Step up! Don’t let bullies be in charge this school year

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Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and those who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

bully

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An imbalance of power: kids who bully use their power — such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity — to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
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Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

There are several types of bullying. Verbal bullying is saying or writing cruel or mean things.

Verbal bullying includes:

  • Teasing
  • Name-calling
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Taunting
  • Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships.

Social bullying includes:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Embarrassing someone in public

Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions.

Physical bullying includes:

  • Hitting/kicking/pinching
  • Spitting
  • Tripping/pushing
  • Taking or breaking someone’s things
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures

Cyberbullying is different from “traditional” bullying in that it takes place using electronic technology.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • Mean text messages or emails sent as a means to bully
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
  • Sending embarrassing pictures
  • Sending videos and posting them to websites
  • Creating fake profiles in which to bully someone anonymously

What makes cyberbullying different is that it can often breaks laws. For one thing, cyberbullying often violates the terms of service (TOS) established by social media sites and Internet service providers. Review ISP’s terms and conditions and rights and responsibilities sections. These describe content that is and is not appropriate.

Visit social media privacy centers to learn how to block users and change settings to control who can contact you. Tell your parents and report cyberbullying to the social media site so they can take action against users abusing the terms of service.

Most importantly, if you are being cyberbullied in the following manner, tell your parents and report it to the police immediately.

  • Threats of violence
  • Sending pornographic or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
  • Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
  • Stalking you
  • Discussing or carrying out hate crimes

unnamed (38)Because cyberbullying can create a disruptive environment at school and is often related to in-person bullying, if you are being cyberbullied at home, it should be also reported to your school. The school can use the information to help inform prevention and response strategies to all students. Plus, you’re likely not the only student who’s being bullied by this person or in this manner.

Some children at risk of being bullied include those who are:

  • Perceived as being different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
  • Perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
  • Are less popular than others and have few friends
  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
  • Are, or perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT)

But who are these bullies? There are two types of kids who are, not always of course, but, more likely than others to bully others. Most bullies are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others. Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self-esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Children who are more likely to bully others:

  • Are aggressive or easily frustrated
  • Have less parental involvement or are having issues at home
  • Think badly of others
  • Have difficulty following rules
  • View violence in a positive way
  • Have friends who bully others

Remember, kids who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources —popularity, strength and cognitive ability. And, children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying. And they are doing exactly that.

Texarkana Independent School District, for example, like most schools across the country today, have adopted policies in which bullying is officially addressed in the district’s Board Policy Manual. Regarding bullying, TISD’s policy clearly states that it:

  • Prohibits the bullying of a student
  • Prohibits retaliation against any person, including a victim, a witness, or another person, who in good faith provides information concerning an incident of bullying
  • Establishes a procedure for providing notice of an incident of bullying to a parent or guardian of the victim and a parent or guardian of the bully within a reasonable amount of time after the incident
  • Establishes the actions a student should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying
  • Sets out the available counseling options for a student who is a victim of or a witness to bullying or who engages in bullying
  • Establishes procedures for reporting an incident of bullying, investigating a reported incident of bullying, and determining whether the reported incident of bullying occurred
  • Prohibits the imposition of a disciplinary measure on a student who, after an investigation, is found to be a victim of bullying, on the basis of that student’s use of reasonable self-defense in response to the bullying
  • Requires that discipline for bullying of a student with disabilities comply with applicable requirements under federal law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et seq.).

“Every TISD campus administrator is there for a student to come visit with regarding any problems they may be experiencing,” said Tina Veal-Gooch, Executive Director of Public Relations.

“We also have on each TISD campus a professional guidance counselor on staff to listen to and assist students as needed with personal, social and academic issues. These conversations are held in complete confidentiality and with the highest regard for the student and what is in their best interest. If a student were to identify another student as the bully/abuser, we would address the issue with the other student while at the same time doing our very best to not identify who the complaint came from,” she said.

In fact, Texas High School will host a Bullying & Teen Suicide Prevention Workshop on Thursday, Aug. 28 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Math & Science Center Grand Foyer at 4001 Summerhill Road. The event is open to all students and their parents.

Texarkana, Ark. Independent School District has similar policies in place in its policy handbook and states that “teachers and other school employees who have witnessed, or are reliably informed that, a student has been a victim of bullying as defined in this policy, including a single action, which if allowed to continue would constitute bullying, shall report the incident(s) to the principal. The principal or his/her designee shall be responsible for investigating the incident(s) to determine if disciplinary action is warranted.”

  • The person or persons reporting behavior they consider to be bullying shall not be subject to retaliation or reprisal in any form.
  • District staff are required to help enforce implementation of the District’s anti-bullying policy.
  • Students who bully another person are to be held accountable for their actions whether they occur on school equipment or property; off school property at a school-sponsored or school-approved function, activity, or event; or going to or from school or a school activity.
  • Students are encouraged to report behavior they consider to be bullying, including a single action, which if allowed to continue, would constitute bullying, to their teacher or the building principal. The report may be made anonymously.
  • A school principal or his or her designee who receives a credible report or complaint of bullying shall promptly investigate the complaint or report and make a record of the investigation and any action taken as a result of the investigation.

Starting back to school can be a stressful event for kids. So Shawn Vaughn with the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department has a special request for kids who are returning to school Monday. Let’s be kind to one another.

“If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because they don’t have many friends, or because they are shy, or not as pretty, or not dressed in the most ‘in’ clothes – please step up!,” he suggested.

“Say ‘hi’ or at least smile at him or her in the hallway. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your small act of kindness might just make a big difference in someone else’s life.”

 

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