Are New Anti-Bullying Laws Really Working? “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself” (Field). These words, quoted from British anti-bullying activist Tim Field, provide great advice for children who may be victims or potential targets for bullies. The State Government is trying to answer the plea for justice and prevention of the rising epidemic of schoolyard bullies; actions which have been linked to cases of school shootings and suicides.
The impact of this behavior is detrimental psychologically to both the victims and the bullies. Almost every state in the country has implemented new laws that require all school districts to enforce an anti-bullying program and to prosecute all students who violate the standards quantified in their legislation. The problem that arises with this new regulation is that the definitions used for bullying aren’t concise or in depth enough to help each individual case because of varying factors including, but not limited to, specific behavioral issues, types of bullying, and causes for the bully’s demeanor.
These laws also don’t work because of the controversy that they are in direct violation of assorted student’s rights. There are astounding national statistics related to this school crisis on our children. In 2012, according to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, almost one third of every student is bullied in one fashion or another, totaling close to 13 million children every year (“Bullying Statistics”). With these numbers comes a surprising realization, 64% of those victims never report what happens to them leaving a small 36% of children that actually testify to this behavior (“Bullying Statistics”).
Another study conducted by the Josephson Institute’s Center for Youth Ethics in 2010 attested that 47% of high school students who participated in the survey had been bullied to some degree but this information demonstrated that 50% of those victims had also been guilty of being a bully (Cloud). There are people who believe that the concept of bullying has not become a more prevalent problem over the years. Everyone typically can remember at least one case of bullying during our own school years.
Though it may be hard to gauge how many students are actually victims of this behavior because of the unreliability of children reporting these actions. Regardless of how many more or less people are involved in these actions now, the problem still exists. It is important to try to prevent our children from going through it themselves. Teaching kids respect, morality, and to stand up for themselves will help them to succeed not only in school but later in life.
Pediatricians have changed their policies to include addressing bullying as a major focus for preventing violent behavior in today’s youth (Holt 53). There are those who do believe that the behavioral characteristics of bullying are necessary for the growth of children. Survival and competition have been traits of human nature since the beginning of time. Even the term “bully”, used to describe acts of aggression towards others, has been used as early as the 1530’s (Donegal 33-34).
The idea that survival and competition has always been a part of human nature feeds the perception that “bullying” has always been a part of strengthening children and can be used as a learning tool (Kalahar). The older public’s beliefs that “we survived bullying and turned out ok”, hinting that this form of teaching or learning doesn’t leave any lasting impressions on a child’s psychological state. This is untrue. Many researchers in the field of psychology have conducted countless experiments to determine that being a victim to a bully, or even being a bully, can seriously impact a person’s mind and behavior (Holt 57).
Bullying has been illustrated by some researchers as “repeated acts of aggression, intimidation, or coercion” towards someone who is more vulnerable or defenseless (Ross and Horner). There are multiple types of bullying either direct or indirect. Direct forms of abuse include actions performed either verbally (name calling, teasing) or physically (pushing, shoving, hitting). There are also indirect forms of maltreatment including gossiping and spreading rumors about others and rejecting others socially in front of their peers (Holt 53).
Although there not only seems to be a vague description of bullying but there is also the extremity of behavior that is case specific to any bully. They may have other underlying psychological or physiological reasons as to why they behave this way which may not be cured based on a non-descript program that doesn’t address individual problems. Bullying victims have been shown to share some similar characteristics such as depression, low self-esteem, being shy, loneliness, those who are unable to handle direct aggression.
Bullies seem to share behavior patterns consistent with extreme anger or criminal activity. Even witnesses who do not intercede have admitted feeling helpless and vulnerable, mindsets that prevention programs are supposed to help avoid (Beran and Shapiro 702). The new laws’ parameters passed by each state vary however they each seem to set their own standards on behavior they consider to be bullying. They also require school districts to spend money out of their own budgets to educate faculty and students on becoming aware of and preventing bullying in their school.
