Creating a Caring Community Classroom LeadershipOctober 2003 | Volume 7 | Number 2 Building Classroom Relationships One School’s Plan to Ban Bullying by Karen Siris Two boys, perspiring and smudged with playtime dirt, approach the main office of their elementary school. Seeming right at home, they rush past the secretary’s desk, making a beeline to […]
Dr. Susan Lipkins, psychologist and expert in violence on school campus, weighs in on the discussion of bullying.
How do you define bullying? I define bullying as: an intentional act of aggression, based on an imbalance of power, that is meant to harm a victim either physically or psychologically.
Is bullying in 2010 different from bullying in the 20th century?
Bullying in 2010 is vastly different than what baby boomers experienced. Bullying today is much more sexualized and violent. Also, technology extends the reach of the bully: cyberbullying, sexting, YouTube.
Parents are raising their kids in a highly competitive society. I call it “vulture culture.” Sports, academics and employment are much more intensely competitive. We have a winner/loser mentality. An increase in competition leads to an increase in aggression.
How can adults distinguish between teasing, being mean and bullying? This is difficult. In general, bullying worsens over time and negatively affects the victim. Ultimately, bullying is a problem when it interferes with a teen’s social, academic or home life. According to the CDC, “In 2007, 5.5% of high schoolers nationwide did not go to school … because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. Another study found that as many as 160,000 students go home early on any given day because they are afraid of being bullied.
Is there a profile of the “typical” bully? There is no profile. However, research shows that, contrary to common myths, bullies are often popular; sometimes, they are athletes or honor students. Some victims become bullies, as well. As in the Columbine tragedy, the perpetrators of the horrible crime were bullied to their breaking point.
Should adults ever tolerate bad behavior as, “Kids will be kids?” The truth is that each teen may react differently to the same set of circumstances. Given the same scenario, one teen will respond with resilience, while a different teen will feel vulnerable. Predicting how each teen will react is difficult. Yet, for the child who cannot stop the bullying, cannot tolerate it, and is hurt by it, the behavior cannot be excused.
How do you know if your teen is a bully? If you watch the way they speak and interact with their peers, and even their younger siblings, you will have a clue.
Once you know that your teen is a bully, what do you do as the parent? Work with a mental health professional before the bully gets into significant trouble.
Is there a profile of the “typical” kid who gets bullied?
There is no one profile. In general, the victim has been taught to compromise, appease and avoid conflict at all costs. Often, victims are well behaved and afraid to get in trouble with teachers and authority figures. Parents who value tolerance, understanding, politeness and respect of authority can send the message to their children that they must not get in trouble and be polite above all else. Those children may be more afraid of disappointing their parents than seeking help or protection.
What can parents do to empower the victim?
Give them the confidence, freedom and permission to protect themselves. Parents need to teach their kids to protect their own space. Little children play the game airplane and twirl with their arms wide open. With their outstretched arms, they proclaim, “This is my space.” We must teach our older children to protect their space as well.
Parents must teach three things:
• Project self-confidence with non-verbal skills and language.
• Defend your own space.
• Protect yourself above getting in trouble with authority figures.
Should a bullied teen walk away, seek adult intervention or use aggression in return?
Depending on the teen and the bully, any of these may be useful. Reporting the bullying is the first step and protecting one’s rights and standing up to the bully is always useful, unless the victim may be physically harmed.
Can you be both a victim and a bully?
Yes, sometimes victims become bullies when they have enough power. They feel entitled to do onto others what was done to them.
What support can parents expect from schools?
It depends on the school, but in general, parents have a right for their child to be safe in school; they may need to be a loud and constant force to get proper protection for their child.
Do mothers and fathers differ in their advice to their bullied teen?
Mothers typically tell their children to get help from a trusted adult; fathers typically tell their children to take care of the problem by themselves. Kids need to listen to both parents. They must understand effective reporting through systems, hopefully established by the school. In addition, teens must learn to protect and defend themselves.
Should the parent of the victim ever talk to the parent of the bully?
I do not think there is any such circumstance. Communication should happen via the appropriate authority figure.
When should a parent involve the school?
As soon as bullying begins: the earlier the intervention, the smaller the problem.
Should teens intervene in bullying situations in which they are not involved?
Yes, we are all bystanders and need to teach our teens where, when and how to intervene. Sometimes, that means reporting an incident to the authorities directly or anonymously. Hopefully, your school has established reporting systems that include direct reporting to designated adults and anonymous reporting, possibly through a suggestion box. Sometimes it might mean that an individual or a group simply tells the bully to stop.
In wake of Phoebe Prince case in Massachusetts, families across U.S. fear bullies preying on kids
March 30, 2010 / nydailynews.com / Gina Salamone & Nicole Lyn Pesce with additional reporting by Nicole Carter and Sherryl Connelly
Nearly two months after Jazmin Lovings’ kindergarten classmates beat her and cut her hair, the frightened 5-year-old has yet to return to her Brooklyn school.
