Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Detention or Court? Legislators Weigh In on Bullying

How to Stop Bullying

Lawmakers legislate how to stop bullying - but is it effective?
As educators, we walk a fine line that almost any other profession does not have to consider.

Trouble at home? “Not our problem,” the corporation gets to say. Coworker disagreements? “Deal with it,” middle-management can respond.

But trouble between two students? An unsteady home environment—including missed meals? Both are contributing factors to bullying, and we can’t ignore it. We educators get to take it all on, and oh, by the way, make sure your students also pass their standardized tests.

As we examine how to stop bullies, the conversation necessarily calls into question our end goal. What are we reaching for, exactly? We write lesson plans, we prepare staff development sessions, and we perform a host of other tasks, but what are we hoping to achieve? We need to keep our focus on what we are doing for these children.

I, for one, consider our responsibility to be toward the whole student, not just a student’s intellect.

States are now starting to take the whole child approach to education, even going so far as to legislate student rights. A recent article by New Jersey columnist Stephen Leff discusses a recent measure by the state of New Jersey to put an end to the very serious issue of bullying. Leff herein describes a type of bullying that does not use verbal or physical abuse at all; instead, “relational aggression” targets a person’s reputation. Says Leff,

So it’s a welcome development that New Jersey first passed, and recently reaffirmed, its Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. After the law was considered an unfunded mandate that was scheduled to expire, the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie joined together to provide the funding needed to help school districts implement the law.

Anti-bullying efforts have taken the form of legislation in countries throughout the world. But not all lawmakers are convinced that making anti-bullying laws are going to amend the situation. The debate continues in Canada according to this article:

No amount of legislation from the federal government could prevent or end cyberbullying, a Senate committee was told Monday.

"Cyberbullying is a complex phenomenon and there is no evidence that the introduction of specific laws will prevent it," said Shaheen Shariff, an expert on cyberbullying from McGill University in Montreal. "Big stick sanctions . . . may not work."

She said existing laws under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, provincial human-rights codes and criminal laws can be reinterpreted to be placed into a digital context.

The growing problem with cyberbullying has much to do with the fact that young people don't know what they should and should not be posting online, she said. Shariff said young people often found guilty of cyberbullying say they only posted outrageous comments or content online to make others laugh and not to harm anyone.

What do you think students need? Should lawmakers create legislation surrounding this issue? How do you stop bullying in your schools and classrooms? How do you help bullies stop?

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  1. There used to be a time when you could get away from bullying. But it's not that way anymore. For kids that are being bullied, it now follows them home and everywhere because so much of the bullying happens online. Lots of kids turn to drastic measures to either protect themselves or hurt themselves. It is so tragic. A 13 year old from my hometown just committed suicide this weekend as a result of bullying. I talk about online bullying and suicide here:

  2. Dear Mommy Psychologist,

    Thank you for your comment. We are so sorry for your loss. Through this month's topic, we hope not only to raise awareness of bullying, but to provide educators with the tools to stop it before tragedy happens.