Bullying: a Social Issue That the School System Ignores

Running Head: BULLYING Bullying: A Social Issue That the School System Ignores “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself”. – Harvey S. Firestone The Issue Strong, influential and cruel are just some of the words that come to mind when you hear the word bully. In American culture, bullying among children and teenagers has often been dismissed as a normal part of growing up. Little attention has been paid to the devastating effects of bullying, or to the connection between bullying and other forms of violence.

Bullying in the American educational system is a significant social issue that it is steadily increasing. Many experts fear bullying has become so widespread and common; the general public is blinded to its destructive and sometimes deadly nature. According to the ‘Facts about Bullying’, “…one in seven students is either a bully or victim. About 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school, 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school, 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.

One out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school” (Borba, 1999). Bullying can be linked to several violent acts that have occurred in many schools across the country. Bullying is also being blamed for violent acts in institutions of higher learning i. e. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, but all involve a person or a group repeatedly trying to harm someone who is perceived to be weaker or more vulnerable. It can involve direct attacks (physical harm, intimidation, theft etc. or more subtle, indirect attacks (such as spreading rumors or encouraging others to reject or exclude someone) (SafeYouth, n. d. ). The newest form of harassment being used on today’s youth comes in the form of text messaging, emails and blogs; cyber-bullying has expanded bullying to a 24/7 problem that is rapidly getting out of hand. According to the American Academy of Child ; Adolescent Psychiatry, “…children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as heir school performance. Some victims of bullying have even attempted suicide rather than continue to endure such harassment and punishment” (AACAP, 2008). Many solutions have been offered to curb the violent acts that bullying can bring but the most simply solution comes in the form of speaking up and speaking out. Most bullying is dismissed because many children do not express their torment until it is too late or for many they never express it. Nature of the Problem

Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society; between 15% and 30% of students are bullies or victims. Between 1994 and 1999, there were 253 violent deaths in school, 51 casualties were the result of multiple death events (Canter ; Cohn, 2003). Bullying is often a factor in school related deaths. Direct, physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant (Canter ; Cohn, 2003).

Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective; 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying or putdowns and consequently intervene in only 4% of bullying incidents (Canter ; Cohn, 2003). Most victims are targeted due to physical or perceived differences than the social norm acknowledges, i. e. sexual orientation, ethnicity, social or economic status, mental or physical disabilities or even degrees of perceived attractiveness (tall, short, fat, skinny etc).

Many school shooting and child suicide cases have been directly related to some form of bullying. The most notable case of the school shooting link to bullying is the Columbine High School case that left 12 students and one teacher dead and 23 others injured. Even more devastating than that is that many youth who are the victims of bullying have taken there own lives, children as young as seven have committed suicide because of constant bullying. Politically anti-bullying policies have been adapted by different local legislation but no national laws have been passed that would hold people suspected of bullying to any jail time.

Currently bullying is only held as a form of harassment in many state courts, this is only enforced through documented harassment not hearsay. To fully address the problems that result from the emotional and sometimes physical obstacles faced by victims the schools must encourage children to report incidents of bullying and ensure students believe they will be helped. Censorship as it relates to what can and can not be entered on websites should be strictly enforced. Accountability on behalf of school officials that notice victims and perpetrators should also be strictly enforced.

Educational institutions are perfect conduits for change because they have a captive audience to teach the basic human values of respect for self and others. Claims A very persuasive claim can be made to the media that involves the children themselves who have been bullied or were once a bully to share their stories. Showing family pictures of the children that have committed suicide to escape the torment that bullying brings coupled with interviews from parents, school officials and friends of the deceased would insight reactions from the general public.

Allowing people who are now adults to tell their stories of being either a bully or victim in childhood and the result that those events had on the decisions they made later in life is also a compelling argument. Loseke uses typifications to further frame claims, “…the only feeling we can have about events we do not personally experience and people we do not know are typifications. Without these pictures in our head we could not be able to understand anything other than our extremely limited personal experience…without these images we could not know how to react to the countless others in the world of strangers we encounter daily” (p. 8). These visual representations will place a face on the problem and force the public to acknowledge the problem. Comparing and contrasting the problem of bullying with the statistics as well as the aftermath (school shootings, suicide etc) that can result if this problem is not changed would cause attitudes about bullying to change in those who watch or listen to the stories. Loseke identifies a social problem as an evaluation of wrongdoing that is widespread and changeable. He also states that the wrongdoing should and can be changed (Loseke, 2003).

