Friday, November 17, 2006

The problem with bullying

Some of the major problems facing teachers and school administrators concerning bullying are spelled out in an article posted on the Joplin Daily website.
Daily reporter Michelle Pippin interviewed the mother of the Memorial Middle School shooter, who paints a portrait of a pattern of a bullying that led to the incident:

"He came home once limping; he had been kicked by an older kid in the halls," she recalled. "He came home once with a huge welt on his head from someone slamming his locker door on his head when they passed him in the hall. His hand was injured once too. He did suffer from bullying. He would come home crying, begging us not to send him back to school."

The article make some strong points about bullying. It's there and it is not easy to deal with. School officials make every effort to deal with it, but principals and teachers are outnumbered and bullies are usually good at knowing how to hide their activities and which students are never going to say a word about them.

Of course, I note that the parents who talked to the Daily article never actually talked to school administrators about the problem, which would seem to have been the natural, logical step.

I am not native enough to think that things are perfect at South Middle School. Bullying incidents do take place, but we do our best to catch them and stop them as quickly as possible. Still, we do miss a few. We work to cut down on the number of problems by having teachers in the hallways between class periods and by having them all over the place before and after school. While it is impossible to catch everything that happens, we do manage to stop a number of potential problems before they begin just by our presence.

It just amazes me that with the amount of education students receive about the negative effects of bullying, and the publicity that the recent wave of school shootings generated, that we still see bullying. What in the world is it going to take to get through to these kids that their behaviors could have deadly consequences?
From a journalism standpoint, this article, though it has some flaws, is a welcome one and a sign that the Joplin Daily may yet be able to stamp itself as something other than a good-news alternative to the Joplin Globe.


Anonymous said...

Have you looked at Senate Bill 894 by Senator Gary Nodler? This bill contains anti-bullying rules for public shools in Missouri.

Anonymous said...

The first step to stop the bullying at school or anywhere is an adult that a child can go to where the bullying is taking place, such as a special teacher at school that will stand up for that child without making a big issue of it where the child gets bullied or mocked more. It is also not going to stop until we, as parents, know what our children are doing and who they really are and they know that if and when we find out they are bullying someone, anyone, it will not be tolerated!

Lisa Williams said...

There's a precursor to bullying, and it's exclusion. Targets of bullying are kids that are excluded, even excluded from play by peers very early in their school careers. Pretty soon, they're excluded for no other reason that they've historically been excluded.

The excluded one becomes the outsider, the other. And history shows how easy it is for even "normal" people to perpetrate, justify, or look the other way when something bad happens to people who "aren't one of us."

I'd make efforts to reduce the root cause -- that is, the vulnerability some kids have because they're excluded from the kids' society within and outside the school -- by creating policies that deliberately made exclusion difficult. In kindergarten and the early grades, a "You Can't Say You Can't Play" policy works against kids banding together to exclude one or two kids in the class from play. In higher grades, a buddy system that deliberatel matches up popular kids with unpopular kids is helpful at re-educating popular -- or at least not-excluded -- kids to see excluded kids as human beings like them.

Drop-kicking bullies out of school may feel good, but it doesn't make the bullied kid safer, because they still don't have the social connections. And that lack of social connections makes them a target, not just for bullies, but for little meannesses from every single student in the school.

Any program would also have to make a systematic effort to include socially excluded girls, who are bullied just as often or more than boys, but their problems aren't addressed because they generally don't result in discipline problems. Doesn't mean they're not serious.

Anonymous said...

Well said Lisa. I agree.