- Since 2010, the above now applies to children in school and at school functions. Many parents may be unaware of this.
- These laws need to apply to children and only a fraction of the children report bullying.
- We, as parents and concerned citizens, can prevent our children from bullying through early intervention.
We have all heard news stories on kids bullying other kids in school, on the playground, and at school events, but rarely do we hear school officials, government legislators, or other officials mention the need for laws to ensure children are not bullied. Adults have workplace laws that protect them from bullying, or as we call it harassment and discrimination. At the national level, some of these laws include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Whistleblower Protection Act. These laws entitle employees to a safe work environment, protection from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Some states and municipalities enact other anti-discrimination laws to further protect employees within that state or county. So, why don’t kids have the same protections that protect them from bullies? Shouldn’t children feel safe in their environment, too? Do you know anyone that hated going to school, but you were not sure why? There is a possibility that the child was bullied – whether it was only once or over an extended period. Does it even matter how often the child was bullied? There is typically a “zero tolerance” within the workforce, which means that it only takes one act of violence or harassment to lose your job and potentially tarnish the employer’s reputation.
The majority of those bullied are due to their appearance, race, disability, religion, gender, and sexual preference. After the federal government began collecting data on bullying, and seeing an upward trend, in 2010, the federal government decided to act by applying various protections to children during school and at school functions. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents racial discrimination. This includes all races, be it black, white, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic, etc. With this Act now applying to children, any racially motivated physical violence, racial slurs, graffiti on school walls to include the restroom stales or any school activity that promotes hatred towards another race is prohibited and met with legal action. Title VI also requires schools to take affirmative action to ensure a student does not violate another student’s civil rights. Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination, to include gender expression and gender identity during school or extracurricular activities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protect students from discrimination during school and extracurricular activities. The ADA also requires public schools to provide a free elementary and secondary education to children with disabilities. These laws intend to ensure children feel safe in their educational environment – free from harassment and discrimination.
Some adults wonder why we need such protections for our children and claim that the government is intervening in another state or local problem. However, this is a national problem. Researchers have attempted to answer this question through some statistics on children bullying our kids at a place that they should feel safe. Many experts have linked bullying to school violence – to include school shootings. Evidence shows that approximately 75% of school shootings are linked to bullying and harassment.
Some studies show that bullied kids are more prone to criminal behavior as adults. These studies also conclude that adults who were bullied for years as a child are more likely to commit crimes. Some studies proved that children in early development who fall victim to bullying is more detrimental to their future, and experts recommend early intervention to prevent the possibility of escalated problems in the future. Now, with technological advances, cyberbullying is becoming common, but do not think that this form of bullying is less detrimental, as cyberbullying still has emotional and psychological effects on children.
Experts believe that children in middle school are more prone to harassment and discrimination than other age groups. Numerous studies show that suicide is a leading cause of deaths for children between 12 and 18-years old. This is not only attributed to being bullied, but also the perpetrator committing the crime is also at risk of suicide. Evidence shows that bullying can lead to low levels of emotional and psychological well-being, emotional distress and serious health problems.
Now, we will examine why these laws need to apply to children. Let us look at statistics on bullying in 2005. Why go back to only 2005? Although bullying has always been a problem, the federal government only began collecting statistics on bullying in 2005. Fast forward to 2019 and you will see these numbers continue to climb with approximately 46% of males and 26% of females reported someone bullied them. Cyberbullying continues to be a growing issue with over 60% of teenagers reported that at least one person said something offensive about them online.
Most bullying incidents occur in the classroom, and the least occurs outside the school. Children in middle school were bullied more than in high school, and the percentage of cases decreased by the time they become seniors in high school. Many parents ask “Where are the teachers when the bullying occurred?” Many schools have implemented a couple of measures to prevent bullying. One of those measures includes adding phones in the classroom that allow school officials may contact teachers without the teacher leaving the classroom. For those schools without phones in the room, many believe that when a teacher needs to leave the room, the teacher should have a school official observe the class until the teacher comes back into the classroom. Many schools now have school resource officers –law enforcement officials – along with teachers in the hallway before and after class. These two initiatives have reduced bullying in those schools. Another initiative that could prove more useful than the other two mentioned in this article is that when schools implement school-based bullying prevention programs, it decreases bullying by approximately 25%. However, are these initiatives enough? We have all heard of schools having a “make-out” hallway. So, do we not think, or do we refuse to admit, that these hallways are also full of bullies?
The statistics mentioned in this article are only a fraction of those total students that are bullied in some fashion because not all students report when someone bullies them. So, why do only a fraction of the children report bullying? What would the statistics look like if every child reported bullying? Though, every child has their own reason, the majority of adolescents do not report the incident for fear of retaliation or pressure to remain quiet, ashamed or embarrassed, feel no one will believe them or that they deserve the harassment or discrimination, labeled a snitch, fail to realize they are bullied, assume adults expect the child to handle the harassment, or fear adults will restrict or limit their technology access. These reasons are unfair to the adolescent victimized by a peer. For these reasons, it is important for adults to recognize the signs of your child being a victim of harassment or discrimination. Some signs that a child is bullied include the child saying that there is a great deal of drama at school, they have no friends, or that their peers are messing with them. To identify these signs, it is important to encourage an open dialogue with your child and remain active and involved in their life. It is also important that you, at least, seem interested in your child’s life. We all have busy schedules, some busier than others. However, if we have children, we need to accept the responsibility for what we helped create. Remember…it takes two!
Finally, let us look at what we, as parents and concerned citizens, can do to deter bullying. Our children mimic our actions and behavior. If we express hatred towards a certain group, our children will pick up on that behavior and hold the same hatred towards that group. Why? Children want to impress their parents, and most children feel their parents will be proud of them if they have the same views. Therefore, they may treat a race or a child that practices a different religion with hatred, if the child observes one or both of their parents expressing the same hatred towards that specific group. There are instances where the child does not observe adult behavior but establishes their own views. With this type of behavior, we as parents, are the first line of defense against victimization. Various sites suggest parents that observe their child not having empathy, has the need to stay in control, finds pleasure in other’s suffering or pain, refuses to interact with certain children, regularly teases other children, or hurts animals should raise the concern with their pediatrician and school officials.
Parents should also talk to their children about bullying, and the physical, emotional and psychological effects it leaves on the victim at an early age. It is also important to let your child know that it is important to tell an adult if they ever feel that someone is bullying them. Assure your child that they did nothing wrong and that they do not deserve to have someone bully them. They should not feel ashamed of someone bullying them.
So, how do adults create an open dialogue with their child to tell them that bullying is not okay and is now a crime? A children’s book with a parent/child discussion is a great place to start. I along with many of my social media friends, to include teachers and other educators, strongly believe that bullying should be the topic of my next book. To cover the marketing expense and the cost associated with donating books to schools, I initiated a Kickstarter campaign called “Anti-Bullying Campaign.”