I was dismayed this morning in reading an article in the San Diego Union Tribune on school bullying. Not only did it state that bullying has gone down statistically in schools since the tragic Columbine High School shooting, but it attributed this decline to the way schools appear to be handling bullying. Although I do not have specific numbers for local school districts (the article only mentioned districts in the East county and San Diego Unified School District), I can attest that bullying DOES happen in our schools, and officials often turn their backs on it.
Several years ago one of my children was the victim of bullying right here in the Carlsbad Unified School District. When it started in elementary school I admit the Principal was vigilant–he took it personally and made sure it stopped. While most children are afraid to point fingers at the bully for fear of retaliation, this Principal had some very creative ways to work around finger pointing. We also consulted a bullying expert who gave my child powerful come-backs to use that WORKED. These were the saving grace.
In middle school the bullying started up again the first year. I reported it to the staff and was told they needed names to deal with it. Touting the district’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, I was told that bullying was not allowed in the district. It continued and worsened. The saddest part was that a boy who carpooled with me was the victim of terrible bullying (he since left the school). I was concerned for this boy.
In my distress to help these kids, and having received nothing concrete from middle school personnel, I wrote a letter to the District, specifically to the Superintendent. I both emailed and mailed the letter. In it I stated that I felt the Zero Tolerance policy was ineffective, that there was plenty of bullying going on and nothing was being done about it at the middle school level. While elementary schools had assemblies and discussions on bullying to teach the children it’s repercussions, the middle school (or at least the one my child attended) had no such talks. My letter went unanswered.
Luckily my child came out of the bullying situation a stronger person, but that is because he chose to discuss it with his parents and we took action to help. Many kids do NOT discuss this with anyone and internalize it, leading to all kinds of problems, many of which can manifest themselves years later. Furthermore, if the victims are pulled out of schools where they are bullied I believe that sends the wrong message to the bullies. A victim should not be punished for being victimized.
With an increased number of bullying-related suicides this past year, and with more ways to be a bully since the advent of the internet, why is this topic not discussed in middle school? Middle School years parallel critical development years–puberty, self-discovery, learning to make choices that have consequences. Shouldn’t this be the time to hold assemblies and discuss the effects of bullying? Now is the time to bring this issue out into the open.