"She’s still traumatized," says Jazmin’s grandmother, Rebecca Lovings. "She’s not sleeping well at night."
The terrified tot doesn’t want to go back to PS 161 in Crown Heights, where the alleged attacks occurred.
Her grandmother says the Department of Education has done nothing to punish the bullies and isn’t providing good options for a transfer school.
The suicide of 15-year-old Massachusetts student Phoebe Prince brought school bullying to international attention this week, as nine teens were indicted Monday for allegedly driving the pretty Irish immigrant to hang herself on Jan. 14.
New York schools don’t seem to be faring much better. A national watchdog group has flunked the state with an F on bullying laws, and several high-profile incidents around the city in recent months have left local families terrified.
"The bullying culture is increasing at warp speed," says Long Island psychologist Susan Lipkins, who specializes in school violence. "Bullying and cyber-bullying are becoming more violent and more sexualized every day."
West Islip parents Ed and Cathy Bell say their teenage daughter, Mary Kate, was the victim of repeated cyberbullying. In October, a 15-year-old classmate bashed her face into the pavement.
"She spent three days in the hospital and has had to have reconstructive surgery," says Ed Bell. "She could have been killed. And the thing that gets to me is this girl used to sleep over at our house."
The conflict began over an incident on Facebook. A week before the attack, her parents say the girl punched Mary Kate in the face at school. And while school officials knew about the incident, say the Bells, they decided not to enforce the school’s policy of suspending all parties involved in fights.
"They decided that it wasn’t fair to suspend Mary Kate since she was a victim, but that meant that, under the rule, the girl didn’t get suspended either," says Bell. Though the Bells have an order of protection against the teen, Mary Kate still sees her bully every day in school.
For Mary Kate, bullying that started online quickly moved into real life. A Department of Justice study released earlier this month found that cyberbullying is at an all-time high, with more than 43% of teenagers reporting being victims of bullying by phone or Internet.
"Cyberbullying has radically increased because the technology makes it so much easier," says Parry Aftab, an Internet lawyer and privacy and security expert. "So we have all these kids walking around with cell phones in their pockets, backpacks and purses, and hand-held gaming devices that 6- to 8-year olds are carrying that are Internet-capable.
"Kids aren’t famous for impulse control, anyway, and with the powerful technology that is now always available, it’s a dangerous combination."
Last week, another West Islip teen, Alexis Pilkington, took her life after she was taunted on social networking sites. Cops are looking into whether the cyberbullying contributed to the 17-year-old soccer star’s suicide, and the cruel taunts continued even after her death.
Pilkington’s parents have downplayed cyberbullying as a main cause of her death, but her friends blame insulting comments posted on Formspring.me, and vowed to boycott the social-network site.
They’ve also complained to the world’s biggest such site, Facebook.com, after someone posted Pilkington’s cell phone number and a nasty comment on a tribute page set up in her memory.
New York City has an anti-bullying regulation in place — a 2008 school chancellor’s regulation — but critics say it isn’t strong enough.
It lays out the procedure for filing, investigating and resolving complaints of student-to-student, bias-based harassment and intimidation.
"Bullying behavior, slurs, verbal harassment and physical violence have no place in our schools, especially when such behavior is prompted by prejudice, intolerance or fear of difference," says DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg. "Over the past few years, we have taken strong steps to reduce bullying and harassment in our schools."
She says that every school has a designated staff member to whom students can report incidents.
But that’s no consolation to little Jazmin’s grandmother. Lovings says that the child’s tormentors have yet to be punished for the Feb. 5 incident, which left her missing a clump of hair.
Jazmin came home from school that day and said another child had cut off her braid with a pair of scissors.
"It’s horrible," says Lovings. The school system, she said, "is not doing enough. They’re not even trying to seek out who’s doing the bullying. They act like she did it to herself — cutting her hair — which I know she didn’t because she can’t reach in the back and cut her hair that close to her scalp."
What’s worse is that there were warning signs that apparently went ignored. According to the Lovings family, Jazmin’s earrings were stolen in October and she was kicked repeatedly by three boys. She was hit in the face and had her lunch knocked to the floor the next month.
"They had a blind eye," says Lovings.
She’d like to see Jazmin transferred to another school, but says the Department of Education is trying to switch her to other schools plagued with violence.
"We didn’t want to send her there," Lovings says of those schools.
In the meantime, Jazmin is missing out on an education.
"She’s afraid to even go in the school," says Lovings. "When you mention school, her eyes are big and watery like she’s ready to cry."
The most powerful teaching method is called mirroring. Sometimes parents, themselves, are actually victims, or feel victimized, and act that way. They talk about how they have been taken advantage of, how things are not fair, and how they have been bullied.All kids mimic what their parents do. Therefore, they sometimes mimic their parents’ victim posture.