This law dictates where administrators are to be keeping an eye on students and reporting incidents between campuses, school buses, and others and are holding the school district employees legally responsible for stopping all behavior in their establishments. Some teachers who are being held accountable are having trouble believing that they are truly helping their students in any way because they are being made to feel obligated to report any normal childhood conflicts to the school board as acts of bullying (Cloud).
For example, South Carolina passed the Safe School Climate Act in 2006 to prevent and attempt to stop public students from bullying each other. This law defines bullying as “a gesture, electronic communication, or a written, verbal, physical, or sexual act that is reasonably perceived to have the effect of: a) harming a student physically or emotionally, or damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of personal harm or property damage; or b) insulting or demeaning a student or group of students causing substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school” (Terry 96-97).
So if a fellow student steals your backpack and damages it, is that the same as repeatedly posting offensive and demeaning comments on the internet about someone? Is the difference in extremity a factor in whether or not the incident should be reported to the school board and put on a student’s school record forever? This Act also states that teachers are responsible for regulating and reporting behavior at bus stops or other school transportation and on any field trips on top of the school campus.
They are also mandated to pursue finding a policy to execute for students to prevent these actions. There was a survey given to administrators in South Carolina following these regulations to evaluate how effective the new school program has been. Most teachers found the program to be unsuccessful for various reasons including the fact that most administrators didn’t completely understand the policies, that the students and teachers were unaware that it existed, or because the policies weren’t practiced regularly over a period of time (Terry 98).
This information supports the idea that these mandated programs aren’t enough to solve the bully problem alone. There have been evaluations of programs required in other states that seem to have about the same success rate. There is a program that is used across the nation that thrives on positive behavior support. This intervention style course prepares students to address inappropriate conduct with a “stop, walk, and talk routine” and focuses on teaching respectful behavior, without ever using language or terminology directly related to “bullies” (Ross and Horner).
The reason this program has been so successful, aside from the unorthodox concentrations, is because the schools that participated in the study have been teaching their students bully awareness consistently before this particular program was executed. The Philosopher Aristotle once said, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well. It’s true that educators are highly influential in children’s lives but shouldn’t the parents be held responsible too? Shouldn’t they, who raise the kids, help to teach them respectful behavior? Why should this problem be held strictly over the teacher’s heads? Parents are the ones who instill manners, respect, and morality in their children. A study conducted for children’s bullying awareness has affirmed that in order for a prevention program to work it is important to grasp the student’s current understanding and sensitivity on the subject.
The information also verified that the knowledge provided in the programs would be beneficial when used in conjunction with encouragement from teachers to help raise confidence, genuine concern for what happens among their students, and consistent measures followed after an incident happens (Beran and Shapiro 712-713). A new study completed by researchers in the Department of Criminal Justice has unveiled new information that bullying affects females differently from males depending on the type and frequency of victimization and individual health and psychological issues (Holt 54).
There are also other factors to consider; why do bullies do what they do? What are the underlying causes of their actions? It is important to try to understand how a bully targets their victims. There have been cases of bullying reported for a multitude of reasons including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and social or economic standing. Bullies can obtain a more aggressive manner leading to this behavior due to psychological or psychosomatic illnesses including depression or anxiety disorders (Goldman 214-215).
There may also be circumstances in their home or family that can cause these actions such as domestic violence or child abuse and neglect. There are also different types of bullies; the narcissist, the psychopath, the attention-seeker, among others to contemplate. All of these dynamics should be considered when deciding on any specific forms of treatment to use hand in hand with any mandated programs for bullies and their victims. Because of these new state laws, there is the highly debatable theory that they are in violation of student’s rights.
New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the perceivable strictest law in effect to date, holds administration accountable for any actions including those that occur off school grounds, considered a violation of student’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, especially when students use technology such as the internet (Nash 1040-1041). Since the definitions and standards of bullying stated in state law are unclear, there have been updated doctrines set in place to specify certain limitations that fall under the First Amendment but the fights appear to be an uphill battle.
