There are many factors that make a school safe. All of them lead to creating an environment free from physical or psychological harm so that teachers may teach and students may learn. Addressing the issue of bullying is certainly one of the pieces in making a safe school.
In my 13 plus years with Duneland Schools, acts of aggression have always been addressed, but back then, every incident was not considered bullying.
The first time “bullying” was officially addressed was in 2005 when the General Assembly established the definition of bullying. In 2013, the General Assembly significantly altered the definition (per IC 20-33-8-.2). "Bullying" means overt, unwanted, repeated acts or gestures, including verbal or written communications or images transmitted in any manner (including digitally or electronically), physical acts committed, aggression, or any other behaviors, that are committed by a student or group of students against another student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the other targeted student and create for the targeted student an objectively hostile school environment that:
(1) places the targeted student in reasonable fear of harm to the targeted student's person or property;
(2) has a substantially detrimental effect on the targeted student's physical or mental health;
(3) has the effect of substantially interfering with the targeted student's academic performance; or
(4) has the effect of substantially interfering with the targeted student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, and privileges provided by the school.
It is important that parents and others know the statutory definition, since many people have different opinions about what constitutes bullying. Understanding the terminology is essential for school officials and the public in order to address this issue.
There is also an emphasis to educate our students about bullying. Students are the key to eliminating bullying in our schools. I deal with many students who have made some bad choices. But, I also see many students who are caring, generous and mature beyond their age. Bullying will diminish when peer pressure is applied to stop it. As adults, we can teach and educate, but the biggest effect comes when a group or person, stands up and tells the bully to stop. Teachers, parents and community members can support this effort by demonstrating the appropriate way to communicate with and treat others.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.