Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bullying: A Life and Death Situation

I shall remember forever and will never forget
Monday: my money was taken.
Tuesday: names were called.
Wednesday: my uniform torn.
Thursday: my body pouring with blood.
Friday: it's ended.
Saturday: freedom.

This was the final diary entry of thirteen-year-old Vijay Singh. He was found hanging from the banister rail at home on Sunday (Coloroso. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. 2008).

Bullying is a community problem; a society problem; a problem for our entire culture. Adults sometimes minimize, trivialize, or even deny it. Schools develop policies to combat it, but it continues. In the meantime, the bullied refuse to go to school and often spend so much time thinking of ways to avoid being a target that little energy is left for school. People who witness a bullying situation (sometimes called bystanders) are often considered  to neither experience any consequences nor have an active role in breaking the cycle of violence. The truth is breaking the cycle of violence involves more than identifying and stopping the bully. Examination of why a child becomes a bully or a target of a bully (or at times both) as well as the role of the bystander in perpetuating the cycle.  The first piece of information in breaking the cycle is to understand that the language we use to identify the people involved in any violent situation can be a part of the problem. Any time we label a type of person (such a person with a learning disability we call a learning disabled child or a person with diabetes we call a diabetic) that label can encourage behavior based on the label. We unintentionally focus on the person rather than the behavior. We believe if we get rid of the bully we stop the problem. According to Coloroso in The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander (2008) the tragedy of bullying must be rewritten, new roles must be created, the plot must be changed, and the stage must be reset. The approach in re-writing any story is to know and understand the original. There is nothing simple about re-writing this tragedy. There is no single contributor to the problem. Rather it is an accumulation of factors that has promoted the situation we are now in as a society.

The next several articles in the series will include a focus on Iowa law regarding bullying, the reporting requirements, the commonalities between the bully and the victim, how to approach your child if he/she is reflecting bully behaviors, how to best support your child if he/she is a victim of bullying, and the cultural responsibilities of adults.

Bullying is an epidemic, and the dynamics of this epidemic must be addressed by adults if we expect our children to change the current direction in their interactions. Victims must be empowered. Bullies must be educated about their behaviors, and parents must recognize their own role in the tradegy. Schools must do a better job of working to prevent situations where bullying is likely to occur.

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