad behavior, but instead of a time out let’s get them educated on what they are doing to others and also themselves.
Schools, teachers and parents need to be more open to communicating the dangers of bullying to children. Sure, a nickname, or making fun of the weird kid seems funny until it goes too far. Kids aren’t supposed to be exposed to the worlds darkness, they are pure and innocent, but are they really? Most kids know more about, sex drugs and suicide before you even have the chance to give them the talk yourself, so why not give them the right story the first time they hear it rather than having them hear it from a friend. “Generally, bullying behavior starts in elementary school, but it increases during the 6th, 7th and 8th grades.4,9,16 In addition, the rate of the victims decreases while bullying rate increases with the increase of the age” (Bilgili, et al.). Whether parents or school faculty would believe it or not bullying begins so young, but we can be doing more to control the conversation with the children and educate them before it’s too late. Having a specified lesson plan once a week or every other Friday could make a world of differences. For the younger students (K-5th grade) it can be simple books about sharing and being kind to other followed by asking them what is wrong and what is right. For students about to leave elementary and move up (6th-12th), start exposing the dangers of bullying, specifically that it lead to suicide, drug abuse, mental issues, and even in cases school shootings. Also explain what creates a bully, why they target certain students. Becoming proactive to this level will also give the impression to student and kids about the seriousness of the topic, and that we need to not only speak up or stand up but understand as well.
While working at an after-school program I had the chance to speak with a few parents and guardians about adding in lesson plans. I asked how they would feel about applying daily lessons to classroom, as a whole they could agree that one assembly a year is not enough. They all felt the school could do more, and push the issue a lot better. All agreed that they would prefer a daily conversation to be addressed, because in doing so we can make the school a safer place for their children. “Children spend the majority of their weekdays in school and signiﬁcantly less time with their families. “In many cases, the school and the family are not closely connected; even more the case with those families whose students are experiencing problems and becoming increasingly disengaged from the learning process” (“Training Family Therapist”, p.341). Teacher and school staff see your children more often then you as their parent, making the school where your children spend a majority of their time as safe as possible should be every parent’s, or guardian’s main priority.
The goal here is not to cram anti-bullying down the throats of these young kids, but to get a jumpstart the way they view bullying. As a teacher, or faculty member, you have the privilege to shape the minds of our future. The “one and done” assembly has played out, it’s time to retire that method. The responsibility isn’t only on parents or guardians, this issue reaches all around the world. It’s up to each and everyone person who has, kids, nieces, nephews, god kids, etc. To help them comprehend the cause and effect of bullying. We owe it to them to be open and honest about the dangers, but also make sure those kids that already feel left behind have a chance to feel like they don’t have to lash out but can feel like they are not alone in this. Lastly, if you are struggling with bullying or have a child experiencing this there are many different help lines, websites, blogs and other methods to help cope, educate, and support one another. Please reach out for help, don’t ever feel like you are alone, or not worthy of living the life given to you.
Bilgili, Naile, et al. “Peer Bullying among High School Students and Related Factors.” [“Lise Öğrencilerinde Akran Zorbalığı ve İlişkili Faktörler”]. Yeni Symposium, vol. 54, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 10-17. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5455/NYS.20170608103540.
I used multiple statistics and quotes from this journal to express different aspects of the conversation. This helped back up the point of what can happen if we are not helping he bullies as well as the bullied. I also used it to expression how young bullying begins and that younger kids is where our focus she begin.
Children as Premoral Agents: Implications for Practice.” Pastoral Care in Education, vol. 33, no. 4, 01 Jan. 2015, pp. 234-245. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1082497&site=ehost-live.
The source used above was used to reflect on the fact that as a society we tend to focus less on our youth and more on our preteens. This backs my point of implementing more education to our younger kids to progress later years to come.
Used to pull Melania Trump quote, in order to provide the sense of urgency we have to speak about this issue. I wanted to express that as a nation we are struggling and need to be more involved. Our first Lady is making the effort to get people talking about the issue and bring better awareness.
This website was used to gain statistics on students and how many truly think about, or attempt suicide each year. To get a better understand of the damages done by bullying and mental abuse or physical abuse.
Neiman, Samantha, et al. “Bullying: A State of Affairs.” Journal of Law and Education vol. 41, no. 4, Oct. 2012, pp 603-648. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=8-415579&site=ehost-live.
This source is where I pulled the story of Ms. Prince. I used this to pull in my readers and give them a specific tragic moment that was cause and proved to be cause by bullying. I wanted a personal touch to the argument.