It appears that this right would less likely be violated if students weren’t punished, at a school official’s discretion, for actions off campus for verbal and online communications. There is also the argument that certain incidents of bullying violate student’s rights against religion, politics, and civil rights through speech. They should be able to express their views and opinions on these things, right? What if they intentionally inflict fear or aggression towards others? Here is another example why the new laws are unsuccessful because of lack of clarity.
The new laws are now punishing bullies as “criminals”. Since the new definitions are basically classifying bullying as most negative behavior, it’s difficult to differentiate between those who deserve any punishment and those who now are being punished for slight conflicts. Students who are caught participating in these behaviors are being expelled from school, suspended from internet access, or receiving bad marks on their student records impacting college acceptances (Nash 2012).
It is important for bullies to be punished by the schools, when they violate policies under supervision of school administrators, but there needs to be a better way to discern extremity of student’s actions and ensure the punishments fit the crime. This shouldn’t be up to administrators to decide; bullying should be split up into subgroups for types of bullying with an appropriate punishment. It is also possible that by implementing a bully prevention program in schools, the cases of reported bullying could increase because students now have a better comprehension of how bullying works.
As per the research study noted earlier on prevention programs, actual research has proven that this is not typically the case (Beran and Shapiro 704). The programs that teach students how to recognize bullying and to step in and interfere in a positive way helps students gain the confidence to stop bullies before most of the lasting harm can be done to their victims. Despite the fact that our government wants to help solve the problem of school bullies, the laws that they have passed for bully prevention is not helping students as anticipated.
Every parent fears the chance that they student may targeted by a school bully, involved in a school shooting, or tormented enough to commit suicide as the media and public have brought this issue into the spotlight. The laws, with unclear standards and vague descriptions of bullying, have not only required school districts to participate in programs that are too costly for already diminishing budgets but they can occasionally violate student’s rights.
The legislators aren’t addressing the specific natures of bullies or how to successfully prevent this behavior for long-term effect. Bullying has become a growing issue with the advancements in technology, like Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites giving students more opportunity to bash their peers to a larger audience. This cyber-bullying has been one reason that has led to recent cases of suicides among bullying victims. We should absolutely respect our First Amendment rights however, parents should be teaching their kids respect for others.
We have all heard of the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but are we teaching these principals to our children? They need to learn the difference between healthy competition and intentionally harming their fellow students regardless of race, religion, interests, or sexual orientation. Works Cited Beran, Tanya, and Bonnie Shapiro. “Evaluation of an Anti-Bullying Program: Student Reports of Knowledge and Confidence to Manage Bullying. ” Canadian Journal of Education 28. 4 (2005): 700-717. ProQuest. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. Bullying Statistics. ” PACER. Pacer’s National Bully Prevention Center, 2012. Web. 6 April 2013. Cloud, John. “The Myths of Bullying. ” Time 179. 10 (2012): 40-43. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. Donegan, Richard. “Bullying and Cyberbullying: History, Statistics, Law, Prevention and Analysis. ” The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 3. 1 (Spring 2012): 33-42. Web. 6 April 2013. Field, Tim. Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge, and Combat Workplace Bullying. New York: Success Unlimited, 1996.
Print. Goldman, Carrie. Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know about Ending the Cycle of Fear. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2012. Print. Holt, Thomas J. , et al. “Bullying Victimization and Adolescent Mental Health: General and Typological Effects across Sex. ” Journal of Criminal Justice 41. 1 (2013): 53-59. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. Kalahar, Dean. “Anti-Bullying Campaign is just “Hate Crime” Legislation for Kids. ” EducationNews. org. EducationNews, 2010. Web. 6 April 2013. Nash, Lindsay. New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Fix: A Solution or the Creation of an Even Greater First Amendment Problem? ” Brigham Young University Law Review 2012. 3 (2012): 1039-1070. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. Ross, Scott W. , and Robert H. Horner. “Bully Prevention in Positive Behavior Support. ” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 42. 4 (Winter 2009): 747-59. ProQuest. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. Terry, Troy M. “Blocking the Bullies: Has South Carolina’s Safe School Climate Act made Public Schools Safer? ” The Clearing House 83. 3 (2010): 96-100. Academic
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