by Corinne Wnek
One of the hottest topics in education today is how to keep students safe in school. This has nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks on our country. But it has everything to do with terrorists of another kind, the school bully.
In the past, mean student-to-student behavior was often seen as something kids just did to one another. Except for maybe a real physical altercation, much bullying behavior was largely unaddressed in the belief it would simply go away.
It’s important to understand just how serious a problem harassing and intimidating others has become in our schools. For those students on the receiving end, life in school is a nightmare that doesn’t end at three o’clock. What happens in school, doesn’t stay in school, thanks to cell phones, texting and the Internet.
We know that students bullied in school have lower attendance than other students. We know they are affected academically and their self-esteem takes a big hit. Students like this often suffer long term emotional damage because they rarely find out why they were targeted in the first place.
In the 14 years since the Columbine tragedy, many schools have presented excellent programs to their students to raise awareness about the treatment of others. Rarely has a student or staff member left a presentation unaffected by a powerful visualization of what extreme and prolonged meanness can do to someone.
Educators, police, parents and psychologists know the extent of the damage done by bullies to other children. While the bullying itself may eventually stop, the emotional and psychological damage done to the victim is life long. No adult wants to think of themselves as a ‘victim’ because it conveys passivity, weakness and helplessness. Not surprisingly then, many people who were bullied as students in school become bullies themselves as adults.
Once again, it falls to our schools to teach more than reading, writing and mathematics. Schools must strengthen partnerships with community agencies, teachers and with parents so that our students hear the same message that insists upon kindness, respect and inclusion for all
Parents need to run a daily check on their kids, too, especially when it comes to using social networks on the computer. Come to think of it, we parents should check our own behavior, just to make sure that we, the first teachers of our kids, are also mirroring kindness, respect and inclusion for everyone.
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