Bullying is a problem in many schools and neighborhoods. Countless children wake up afraid to go to school or venture out of the house because they are victims of bullying.
Sometimes school officials, parents and law enforcement officers miss the signs or don’t realize how extreme it can be. Our patrol officers and school resource officers are often called upon to mitigate these serious and sometimes violent situations.
“Bullying” is defined as the use of violence, threats of violence, or coercion to abuse or dominate others. Sometimes the bullying is committed verbally, or over the Internet and through texting. The acts are often repeated and continue for long periods. Children are targeted for their appearance, race, sexuality, size, religion or personality.
The effects on the victim children are staggering. Besides the physical injuries, victims report depression, anxiety, stomach ailments, headaches and other emotional problems. Children who are the victims of bullying are much more likely (2.5 times) to commit suicide than those that are not.
The bullies are not immune to risks, either. They abuse alcohol and drugs at higher rates than others. Bullies often receive criminal convictions and are expelled or drop out of school. In later life, they are more inclined to be violent toward their spouses or children.
To combat this serious threat to our juveniles, we need to first provide extensive training to students, parents, school faculty and police. By coaching victims to report early, we can stop bullying before it becomes problematic. Children need to be encouraged to tell adults about bullying that is occurring when it happens to other students.
Parents must be watchful for signs of bullying because their children won’t always tell them about it. Loss of appetite, lower grades and “phantom” illnesses (especially in the morning) are common among victims. Families need to talk openly about the websites children visit and “chat” on. On a weekly basis we take reports for intimidation, battery or “cyber threats” coming from Facebook.
School faculty need to be trained to recognize signs and quickly respond to these incidents. Many of our reported bullying incidents occur during or after school. Bus drivers must also be involved in the training because sometimes the violence takes place to and from the school.
Lastly, police need to quickly share reports taken for “after school” incidents with school administration. The cases need to be followed up on quickly and decisively.
Making our children feel safe at home and school is a must. Only through an intensive collaborative effort can we make this a reality.