Friday, May 18, 2012

How "Bully-cide" Affects Us All

How to Stop Bullying in Schools

By Keith Besses, Principal at Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School, Fort Worth ISD

How to stop bullying is not as easy as it had been in the 1970s.
When I hear the word bullying, I think about the episode of “Good Times,” an African-American series during the late 1970s where the youngest character, Michael Evans, comes home every day from school starving. The Evans later discovered that Michael is being bullied at school by an older boy. The mere innocent portrayal of bullying in this episode pales in comparison to the idea of bullying today. Bullying is defined as a form of repeated aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to negatively affect others. The aggressive behavior can be in the form of physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

Bullying became an international awareness campaign during 2000 – 2010. According to the US Department of Education, 75% of children aged 8 – 11 years old have been bullied and this percentage increases to 86% for children aged 12-15 years old. Effects of bullying include loneliness, social isolation, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and an increased risk of suicide (known as bullycide). Since 2000, it is estimated that 15-25 children commit bullycide per year.

This statistic is not only alarming but paralyzing. The average classroom consists of 15- 25 children. This statistic overrides the cliché sticks and stones may break my bones but talking doesn’t hurt me. Stopping bullying encompasses the attitude that it takes a village to raise a child re-enforced by a strong positive environment of home, school and community.

The non-traditional home structure has deeply affected how some children progress and interact socially. The home is where children are first communicated family, spiritual and societal values. Parents and guardians must step up and take the role of parenting more seriously and make it the main priority in the home. Children are dying because of negative talk and behavior.

As stated earlier, since the majority of bullying incidents occur at school, the school has been thrust into the role of prevention when its primary role should be re-enforcement. Now, it is the understanding that the school being a diverse setting cannot re-enforce the value system of all households but the school should re-enforce values that emphasize consideration and compassion towards others. Repetition works effectively with children.

The third component of the strong positive environment is the community which includes extended family, neighbors, religious institutions, businesses, and mentors. Each component must take an active role in caring about the well-being of a child that they are in some form of contact with on a regular basis. All it takes is one person to take an interest in a child’s life to build self-esteem and increase their self-worth.

The affects of being bullied are also characterizations of the bully. Bill Cosby said it plainly, “hurt people hurt people.” When we decide as a society to create an environment where we practice the Golden Rule and treat others how we want to be treated, then we can significantly impact bullying cases and save one classroom per year at a time.

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