Bullying is defined as single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct. Texas Education Code 37.0832.
Bullying is a not a new phenomenon and every state in the united states has anti-bullying laws yet bullying remains a scourge in the school system that has led to many unfortunate school shootings. Research has shown that two-thirds of school-shooters describe feelings of being bullied or threatened at school.
While the burden is on the school systems to develop policies that discourage all forms of bullying, parents also have a responsibility in this regard.
To better fight this menace, parents must be informed of what bullying is, what it looks like and how to best determine if their child is a victim or a bully.
What Parents Need To Know:
1. There are three parties involved in bullying i.e. the Victim, the Perpetrator and the By-stander.
2. Bullying can occur in person or in cyber-space. In-person bullying can be physical or emotional. Physical bullying is easy to spot while emotional bullying is subtle and hard to miss. Cyberbullying is the most devastating because cyberbullying is widespread and cyberbullies can attack anonymously. Cyberbullying can go viral in a matter of minutes with a number of people viewing, commenting and perpetrating the bullying event all at once. Sadly, parents and even school administrators are often unaware of how to spot cyberbullying.
3. Bullying can be a one-time event or a series of events. Do not let the school get off easily when they label the incident as only a “one-time” event and therefore does not rise to the level of bullying.
4. No one gains from ignoring school bullying. Studies have shown that victims, preparators and by-standers may suffer long-lasting scars from bullying. Victims of bully may suffer physical and emotional damage e.g. actual physical injury, physical manifestations e.g. suicide, insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc. Bullies, if uncorrected or un-rehabilitated can grow up to be violent aggressors, sexual deviants, abusive partners or parents. By-standers and witnesses of bullying incidents can become immune to aggressive acts and may end up as passive partners unable to leave an abusive relationship.
5. Bullying can cause poor academic achievement, aversion to school, low- self-esteem and even suicide.
6. Boys are most likely to be perpetrators or victims of physical bullying such as hitting and shoving than girls. Girls are more likely to be perpetrators or victims of social bullying such as social ostracization, slander and gossip.
7. Research has shown that most bullies were at one time bullied and that people in authority who had a chance to stop the bullying did nothing.
8. Bullies often model events and behaviors seen at home. Some bullies reside in house-holds with an abusive parent, or a parent who is defenseless against an abusive partner.
9. Bullying is not horseplay. Horseplay occurs between peers of equal social standing while bullying exploits an imbalance of power e.g. a much bigger kid bullies a smaller sized kid, a coach or teacher bullies a student, a non-disabled kid bullies a disabled child, a popular kid bullies a child who is less popular etc.
What Parents Can Do:
1. Parent must know that their students have a right to “be secure and to be let alone” – supreme court case of Tinker v Des Moines Independent School District 393 U.S. 503 ( 1969).
2. Every state has anti-bullying laws that protects students. In Texas, it is found in the Texas Education Code.
3. Talk to your kids. It is often in casual conversations that kids open up about either witnessing a bullying incident or even being a victim of bullying.
4. Know your kids and how to spot tell-tale signs of bullying: Parents must be on the lookout for both physical and emotional signs of bullying. e.g. explore the reason why your vibrant kid seems withdrawn or is resisting school or why your sport loving kid is not averse to participating in their sport of choice.
5. Speak up if your child is a victim of bulling. File a formal complaint with the school and demand concrete corrective actions.
6. You can request for bully to be removed from your child’s classes or even from the school.
7. Resist a school culture that condones bullying e.g. resist schools that try to re-phrase bullying incidents as mere-horseplay or that boys will be boys, or that this is just a part of growing up.
8. Report and demand accountability of school staff or personnel such as athletic coaches who re-enforce, ignore or model bullying behaviors.