Everyone gets bullied, SUCK IT UP!
In our culture of 24/7 news cycles and social media connectedness, we have a better opportunity than ever before to bring attention to important issues. In the last few years, the world has collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before; millions of school children have been given a voice, all 50 states in the U.S. have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids both physically and emotionally safe in their classrooms and schools. These are significant achievements.
At the same time, however, gratuitous references to bullying have already begun to create a bit of a “little boy who cried wolf” occurrences. When kids and parents improperly classify impoliteness and cruel behavior as bullying, we all run the risk of becoming so sick and tired of hearing the word that this critical safety issue among young people loses its perseverance as quickly as it rose to importance.
Adolescents are often under fire for bullying because of their appearance, sexual orientation or loner status. But not all bullying victims fit that profile. Research suggests that as students become more popular and climb the social standings of middle and high school, they are at increased risk for gossip, pestering and even physical attacks from enemies competing for prestige.
So how do we prevent bullying? A clear definition of bullying and a policy that prohibits it and lays out the consequences is one means to arm a school or school district against this problem. For one thing, when bullying is clearly well-defined, then it can be more easily acknowledged and separated from constructive criticism, discipline, and motivation, all of which are neighboring areas. It is significant that the policy be clear and research-based in order to not be so comprehensive that students and teachers are fearful of being alleged as bullies at every turn when what they say is not praise. And it is different, though still hypothetically painful, if a child is picked last for games because he or she has an objectively poor skill set as opposed to being picked last due to an unambiguous campaign to exclude him or her.
Policies to prevent bullying may openly mention major types of bullying, including verbal, social, physical, pack and cyberbullying, and racist, religious, homophobic bullying, along with bullying of people with disabilities. But it is important that policies should be phrased so as not to exclude the bullying of typical victims, nor victims who are teachers, staff, administrators, or school board members, rather than students.
By: Miche Smith