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May 05, 2010

Will tough new laws fix the nation's school bullying problem?

Suddenly politicians are getting tough with school bullies. But can they win this schoolyard fight?

This Monday Massachusetts legislators passed an anti-bullying bill that’s arguably the toughest in the nation. Among other provisions, the bill requires principals to report to the police any incidents that might require criminal charges. And this week Mississippi passed a bill making it mandatory that all school districts put in place an anti-bullying policy.

No doubt, the proposed legislation aims to prevent another tragedy like Phoebe Prince's. In January the 15-year-old high school girl committed suicide after months of relentless harassment from schoolmates in South Hadley, Mass. Last year 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield, Mass., hanged himself after suffering endless taunts and ostracism. In both cases, the victims’ parents said that although they repeatedly asked the administration to intervene, school staff did little to nothing to stop the bullying.

Certainly, the bills’ creators are well-intentioned. But I had to wonder, can you legislate away bullying? As long as there are children, there will be bullies. Growing up in Denver, my sister and I lived in terror about walking home from elementary school. Yet it would have been inconceivable to tell the principal that older kids were chasing us. And it would have been mortifying if my mother called one of our tormentor's parents. Back then, kids followed an unwritten code of silence and simply toughed it out.

Thankfully, times have changed. As at my 12-year-old son’s elementary, scores of schools nationwide already have a zero-tolerance bullying policy. Kids are encouraged to talk with parents and administrators when they don’t feel safe at school. All these changes are enormously positive.

And yet despite our newfound awareness about this age-old form of childhood misery, school bullying seems worse than ever. With their strict pecking order, bullies find a way — in school and now online — to make life miserable for the kids branded as outcasts.

Politicians won’t stamp out bullying. But at the very least, they are sending a stern message to the grownups who should be doing everything possible to keep our kids safe at school: Take bullying seriously, because we have our eye on you. For once, a schoolyard threat we can applaud.

Comments

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Along with the legislation here in Mass. is a requirement that anti-bullying is taught as part of the curriculum. So the legislation is more than about punishing the offenders; it does hope to prevent it in the first place..

at breckenridge elem, in mich th 4 th gr, bullys have threaten to kill even with a wepon but the school and the polcie still dont do anything this has gone on for over 4 months and the bullyies do this every day hitting spitinton the kids pushing calling the other kids gay when there not calling them dume and so much more but the principl and the teachers none of them ever see a thing even after 4 months when they should be looking for this they see nothing. untill they want to see what is going on under there noises no law will help

There is no one simple solution to the complex problem of bullying, especially given that it continues well into adulthood. Nor is "bullying" just one act, rather it is a spectrum of behaviors and attitudes toward others. Nor can it be addressed in a blog post or blog post comment.
Be that as it may, it may help to re-frame bullying as a societal problem and not as a conflict problem. Some things we know are that bullies are powerful and often at the top of the social food chain, or trying to be. Their modus operandi is to tear down others for their own aggrandizement for which they are all-too-often rewarded and revered instead of being castigated by their peer group and those in positions of authority.
There is a society of people, kids, who wish to co-exist more or less peacefully. Bullies seek to disrupt this order through threats, intimidation and acts of violence. If they were older we would just call them by their rightful names--criminals, as there is substantial evidence that bullies do grow up to commit crimes. (see U.S. government's website for statistics)
Yes, there need to be rules and laws to deal with bullies as we have with criminals. But we also need to empower the helpless as well as the rest of the peer group who normally live in fear of becoming a victim too. There are also "borderline bullies" who can be helped and taught some social skills.
As I said, there's not one simple answers and everyone writes as if there is; these are all just pieces of a much larger puzzle.
Ask a police officer about assault or home invasion. They'll tell you you are on your own unless they happen to be in the immediate vicinity. The same truth applies to kids forced to deal with bullies. Kids are often on their own because adults are either not around, don' t see the bullying or minimize it, taking no action to help.
I've spent the better part of 26 years teaching kids how to stop bullies by any means necessary, with much success.
Good luck with that whole "we passed No Bullying Laws" so the problem is solved." You can' t just put a No Weeds Sign in your garden and hope they'll listen.

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I think more of us need to speak out. But no matter what it starts at home. Before a child enters pre-school they should be told to not touch other kids N for them to not be touched as well. N if you're touched by any1 tell someone. My parents tell me what not to do in school or they'll be consequences. I see parents when i pick upmy baby cousins tooo afraid to tell kids to stop acting this way N that way. they just let them get away with it. N it's those same kids that R the bullies b/c they no that notin will happen 2 them all their parents will do is giv them time out. time out dont do anything.my parentss never give me time out,u no what they did n still do they would take my things awway or sometimes dont give me allowance n let me tell u the first time igot my allowance take away from me oh man it was like the world ended bc i take my $$ 2 buy candy N save the rests for Great adventure in the summer , the rest i put away2 lend people with interest of course so when i got my allowance takeen away n coudn't get it for a week n the next week they didn't even double it up for the week they didnt give me. i learned my leson.
parents of young kids r so easy w/them their afraid to hurt the kids fellings alll the while the kids are hurting other kids fellings.
another thing is parents sware for kids too much when my parents come up 2 the school 4 me n the teachers say shes talkin toomuch n talkin back they already no it's true bc they no me but they still \askme what happen n so i tell them i don't want my allowance or tv to be taken away from me. my bedtime is 8:30 so when i mess up it be put down to 7:30 so i no better.
if i do this then they do this.
so if they give me time out i would probably go back do the same thing bc time out is nothin.

i think people need 2 write talk shows and Oprah and keep writin when tellin on bullies and principals that dont do anything until some1 listen so what happen to those kids that killed themselves dont happen no more. when kids say nothin happen something probably happen bc no day is ever perfect.when i say nothin happen in scholl my parents sayu mean alllday nothin happen u went to school no one was theere n nothin happen u didnt do work eat lunch nothin.n then i start ttalkin and they ask me how r the other kids in the other classes whats up w/them n thats how they be noin who got beat up or kick or whats happenin in other classes n what othe kids be doin n they ask me about teachers an i be sayin what teacher dont like eachother and what teachers hate the principal bc teachers talk n never see thatwe kids be there n i be listenin so i could come home n tell my parents and family. when i hear somethin i be like i cant wait tocome home n tell my family what happen that now they dont have to aske me what happen when whoever picks me up i just start talkin until they tell me something or try to change the subject cause i takl so much now

Okay they teach sex ed in schools right so why not in all schools in the country dont they teach "no touching and "speak up and tell someone" classes.
It's going ot prevent so much.

I'm not sure any law can stop bullying in schools completly, but lets hope it can help. It is a very serious problem, with about a quarter of children somehow involved. We all need to play our part in tackling these problems by being more aware and observant. I also think there is a case for giving more power back to teachers, Children understand too well that teachers power to punish them is very limited, since when did detention ever stop a bully from bullying?

I was a victim of kids bullying me for almost 20 years.This was done in the 50s & 60s. I am still having problems with what I went through every day because of bullying as a child and teenager. All the different types of harassment was used to hurt me. I begged not to go to school growing up. I am so glad to see schools trying to stop this from happening to any children.

Politicians will never solve this problem! We should organize some kind of mmm.. organization to do that!

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