Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bullying What Can Be Done?

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Bullying What Can Be Done?

Article excerpt

Nationwide, more than one quarter of the students in grades 6 through 12 are victims of bullying. News stories about the problem make regular appearances on television and newspaper outlets, sometimes with tragic endings. Bullying has moved from an adolescent rite of passage to a serious obstruction that is affecting the success of our entire education system.

To further exacerbate the problem, students who are being bullied are likely to engage in the practice as a coping mechanism when they normally would not have felt the urge.

Bullying tends to have effects such as:

* Inability to concentrate in class

* Higher rates of absenteeism and skipping class

* Lost interest in achievement

* Decrease in achievement

* Increased likelihood of dropping out

* Increased likelihood of school violence Increased awareness of the problem and the

attention it is attracting might lead people to believe that the rate of bullying instances is increasing, when in fact the opposite is true--that awareness might be leading to decreasing bullying rates according to some studies.

SPECIAL NEEDS BULLYING

That being said, students with special needs are at a significantly greater risk of being bullied than their nondisabled peers are. Special needs students are two to three times more likely to be harassed, with 60 percent of students reporting instances.

Disabled students, a section of the student body that already suffers from a lack of self-esteem, find themselves fighting an uphill battle to fit in with their peers. In other words, our students who can least afford to experience the effects of bullying are more likely to do so--by a wide margin.

WHY SPECIAL NEEDS?

There is no overarching cause for bullying, especially among special needs students. No matter how illogical, anything that makes a student stand out from the crowd puts them at increased risk. Students with special needs obviously have no shortage of traits that make them stand out.

Another sad fact is that, while bullying among nondisabled students tend to be more generalized in nature, the bullying that special needs students endure tends to be more focused on the disability that is making their peers take notice.

Perhaps a low tolerance of frustration, such as some students with attention deficit or hyperactivity exhibit, can make a student stand out because of their outbursts and "meltdowns".

Motor difficulties can mean students have trouble performing manual tasks in class, like reading and writing. Not only can this cause the student to fall behind academically, but it also makes them stand out on the playground and in gym classes.

Developmental challenges can cause problems with concentration to the point where a student can only focus on one thing at a time, causing them to experience awkward conversational problems and an inability to keep up in class.

Any student with assistive devices for hearing, speech, or vision can feel pressure to resist using their devices due to the unwanted attention they bring.

All of these situations, and more, have the resulting effect of causing the student to fall behind their peers in the classroom. In an age of standardized testing and pacing guides, perhaps these students are bullied simply because they are keeping the rest of the class from making the progress necessary to remain on schedule.

Whatever the cause of the bullying, there are steps we can take to remedy the issue.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Every state in the union other than Montana has enacted laws that address bullying in the general student population, with varying remedies and punishments. There is no overarching federal bullying law, but any school that accepts federal funding must have an anti-discrimination policy in place. …

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