Bullying not a rite of passage, needs to stop
Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011
Updated: Sunday, November 20, 2011 19:11
We all remember them — the bullies of our schools. The ones who pushed people around, called them names and made them feel inferior. Bullying is a serious problem facing our schools and society, and it is one that we must come together to stop.
The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention defines bullying as "intentional and persistent aggressive behavior." According to the Center, it can include name-calling, teasing and physical violence. It can also be related to the harassment of racial and ethnic minorities, and gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, according to the Center.
Bullying is not some simple rite of passage. The effects of bullying are real and can have long-term psychosocial effects on an individual. According to the Harvard Medical School, victims of bullying are often singled out for being "different" and as a result, they find it hard to make friends, tend to become lonely and isolated, and suffer emotionally and socially. The end result of this could be skipping classes or missing school, or even using drugs and alcohol to numb themselves emotionally, according to Harvard Medical School.
Victims of chronic bullying are at risk for more long-term problems. According to Harvard Medical School, they are more likely to develop depression or think about suicide later on in life. They cited a prospective study from England, based on health data and annual interviews with 6,437 children. This study found that those who were repeatedly bullied at ages 8 or 10 were almost twice as likely as others to experience psychotic symptoms as adolescents.
One attempt at curbing this practice has come in the form of anti-bullying laws. Although sometimes laws can be helpful, sometimes laws can run counter to their actual goals. One recent example is an anti-bullying bill passed in Michigan titled "Matt's Safe School Law." This bill was named in the memory of Matt Epling, who committed suicide after being assaulted by bullies at his school, according to the Washington Post.
Although the bill bears a name designed to honor the memory of a victim of bullying, it could potentially provide some bullies with a legal loophole.
According to the Post, the bill "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction" of a student or school worker. This law therefore provides a loophole under which potential bullying could take place.
Several common-sense solutions have been discussed by many organizations. The Harvard Medical School recommends finding ways to reduce aggression at home by providing training to parents who may yell, hit or otherwise act aggressively toward their children. Stopbullying.gov recommends a series of plans for educators, such as creating a mission statement, code of conduct and school-wide rules that establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. They also recommend integrating bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities.
Putting a stop to bullying will ultimately come from changing our hearts and minds when it comes to this issue. It will mean schools and communities working together to foster a culture in which bullying is not tolerated. Bullying is a serious problem, and we must all work together to overcome it.