November 1, 2010

Bullying – Physical and Cyber in Our Schools

Bullying – Physical and Cyber in Our Schools
William Jackson, M.Ed.
E3 Business Group Northeast Florida and Boys2Men Symposium

Bullying and Violence Prevention
After attending a teacher’s workshop called Second Step-Violence Prevention
it has been brought to light how societies challenges with bullying are evident
in our schools in all grades. How bullying is affecting learning, the perceived
safety of students in schools and how students communicate in aggressive
manners and methods using Social Media.
The media has picked up on this as seen by the First Coast News presentation
of the Anti-Bullying Club meeting at Twin Lakes Elementary in May of 2010,
talking with students and educators about taking a proactive approach toward
bullying. The efforts of DCPS School Board member Betty Burney addressing
violence and bullying, working to prevent these behaviors and myself making
presentations at the Boys2Men Symposium and Black Expo South. Many
students and parents do not understand the results and consequences of bullying.

Addressing Bullying
The increase of bullying has resulted in DCPS School Board
member Betty Burney to host a community dialogue addressing
bullying and violence in Duval County Schools.
The sessions labeled "Enough" have been held at St. Paul AME Church
in Jacksonville, Florida. The question remains; What is bullying?
Florida statute defines bullying as systematically and chronically
inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress through teasing;
social exclusion; threats; intimidation;
stalking; physical violence; theft; sexual, religious or racial harassment; public
humiliation; or destruction of property. Mrs. Burney having done so in the past
started community meetings addressing bullying and violence in schools. Her
attempts are to see more students willing to tell what they're going through
before there is injury or worse. "Some kids are afraid they'll get hurt worse if
they report," Burney said. "We need to let them know they have a safe place
and it'll be OK" (May 31, 2010, Duval schools will start to track bullying complaints).
The facts are: Bullying begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school,
and falls off in high school. It does not disappear altogether. (The Facts About
Bullying, 1997) 61.6% of students who are bullied are picked on because of
their looks or speech. (U.S. News & World Report, May 7, 2001)

Physical and Digital Bullying
Several areas of concern are the physical aspects of bullying and the use
of technology to continue the behavior that has caused suicides. The curse
of technology has allowed for continuous communication between students
in an environment where information is permanent and accessible by mass.
Emailing, texting and social media are the tools students use to communicate
and exchange information. The most notable incidents are the “Hit Lists”
addressed later in this blog. The perception and concern is that violence is
increasing. In a 1993 survey of 720 school districts nationwide, 82% reported
an increase in violence in their school over the past five years. (Harvard School
of Public Health) In a 1993 survey of student’s grades 6-12, 79% said that
violence was caused by "stupid things like bumping into someone." Other
causes of violence included: boyfriend-girlfriend disputes, outsiders, racism,
and gangs (National School Safety Center).

Suicides are Growing
The tragic suicides in media reports has warranted alarms locally and nationally.
Nationally students as young as 15 years old have committed suicide because
of bullying from physical abuse to cyber. One of the most notable is Jeffrey
Johnston who took his life in 2004 after being bullied. Debbie Johnston the
mother of Jeffrey stated “Everybody is recognizing that bullying isn't a rite
of passage, it's not a part of childhood, and it doesn't build character." As a
result the act "Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act" was created.
The act requires districts to adopt new anti-bullying policies and spells out
that those policies must address "cyberbullying" -- taunts and harassing
messages delivered by computer, cell phone or other technology. On a
local scale, Duval County does not have the perceived dilemma as other
parts of the nation, but records are not kept so there is no hard data to
support numbers. Bullying begins in elementary school, peaks in middle
school, and falls off in high school. It does not disappear altogether.
(The Facts About Bullying, 1997) 61.6% of students who are bullied are
picked on because of their looks or speech. (U.S. News & World Report,
May 7, 2001). School Board member Betty Burney became concerned
about bullying after reading a survey of Duval County students. When asked
to anonymously report, about 16 percent of high school students said they'd
been bullied. About 14 percent of high school students admitted
they'd thought about or attempted suicide.

