Category Archives: Original Reporting

When Does It Stop? The Bullying Epidemic in America Today


the picture consist of articles on bullying, I...

the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I noted in the previous blog post, I may include some original reporting of my own.  In this case, it is a human interest story about bullying.  The names have been changed to protect the identities of those who spoke to me.  This was done because they agreed to speak to me with the understanding that this article was not to be published and was for classroom use only.  This is a true story and these are real people.

Christy Blake, a 10-year-old, went to school like she did any other day. By the end of that same day she went home distraught and in tears. Another girl, who she thought was her friend, gave her a Post-It-Note that had been passed around to her fellow classmates. That note read, “Christy is a fucking pig.”

According to a nationwide survey, done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005, 6% of high school students that participated, reported that they did not go to school on one or more of the previous 30 days because they feared for their safety. The survey began in 1991 and spanned 14 years in the hopes to understand a steady trend in the nations public schools.

In the fall of 2010, roughly within six weeks, four teens, the oldest a freshman in college, and the youngest just 13 years old, committed suicide as a result of bullying. This has given birth to a new term, bullicide. The Columbine shooting in 1999, prompted the state of Georgia to be the first among 47 other states to pass anti-bullying laws and in 2010, Georgia passed a state bill that reenforced its anti-bullying law, which states a person accused of bullying can be re-assigned to a different school to put distance between the offender and the victim.

Why the sudden increase in the pro-active stance by the schools against bullying?D. Blake, the mother of the bullied 10-year-old Blake, believes it’s got everything to do with exposure. “What’s going on is that there’s more press on it, more news focused on it, we have social networks and emails and internet…that wasn’t there 50 years ago. Now people are talking about it because when somebody kills themselves because of it, it’s on Facebook and it’s all over the place.”

J. Warrant, a teacher in the Connetquot School District explained, “On Wednesdays all of the staff members wear a green shirt. The shirt is worn to raise the awareness of bullying in school. The front of the shirt says, ‘Got Kindness?’ and the back has the number 160,000…the number of students that stay home from school everyday due to bullies in New York State.” According to the New York State Center for School Safety Organization, this number is accurate on any given day.

M. Light, Assistant Principal for the Brentwood School District says that he believes the loss of education is the most severe punishment a school can do to a child. He says that he feels his district and administrative staff takes a strong enough stance against bullying, which can include multiple days suspension and even the possibility of a superintendent hearing that can lead to expulsion from the school or district. Even with these seemingly heavy consequences and proactive programs like peer meditation and anti-bullying rules, he admits, “ Yes, I have seen students being bullied and in some cases teachers as well. Many times, bullying is seen through the internet now for everyone to see.” Light says the most severe case of bullying that he is aware of in his school, was a case of cyber-bullying, when inappropriate pictures were being displayed on Facebook and cell phones.

Warrant agrees with Light in that, “There are so many ways to bully, not only face to face but by computer and text.”

R. Story, a school social worker for Sayville School District for over 30 years, recalls her school having classroom discussions about bullying with children as young as five years old. “Really, the bigger part of that is teaching the children to be appropriately assertive. We over sensitize kids, so we tell them oh you know, nobody should say this to you or make you feel this way and that’s appropriate but we also need to enable them to be resilient to the point where they can say, you know what, this isn’t my problem this is your problem. They don’t have to internalize everything someone says or does to them.” Story also went on to say that she doesn’t think the schools do enough in terms of teaching children they don’t have to accept bullying or tolerate it.

Kate Williams recalls when her son Brian, who is a student in the Connetquot School District, was bullied constantly by the neighbor’s boy. “Brian was getting ready for his communion and Toby said, ‘I bet your mom is going to take a lot of pictures of you today’, then proceeded to smack him across the face with a stick, and said ‘that should look great!’ Toby was in first grade then. Imagine him now, eighth grade. He’s a sociopath, barred from school sports.” Williams said she really doesn’t feel schools do enough and their actions seem fruitless in her opinion. “Seems like these days the schools mean well, but are also trying to protect themselves against any litigation, now that young kids are being held liable for suicidal teens, and school administrators have to answer to authorities in those cases. So much bullying goes unreported for fear of repercussions. Sad, but a fact of childhood nonetheless. It makes my heart hurt.”

 

On Oct. 26, 2010, shortly after the series of bullicides, the United States Department of Education issued what they call a guidance for educators to combat bullying in their schools. This guidance outlined that, “…a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate what occurred once a school knows, or reasonably should know, of possible student-on-student harassment. A school must also take prompt and effective steps to end harassment if it has occurred, eliminate any hostile environment and prevent recurrence.” Failure of the schools to practice this type of guided response, may in fact, leave them open to litigation.

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