Back to school for many children means returning to the environment in which they are bullied.
Bullying is a form of abuse, defined as recurrent episodes of physical or psychological intimidation. It can take the form of taunting, name calling, threatening, stealing and physical assault. Other forms of bullying include the spreading of malicious rumors or gossip and the intentional exclusion of a child. The result is a victim who becomes socially rejected and isolated. Cyber-bullying refers to threats and verbal assaults that make use of emails, texting and social media. It is on the rise, one of the downsides of our techno-age.
A study from the Kaiser Foundation found 86% of youth, between the ages of twelve to fifteen have been teased or bullied at school. What can parents and teachers do?
There are several warning signs to watch for. A child who is bullied may become depressed, withdrawn and try to avoid going to school, often their grades will fall. Parents should inquire as to the school policies to protect children from bullying and bring any concerns to the administration and guidance counselors.
Schools can create a culture to prevent bullying by changing the social environment of the school such that bullying is simply not acceptable. It requires the commitment of everyone from administration to the teachers, the school nurse, bus drivers, custodians and the cafeteria staff. Everyone must be on the lookout for signs of bullying and abuse. It requires a commitment from all members of a school, with training and in-services specifically geared to bullying prevention strategies.
Schools can start a program to prevent bullying by taking an anonymous survey of the students. Often the administration and staff are surprised to learn how prevalent bullying is in their school. The survey can also help identify where bullying is taking place on campus, often on the playground, in locker rooms or bath-rooms. Once the areas of abuse are identified, resources can be focused on those areas. Once policies have been developed for a school or district they must be consistently enforced. The rules should be posted and well known to the students and the parents too. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a safe environment.
Aldebra Schroll is a family physician who blogs An Apple a Day.
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