Monday, April 30, 2012

Bullying: Beyond the Playground

How to Stop Bullies

By Jared Heath, content manager

This post about how to stop bullies describes the ripple effect that bullies have on their community.
Bullying is an ever-present issue that is one of the greatest deterrents to a child's education. If the environment is not a place where a student feels safe, then learning will always be a secondary priority.

As educators, we have each asked ourselves how to stop bullies. But bullying has moved beyond physicality on the playground to sexual harassment (including childish references to LGBT tendencies), cyber-bullying, verbal abuse--and the list goes on. Students are even turning to drastic measures in order to feel safer at school.

This PD 360 video (you can view it completely free here) gives significant information and research regarding bullying. Studies indicate that children with special needs are more prone to being bullied. "Special needs" may refer to any of the follow children:

•    Children with learning disabilities
•    Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
•    Children with medical conditions that affect their appearance, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida
•    Children with other medical conditions such as diabetes
•    Children who are overweight
•    Children who stutter

According to the U.S. Health and Human Resources Department, children who are bullied are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and loneliness. They are more likely to experience headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, and poor appetites. These students may dislike school and generally have a harder time in the learning environment.

However, we have to be careful not to single out bullies as unmitigated perpetrators--children who bully other children are very often under severe duress, be it psychological, physical, or both.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association approximately thirty percent of sixth to tenth grade students surveyed reported some type of involvement in moderate to frequent bullying, either as a bully, a target, or both.

We must be aware of both groups of students. Those who bully have an increased risk of other violent or antisocial behaviors. These students are more susceptible to:

•    Fighting
•    Vandalizing
•    Stealing
•    Drinking alcohol
•    Smoking
•    Skipping school
•    Dropping out of school
•    Bringing a weapon to school

Though each student differs, many children who bully share some common characteristics, including:

•    Being impulsive, hot-headed, or dominant
•    Being easily frustrated
•    Lacking empathy 
•    Having difficulty following rules
•    Viewing violence in a positive way
•    And in the case of boys who bully, being physically stronger than other children

From teachers to administrators, we all participate in creating a safe atmosphere where students can thrive. As the world rapidly evolves, however,  educators have a difficult time pinpointing all areas, methods, and factors of bullying. Today, cyber-bullying is becoming increasingly prevalent. Students are unable to pursue an education when they feel pursued by their peers.

We have the opportunity--and responsibility--to create a safe atmosphere for all students. What are the complexities of bullying? How can we identify victims? Who is the true victim of bullying--the target, or the perpetrator?

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