Sunday, April 8, 2012

Some Thoughts on Bullying

There's no doubt that the release of the documentary Bully will lead to some deeper discussion on bullying and what we can do to reduce the number of incidences of bullying in our schools and communities.  Discovery News posted a great article on the topic last week titled Why Do People Bully? and I think that this a question that we miss sometimes after hearing the horrific endings to some cases of bullying on local and national news.

While the uproar leads to a renewed focus on punishing bullies, I think it moves us further away from the solution.  In order to reduce bullying, we need to see what causes it and ensure that our schools educate students and establish cultures of care which do not tolerate the mistreatment of any student.

Here are a few of the excerpts from the Discovery article that we need to keep in mind:
  • "But now we've shown that there is a peer socialization process -- that bullies tend to have more friends," said bullying expert Dorothy Espelage, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • experts agree that peer influence is crucial in accounting for bullying. "If your peer group says that pushing and shoving and spitting on people or spreading lies is O.K., even though you may have been taught differently in your home, you lose your moral compass," Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the United States, based in Clemson, S.C.. 
  • Indeed, experts agree that peer influence is crucial in accounting for bullying. "If your peer group says that pushing and shoving and spitting on people or spreading lies is O.K., even though you may have been taught differently in your home, you lose your moral compass," Snyder said.
Finally, the most important statements from a district-wide or community-wide perspective are the following:

  • "The reality is we're not talking to kids early enough and long enough about bullying and healthy relationships," Espelage said. 
  • Snyder emphasized that the definition of bullying is important: "It is not just kids being kids," she said. "A person who bullies intentionally picks out someone that they know is weaker than themselves so that they can intimidate, harass or humiliate them to do their bidding. It is a misuse of their power. This behavior is usually repeated and of course this power differential is there." 
All this reminded me of a great anti-bullying video I saw called "The Price of Silence." While my initial thinking was that I would be proud to have a playground occurrence like this happen in Burlington, the real victory would be if we never had to have a student actually stand up to a bully!

1 comment: