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You might have a child who is being bullied in school today. Or, perhaps, you have vivid memories of being bullied when you were in school? Most of us do. Depending upon one's generation, bullying has taken many forms. In the fifties, pulling someone's hair in class, sexual assault, or telling lies about them may have been a form of bullying that was considered teasing and could have been easily brushed aside. Little or nothing was done about it, and the student might actually get reprimanded at home and in school for telling on someone or appearing to be weak, unwilling to fight back. But times have changed and due to civil rights for children and civil lawsuits, many schools are actively engaged in an anti-bullying campaign. However, the real job of keeping tabs on your children's safety is up to you, the parent, and Dragan, a formidable advocate, is on your team, ready to assist you in taking the necessary steps from home-to-school, to be certain your child's safety is not compromised by a bully, or a system that deals with bullying inadequately.
While the process of protecting your child may be complicated, Dragan's step-by-step account of identifying troubling behavior, by encouraging your child to speak-up about it and being sure you know what to do next, when she/he does, sends you on a journey that can make or break your child's experience in the classroom. But you might be wondering, what is bullying exactly? "Bullying includes harassment based on ethnicity, race, religion and-more and more frequently-gender identity, as children begin to identify themselves as gay or bisexual at earlier ages." ( pg. 6) Is teasing the same as bullying? No. "Not all taunting, teasing, and fighting among school children constitute bullying. When acts are repeated by someone perceived as physically or psychologically more powerful-that is bullying." (pg.7) Many parents already realize that technology has also played a primary role in upping dangers and risks involved in bullying. However, The Bully Action Guide offers keycepts toward identifying this problem and most importantly, leading you to a remedy for it.
Still you might wonder, are bullies really dangerous? And yes, bullies are dangerous! Remember, Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old, hung herself, after having been referred to as an "Irish whore" by peers in South Hadley, MA. As sex and sexuality are often used to bully. Lawrence King, an eighth grader from Oxnard, California declared that he was gay and after a series of bullying attacks, he was shot and killed in a computer lab. (pg. 30) And these are just (2) incidents of the severity of bullying, there are many, many more.
You might think that school's are not responsible and cannot control bullying; however it is a school's duty to protect students from behavior that fit's the legal definition of harassment. (pg.33) In fact, in a survey of American middle and high school students, 66 percent of bullying victims believed that school personnel responded poorly when they saw children being bullied. (pg.46).
Can't mediation with a teacher or principal be enough? No. It is ill-advised to have a student who has been harassed engage in a mediation with the bully, as it imposes even more consequences upon the student afterwards, when adults are unavailable for intervention.
So how are schools most able to help you? Every school has an anti-harassment policy. Be sure to get your copy as soon as your child is registered in school. Start to discuss bullying with your family. And watch for the signs of your child being bullied by changes in their behavior. Follow Dragan's guidelines and use the script he supplies to draw out talking points so you can more easily ascertain that your child is being bullied. Remember that ethnic slurs are inappropriate and unacceptable. If all else fails with your principal, you can go to the Board of Education and the Superintendent. More guidelines for a dialogue with the principal are included in The Bully Action Guide, and it would serve you and your child well, to follow the direction Dragan suggests in coping with this problem. If your child attends a private school different rules apply.
Edward F. Dragan, EDD., has spent more than 40 years as an educator, former teacher, principal, school superintendent, and an official in the New Jersey Department of Education. As the founder of Education Management Consulting and Safe Schools International, he is now a legal consultant for high profile school bullying cases. You may have seen Dragan on NBC Nightly news, Today on NBC, PBS's One on One and The Morning Show and Fox, and others. Dragan shares his professional experience with bullying and events that impacted his own grandchildren.
Focusing on the faults of schools that are ineffective in their approach to bullying, is only one aspect of this comprehensive analysis of the problem, as Dragan gives families a series of solutions to the varied incidents of bullying found in schools today. He carefully gives explanations as to the legal aspects of a parents rights to have their child/ren protected, such as the Civil Liberties Law, which insures each child's right to safety in school.
The effect of bullying that fails to be addressed in school systems often lead to tragic outcomes, outcomes that could have been prevented. Children can be bullied for a variety of reasons: disabilities, being of color, being shy, gay and or and simply because they may lack the defenses of others in class.
"It is in the school's best interest to deal with an informed parent-instead of a lawyer." (pg. 10) says Dragan, and there are four broad types of bullying: physical, verbal, social, and cyber. (pg. 17)
"Though bullying comes in many strips, each form of bullying should be fought in the same way-- a way that will allow you to learn how to penetrate the schoolhouse, open the door to the principal's office, and become an active participant in the protection of your child. As Dragan said it would, this book does "teach you how to recognize bullying and nip it in the bud before it takes on a life of its own.' (pg. 18) Bullying in childhood leads to additional problems in adulthood, including negative relationships, incarceration. For instance, in one study, 60 percent of those characterized as bullies in grades six to nine had at least one criminal conviction by age 24. All of these facts are good reasons to seize bullying as a teachable moment and intervene-not just for the sake of the victim, but for that of the bully, too. (19)
Children tend to be bullied when they do not make good eye contact, upset easily by (or does not understand) teasing and reacts strongly to it, does not understand body language or other nonverbal cues and tends to misinterpret some benign words or actions as aggressive and reacts fearfully. When one factors in the amount of the broad range of learning disabilities, one can see the likelihood of those children being subjected to bullying.
The solution, according to Dragan is "Change the culture of our schools. When you have the same information the school administrators have, you will know how to open the door of the principal's office and communicate effectively to get the school to listen." (28) Victims of bullying experience a range of mental health and social difficulties. These include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and low self-esteem all of which can become chronic. (Pg. 29)
The Bully Action Guide: How to Help Your Child and Get Your School to Listen is a no-nonsense, fact-based call-to-action for families. It is also an aid for educators, personnel in schools and staff in child care facilities who must learn that bullying is here to stay, until we change "the culture of our schools" and that change will not come unless we work together.
© 2012 Kaolin
Kaolin, author of Talking About Race: A Workbook About White People Fostering Racial Equality in Their Lives.