Essential Question Responses

external image bully.gifEssential Questions
Why do schools need to address bullying and harassment?
How can we recognize the warning signs of someone being bullied/harassed?
How can students, faculty, parents, and community be educated about the consequences of bullying?
What are the short and long term effects to students who are constantly bullied and harassed?
What types of bullying/harassment take place in schools and what are the motivators behind these actions?

Why do schools need to address bullying and harassment?

The school is an institution that is at the very core of the community it serves. It has a mission to educate and insure the health and safety of our children. Bullying and harassment is a plague that comes in many forms and is destructive to the victim, the perpetrator and the student body. We all lose when this problem is allowed to go unchecked.

Bullying can cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal from society, failing grades, absenteeism, injuries and in extreme cases, suicide and homicide. When a child’s only apparent recourse is suicide, it is a sign of a catastrophic failure on the part of the school community. It is not the bully who is solely at fault; it is the entire school and the parents who bear responsibility. It is a devastating blow to the ‘school family’ that now has to reflect on how it happened and how to prevent another incident. The schools now must initiate support groups to offer help to ‘at risk’ individuals and groups.

It is a myth that bullying and harassment is a phase that all children must go through and is quite harmless, a rite of passage. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the school, there are predators who prey on the vulnerable elements in the school community. Bullying and harassment picks on race, gender, the infirm, LGBT, religious and political persuasions. We are all at risk and suffer. Indeed when bullying occurs, civil rights are being infringed and education is being compromised. One startling fact relates how important the problem of school bullying is - in the US, our school children are five times more likely to commit suicide than children in other similar industrialized nations. To save lives is reason enough to address the bully problem. MH

How can we recognize the warning signs of someone being bullied/harassed?

There are many different warning signs that teachers, parents, administrators, and fellow students may observe that will alert them to the potential that a student is being bullied or harassed. It is important for all faculty and administration to be made aware of these possible warning signs. In turn, they can help to educate students and parents. If we can intervene, we can hopefully lessen the impact and trauma of the bullying or harassment.

Potential warning signs (adapted from
  • Student is afraid to go to school, walk or ride the bus, or participate in extra school activities
  • Student has few friends
  • Student seems to have lost interest in school work and grades begin to fall
  • Student shows symptoms of depression (sad, moody, etc)
  • Student has trouble sleeping or has nightmares
  • Student experiences a loss of appetite
  • Student seems anxious or exhibits a loss of self-esteem
  • Student has items stolen while at school
  • Student complains of mild physical ailments (headache, tummy ache, etc.)
  • Student is anxious or obsessive about checking email, texts, social networking sites (potential cyber bullying)

The important step is to take action once warning signs have been noted. Take the time to talk individually with a student to check in and find out what is going on. It is important to be discreet at this point so that privacy can be maintained. In addition, the student who is being bullied may feel like the harassment will only increase or get worse if they seek help. As adults who can offer help and guidance, it is important to proceed cautiously and with care. Make sure the student knows you are supportive and are able to help them. Being bullied is a very scary and frightening circumstance for students. Treat them gently. HP

What types of bullying/harassment take place in schools and what are the motivators behind these actions?

Bullying and harassment take place in schools in many forms, whether it is verbally, physically, or electronically. Years ago, the bully was thought of as the biggest student who shook the littlest one down for his lunch money. Today, it has become about so much more than size; students have access to more information and social networks than ever before. Bullying has moved beyond the confines of the school and into the realm of cyberspace. Cyber bullying allows for negative comments, verbal taunts and rumors to reach a larger audience and allow no escape for the victim.

Those who bully are often motivated by prejudice and ignorance. Their victims are usually those who are different from them and that do not understand. Differences may be race, ethnic background, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Someone who bullies may be influenced by what he/she has been taught by friends and family or by what he/she sees in the media. They have not been taught to practice tolerance and acceptance of those who are different, so they abuse them.

Awareness and education are the keys to eliminating bullying and harassment from schools. Parents, teachers, and all school staff must be trained to be aware when a student is being bullied and how they should handle it. Students must be educated in different cultures and belief systems, so they recognize that different is not equal to wrong. They must also be taught that bullying is hurtful and actions have consequences, which are often tragic. CH

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