“I had really hoped that we could resolve this without a lawsuit, but if that’s what it takes to make the district take this seriously and change the way they handle these sorts of problems, we are ready to take it to that level.” (A parent of a bullied child)
Lawsuits, tragic and senseless deaths, families experiencing pain for a lifetime, grieving the horrible devastation of loss and suffering, communities and schools impacted forever … is that enough? After multiple acts of school violence related to bullying, harassment, and hazing it should be evident that bullying is a big deal.
However, in the midst of all the bad news there is some really good news in spite of what many might believe. The myth that most students who observe bullying don’t think they should get involved is in fact just that … a myth. In fact, most students do not like the bullying and want it to stop. When asked a question, via one student questionnaire about bullying, “What do you do when you see a student being bullied by others”, the overwhelming majorityof students respond that they either do not like it and want it to stop or try to help. This is extremely important because there is often a belief by those who are bullied that no one seems to care. Granted, there are far too many young people who do not act on their beliefs, but changes in attitudes lead to actions… and that is a huge part of the solution. Recent research in the US reveals that when children see others in pain, their brains respond as if it were happening to them. “This response, which also has been shown in adults, suggests that normal school-age children may be naturally prone to empathy. What it shows is that we have this inborn capacity to resonate with the pain of others. That’s probably a very important step toward empathy.” (Jean Decety of the University of Chicago, whose study appears in the Journal of Neuropsychologia.)
Great news for everyoneas we seek solutions to the problem of bullying.
A critical step in stopping bullying is empowering disengaged bystanders to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. It’s one thing to have empathy for those being targeted by children who bully … it’s another to take action and get involved. Educating young people to take action is not easy … especially safely. But it is a huge part of the solution.
Because of these myths there have been many attempted efforts to stop bullying that have proved to be misdirections in bullying prevention and intervention. For instance using mediation or conflict resolution to resolve bullying situations is not a good idea … in fact these practices can sometimes be dangerous. Using Zero Tolerance policies for bullying is not a good idea, though having a strong non-tolerance for bullying is a good practice. Using group treatment for children who bully, where strategies such as increasing the self-esteem of children who bully others, proves to not be effective.
And finally, using simple, short-term solutions proves to be a bad idea. Decreasing bullying and increasing children’s civility and decency toward others requires a commitment from everyone … the school, the students, and most importantly the family. And, that is where STARS plays such an important role if schools and community organizations. At STARS we help students and teachers make the healthy choices which lead to the reduction of bullying. If STARS can help you, or your school or community organization addressing bullying please call us at 615-279-0058.