Sunday, March 4, 2012

Does your school teach kids how to deal with bullies?

I don't know if this counts as a slice of life, but I've been thinking a lot lately about bullying. Bullying is never going to go away. There are always going to be people who are mean and nasty. Developing policies and programs to deal with bullying in schools is definitely a necessity. But when those programs focus on trying to make all kids be nice to each other all the time, are we just fooling ourselves?

Look at the adult models we give them. Jersey Shore? There's an island of civility.  

Survivor? I haven't watched in many seasons, but judging from some tweets I've read, in this season there is a teacher who may not be putting teachers in the best light. I don't know if you'd call it bullying, but those contestants lie and talk about each other behind their backs worse than a Mean Girls movie.

And how about Rush Limbaugh's bullying of an intelligent and well-spoken college student? I won't say what I think of him, but the fact that there are people who support and agree with his abhorrent comments should be proof enough that bullying is a part of our base nature as a species.

And you don't have to look any further than facebook to see the kind of hurtful, snarky things people will post about each other. Whether they name names or not doesn't matter...somebody knows to whom they are referring and then that somebody gets in on the game.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying we should put up with bullying. Nobody deserves to be teased, picked on, harassed, or otherwise singled out. And there are kids who, when educated that their behavior is hurtful, will stop. But I'm not sure enough programs are attempting to teach kids how to handle adversity.

I don't know what has changed since I was a child. I know bullying existed then...I was bullied and I will shamefully admit that I was sometimes a bully. Nobody killed themselves--well, I don't know anybody who did. Nobody brought a gun to school and shot his classmates. The bullying I experienced did not leave me with lasting damage. I sincerely hope the people I was mean to can say the same thing today.

Why does it seem there are more kids these days who can't handle adversity? We had a boy in my district two years ago who committed suicide. There were some kids who were bullies to him...but he had friends too, and a girl friend. And he was not the only one targeted by this particular group of bullies. Why was he not able to ignore the bullies? Why was he not able to listen to the supportive advice of his friends? What made him decide to take his own life when others were able to turn away from the same bullies?

Again, please don't think I am condoning bullying behavior. The way this particular small group of boys in my district bullied their classmates was wrong. All the adults knew it and tried to stop it. But the adults only have so much influence and when kids are out of reach of the adults, they are going to do what they want. Kids can't be policed all the time and teachers can't monitor every exchange between students.

In the most recent school shooting in Ohio, some kids who knew him say the shooter was an outcast and that he was bullied. Other kids report that he was not bullied. First he said his victims were random. But the lastest I've heard is that one of the victims was dating the shooter's former girlfriend. Whatever his reasoning, what made him feel he had no other recourse than to take a gun into his school and use it on his peers?

How do we help kids deal with bad things that happen to them or bad feelings that they have? How do we make kids feel/understand/realize that what other people think or say about them doesn't matter? How do we teach them to find the people who will lift them up, not tear them down? Because there are always going to be people out there who want to see them get hurt or who won't care how they feel. And we need to help them deal with that.

Has your school implemented an anti-bullying policy or plan that has a component to address helping victims of bullying cope with their situation? If so, please share some details in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I love your post, and wish I had an answer! I am struggling with the issue of bullying too. I teach special education to 4th and 5th graders. Not only do I know that my kids get bullied, but many of them are bullies. They get so upset when something happens to them, but think nothing of it when they do the same thing to someone else. I've tried reading books and have tried discussions. I wish there was some way to help students understand how their simple words and actions can have such huge impacts on others.