School districts have the power to change wrongdoing that bullying brings into the educational environment and to encourage changing the attitudes associated with it. School shooting must be changed! Childhood suicide must be changed! Violence against children must be changed! It can and is worth changing. In Royersford, PA the students of Spring-Ford Intermediate School host a pep rally called “Bully-Free is the Way to Be”. Students gather on Sept. 5 at the beginning of each school year to demonstrate students, parent and school officials commitment to bullying prevention (Spring-Ford Area School District, 2008).

Audience, Strategies and Piggybacking – Solutions School administrators are charged with ensuring the educational environment is safe. Students have the right to attend school without being in fear of bullies. Recently, school districts have adjusted their focus on implementing bullying prevention measure within the public schools (Herman and Seem, 2004). Despite the emphasis the occurrences of bullying in the schools has not decreased. According to the first national survey on school bullying, 74 percent of eight to eleven year old students indicated that bullying occurred in their schools (Nansel et al. 001). The targeted audience consists of the general public as well as politicians, policymakers and those within the educational system. Engaging the entire system that children rely on is the goal of the targets. Making the problem of bullying a national issue will increase response to it and change attitudes toward it. Appealing to the audience’s empathy and compassion toward victims and their families is a key strategy in motivating the audience to react. Every person can put themselves in these children’s shoes; each person can empathize with either the victim or the perpetrator.

Eliminating fear and dread in schools while establishing a foundation for achievement for children is a goal of every American citizen. This is a human rights issue that each person can relate to. Advocates against bullying have developed prevention programs to reduce bullying in schools. Raising awareness about bullying, increasing teacher and parent involvement and supervision, forming clear rules and strong social norms against bullying, and providing support and protection for all students does lower the incidents of bullying in schools (SafeYouth, n. d. ).

Piggybacking on issues that deal with equality, fairness and safety avenues that are related to children increases the likelihood that the issue will not get ignore by the educational system. Framing the Issue The issue of bullying must be framed as an American societal issue. The fabric of society is based on the children we produce. The social and emotional development of each child is the responsibility of the entire society. When children are harassed, teased, degraded and humiliated over time certain physiological effects from childhood resurface in adulthood.

Children who are bullied are more likely to develop social problems such as unfulfilled relationships or lack of forming successful relationships and also emotional problems such as depression, attachment issues or poor self image issues. Many people can relate to the problems that are lasting that come with being a victim. Children who bully others have a tendency to engage in more criminal activity as well as be in domestic abuse related activities. Both victims and perpetrators are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as well (American Medical Association, 2002).

Producing socially and emotionally disabled adults is something society can not handle. Students who are exposed to bullying academically do not do as well as those who were not exposed. With the economy being the way that it is we as a nation can not afford to have children who are academically and developmentally dysfunctional. Spokespeople Appealing to the audience’s empathy and compassion toward victims and their families is a key strategy in motivating the audience to react. There are many stories about bullies this one comes from the mother of a victim: Brandon Smartwood 2/21/82 – 12/16/00

I have tried to write this message for three days and have not been able to complete it– maybe today. I have a lot to say and this is a very painful and emotional subject for me. While my heart goes out to the victims of these school shootings–my life has been devastated by a different type of crime that is happening in our schools. Although rarely labeled as such, “Bullying” is a crime. These victims are isolated and usually suffer in silence. The media doesn’t broadcast the injuries or deaths of these silenced victims. Our Great Nation doesn’t share in their pain or extend sympathies to the survivors.

Communities aren’t outraged by these senseless, (and equally) devastating crimes being committed in our schools. The only outrage in our nation, in our communities, is when the psychiatric injuries caused by “Bullying” are externalized, and we have another school shooting. Brandon developed PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Depression, after being harassed, tormented, isolated and brutally beaten in our public school system. When we took out a protective order against one of the “Bullies,” he, the bully, decided to send a friend into the principal’s office to claim that Brandon had made a bomb threat.

