Bullying: What to Do about It; Myths and Facts about a Problem That Can Occur Anywhere, Any Time

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DeLeHunt

Bullying can happen anywhere, but especially at school.

It's estimated that one-quarter to one-third of all children are a victim of some form of bullying between grades 6-12.

Bullying can take many forms, from verbal attacks, physical assault, sexual provocations, emotional abuse (rumor-spreading), or cyberbullying. Risk factors for becoming bullied include being perceived as weak, vulnerable, or different in appearance, beliefs or background. Being of a different culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, or having any characteristic different from the common culture of the school environment elevates the risk of being bullied, as does having a disability.

What turns a child into a bully? Bullies are often from an environment of violence and abuse, and often have a prior history of being bullied themselves. Also, many who engage in bullying think they are "just joking around" or just joining in with their friends.

WHAT IS BULLYING?

According to Florida Statutes, bullying is defined as systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve: teasing, social exclusion; threat; intimidation; stalking; physical violence; theft; sexual, religious, or racial harassment; public humiliation; or destruction of property.

Harassment means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that: places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.

The definitions of bullying and harassment include: retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment; or perpetuation of conduct with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause physical harm to a student or school employee.

SIGNS OF BULLYING

Children who are victims of bullying often avoid being detected. They can be ashamed of being victimized, and consequently avoid letting others know what is happening to them.

Some signs that a child may be experiencing bullying include unexplained injuries; repeated "losing" money or valuable items; evidence of poor self-esteem; avoidant behaviors for peer social gatherings; school refusal; recurring physical complaints (headaches, stomach aches, etc.); or mental health issues such as uncharacteristic anger problems, anxiety, depression, self-injurious behaviors, or even suicidal behaviors.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Be observant. If your child is displaying one or several of the signs mentioned, ask them directly if they are having problems with being picked on or bullied. If your child mentions that they are being bullied, it is important to respond immediately.

School officials should take every report of bullying seriously and act swiftly. Those involved should be interviewed separately and as part of a meeting with all parties to allow fairness in the investigation.

Recognizing that bullies may be having issues themselves, any student who has more than one complaint against such children should be referred for evaluation by a professional counselor to identify the potential underlying causes of their bullying. …