Student Code of Conduct
In the 2010-2011 Code of Student Conduct, bullying when there
are threats of physical violence is a Level 3 violation and taken
very seriously when reported (3.02 (TRE)).
No longer can bullying be ignored. These potentially explosive
and damaging behaviors cannot be blown off, or degraded to kids play. The
results have expanded beyond just hurt feelings, wounded pride and a child’s
emotional trauma. Students of school age are committing suicide, carrying
weapons because they are attacked verbally and physically in our schools,
harassed on school buses and the abuse continues in some cases digitally.
Disturbing chain of events have digressed to students killing students for sport
or fun.
At the time of this writing November 2010; Duval County Public Schools
officials say they currently have no way to track how many children
report being bullied when the school hasn't disciplined someone as
a result. DCPS is a 122,000 student district punished 35 students
for bullying in 2007-08 and 41 in the 2009-10 school year by numbers
provided to the Florida Times-Union (May 31, 2010 “Duval schools
will start to track bullying complaints.”)
The code of conduct should be clear, Burney said, that all children
who are reported should be punished equally.
Students because of violence, stress and concerns of safety feel
persecuted, threatened, and powerless. It is an overwhelming
feeling of powerlessness that can lead to depression, thoughts
of suicide, bodily harm (cutting), drug abuse and other harmful
actions. Parents are encouraged each school year to review the
Student Code of Conduct to understand existing policies and
procedures along with discipline results. Not only are there
policies and procedures in place in schools, but societal laws
are passing resulting from increasing numbers outside of schools.
The recent notable examples using electronic communication
are “Hit Lists” in local schools of Duval County.

Student Receives Hit List Text Message - Friday, April 23, 2010
Text Hit Lists Spread To More Schools- Monday, May 3, 2010
16-Year-Old Raines Student Still Recovering in Hospital - 4/19/2010

Laws such as the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act
( addressing bullying, harassment, and
threatening, parents should take the time to review the site and its important
information. Parents need to talk to their children and find out their feelings
and impressions of bullying and possible bullying they may experience.

Preparing Teachers
Because of the increase of bullying school districts such as DCPS are
conducting workshops such as Second Step-Violence Prevention. Training
teachers to teach skills to students that parents are not teaching at home
or the environment is not conducive to nurturing. There may be lacking of
positive role models, evidence of violence and bullying in the home or
neighborhood community. These are contributing factors to students bullying.
These actions are an emotional need to feel empowered by making others
feel fear or subservient to the bully. Parents are left in the dark and caught
unaware of their children/teens online and cell phone activities that could
involve aggressive actions or even Sexting. The child is either being bullied,
engaged in bullying or aware of bullying going on.

Technology is being used in the inappropriate manners described.
Parents are being held accountable by schools and by law enforcement.
What a parent must do on a regular basis is to check cell phone records
(either thru the phone or accessing the account online), text, data and
multimedia communication. Technology has advanced that gaming systems
now have access to social media so parents must still be proactive to their
children’s gaming activities. Parents create a foundation for their children’s
actions using technology. Technology is just another piece of the parenting
responsibilities, parents must manage their children’s digital communication
usage, not just provide a computer or cell phone and turn them loose.
Denial of potential cyberbullying, harassing, and Sexting can lead to the
involvement of law enforcement which can lead to criminal charges from
misdemeanors to felonies. The unfortunate truth is that students will not
always tell their parents what is going on in school because of pride, peer
pressure, or students feel they have no one to talk to. No matter how strong
a parent feels their relationship is with their child it is not as strong or secure
as they think. Parents keep talking to your children/teens every day and be
involved in their growth and development even with digital tools.
The technology of instant communication has opened a Pandora’s box of
behaviors that infect or invoke harassing, stalking and bullying
In our society the misuse of technology has influenced law
enforcement to investigate digital bullying and forced the Florida
legislature to create policy changes and laws that discourage and
punish physical and cyberbullying actions of students. It will take
a village to raise and teach our students. Parents, teachers and
administrators working together for the safety of all students.
Online Resource
Stop Bullying Now
Interactive Cartoons for Kids
See, read, and hear the impact that bullying has had on people's lives.
PBS Parents Information
Bullying Education
Moms Homeroom
Interactive Web Site by Moms and for Moms§ion=episode&dataId=1205844&source=search
Parents Connect
Links to bullying and other behaviors
This is an interactive quiz on bullying
Engaging Families In Bullying
This is a 29 page PDF file
Youth Violence Statistics
Bully Police

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