It was absurd, along with the way that the school handled the allegation. The damage done to Brandon over this incident alone was beyond measure– victimize the victim. On 12/16/00 Brandon put a loaded gun to his head, pulled the trigger and ended his pain. As tragic as this death is, the greater tragedy is if society doesn’t stop to look at the reasons, and pause for a moment to see “all the victims. “- Cathy Smartwood If school officials, parents of the ‘bully’ and even Ms. Smartwood knew and understood the severity of the issue, Brandon might still be alive today.

Brandon’s mother is not the only spokesperson needed adults who were bullies or were victims also need to speak out about their childhood and adulthood difficulties. Teenagers who were bullies or were victims also need to speak out. Children and teenagers that attempted or know of someone who committed suicide based off bullying should also speak out. Speaking at schools, raising awareness at PTA and school faculty meeting, facilitating community and school workshops are all places that the spokesperson(s) would be involved in.

Political events, marching on Washington are all places were the spokesperson(s) should push for change. Counterclaims Even though is seems absurd to think, many people even after all of this do not see a problem with being bullied or being a bully. The spokesperson(s) would have to be prepared to deliver the devastation that comes with being a victim or a family survivor. Many Americans see bullying as a rite of passage ‘something we all have to go through’, not as a serious psychological problem that should be punishable by law.

Attitudes towards bully’s and their victims shows that the general public embraces the difficulties that bullying brings but dismisses any solutions that may be offered due in part to the characteristics that can come out of being a victim that overcomes the situation such as confidence, determination and tenacity. Many Hollywood movies project the victim overcoming at the end and standing up to their bullies (The Karate Kid, The Bully, Mean Girls etc. ). The general public admonishes children of bullies to do the same. The media portrays bullies as the general public views it ‘a part of life’.

The general public along with policymakers and educational officials feel that creating anti-bullying policies will curb violence. Many counterclaim that victimization of bullies is covered under the Human Rights Act of 1998. Bullying is mention but enforcement is still left in the hands of school administration. There is no national law that covers bullying in school. There are a lot of opponents to the anti- bullying policies that are enforced in many schools today. These policies are not explained in depth to students, parents or some teachers.

Many teachers are aware but do not enforce the policies unless victims speak out. Typifications The idea of an innocent child who is harassed into a psychologically damaging way of thinking completely undermines the idea of normal child development. To know that this abuse goes unchecked everyday in every school around the nation is the greatest injustice to the social and emotional wellbeing of children in this country. The media should frame the child in the most innocent light imaginable. The audience should know that this is not a normal part of life and that society will suffer if this continues to go unchecked.

Conclusion Children need protection from things that would harm them. Bullying harms children and causes great stress on the educational system as well as the family unit. Children are our countries most precious commodity their welfare must be maintained. The school system must endeavor to use spokesmen that are working for change. Awareness and action with regard to encouraging the attitudes of law and policy makers to change is something the media can do. It is clear that this issue is wrong, changeable and should be changed; the idea that children as young as seven are being exposed to bullying is heartbreaking.

The culture of America dictates that children are innocent, vulnerable and must be protected; when children are exposed to bullying that is ignored by school official, dismissed by parents and never mentioned on television-this is society’s way of ignoring those cultural ideals. Ignorance can only be changed if enlightenment begins. The media can be used to enlighten and change attitude as well as motivate people into action. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away it just means you don’t care to acknowledge it.

References

American Academy of Child ; Adolescent Psychiatry (2008) Bullying. Retrieved from http://www. acap. org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying American Medical Association (2002) Bullying Behaviors Among Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from http://www. ama-assn. org/ama/pub/category/14312. html Borba, M. (1999)

Facts About Bullying. Adapted from Parents Do Make A Difference: How to Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds, and Caring Hearts. Jossey-Bass Publishers. Retrieved from http://www. parentingbookmark. com/pages/MB04. htm Canter, A. ; Cohn, A. (2003)

Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents. National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814. Retrieved from http://www. nasponline. org/resources/factsheets/bullying_fs. aspx Loseke, D. (2003)

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