Bullying: What Action to Take in School

Jun 25, 2014

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Language is mutable and changes with time. Fifty years ago, if you told someone you had a hard drive, they would have asked you which road you drove down. Forty years ago, if you were to tell someone to swipe your card, they would have wondered why you would need to steal something you already owned. A hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt used to go around exclaiming, “Bully!” But today that’s become a bad word.

There are two types of bullying: 1) up front and personal and 2) over the Internet; the latter of which has been labeled cyberbullying, which most often is become an extension of bullying in school. In either case, the harassment can be so distressful that in many cases, victims have resorted to suicide. 

There are a lot of websites that talk about what to do when someone is a victim of bullying. The patent advice is to either stand tall, face up to the bully, or to turn tail and walk away. The problem is, that sort of a strategy generally doesn’t work.

Bullies thrive on attention and a need to feel superior. They can be a lone wolf or operate in packs. It makes them feel somehow important by causing other people pain. The easiest way for them to accomplish that is by picking out one person, whom they consider easy prey. 

In the movie, the Terminator, Kyle Reese said to Sarah Connor, “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” It’s pretty much the same with bullies. So, with that in mind, facing them or walking away does no good. A bully must be stopped.

Bullies exist, in part, because of poor or negligent parenting. Therefore, it is necessary to make parents accountable. Insist that your child’s school implement a zero tolerance for bullying. For example, the first incident results in a warning; the second in suspension; the third in expulsion. In that case, the bully’s parents become responsible for enrolling their child in another school.

All public schools are required by law to have written policies on bullying. Ask for a copy from your child’s school. See how the school is supposed to respond. Compare that to how they respond in practice. If needed, you can create a complaint with the school board or PTA. 

If you don’t get anywhere at that point, call Thursday’s Child’s National Bullying Prevention Helpline at 1 (800) USA-KIDS and someone there will interface with school authorities to get the bullying to stop.