Bullying in America
The Price of Bullying
More and more we hear about bullying in schools nationwide. It would be my guess that if you’re a parent you’re a very rare breed of parent if your child makes it the whole way from Elementary through High School without suffering from another child in today’s world.
Let me start out by showing you how my children’s school district defines bullying: Bullying can be shoving, pushing, hitting or spitting. It can be name-calling, picking on, making fun of, laughing at or excluding someone. Lately, bulling has spread to the internet. Cyber Bullying can involve writing messages or sending pictures on-line that are hurtful to another.
Bullying can be defined as being exposed, repeatedly and over-time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students (Olweus, 1993). There are three key components to all bullying situations: (1) There is always a power differential between the bully and the victim that is acquired through physical size, strength or status; (2) There is intent to harm, the child who is bullied is put in the position of oppression by the child who bullies; and (3) Finally, bullying is repeated rather than just a singular event.
The school district clearly places the No Bullying Policy in their schools stating there is a Zero Tolerance for bullying yet implementing and continuously preventing bullying is a different matter. Is it lack of support by the district to uphold the standards at each individual school in their district? Anti-bullying policies are being implemented nationwide and yet statistics haven’t been higher on bullying. Below are the main statistics on bulling in America Today:
· Every 7 minutes a child is bullied, and 85% of the time, there is no intervention of any kind.
· Each day, 160,000 students miss school due to bullying.
· Bullying is a leading factor in suicide among kid’s ages 11-16 year of age.
· By age 24, 60% of bullies have been charged with a crime.
· 34% of all children report being bullied regularly at least several times each year.
· 86% of children age 12-15 report at least some form of bullying has interfered with their studies moderately to severely.
· 43% of middle-school children avoid the bathroom and locker rooms at all costs due to a certainty they will be bullied.
· 1 out of every 4 children is more than occasionally cyber-bullied.
· More than 25 million families are currently traumatized by bullying in the U.S. today
· When polled, 98% of students indicated that they want teachers to intervene.
· According to a 2011 Harvard School of Health Study, male bullies are nearly four times as likely as non-bullies to grow up to physically or sexually abuse their female partners.
· In schools where anti-bullying programs are enforced, bullying is reduced by 50%.
· Bullying was a factor in 2/3 of the 37 school shootings reviewed by the US Secret Service.
· Recent bullying studies have found that school that had a more intense bullying atmosphere, passing rates on standard testing in subjects such as algebra, earth science, and world history were 3 to 6% lower.
This year alone it is reported that over 13 million American Children will be bullied at school, on the bus, online, at home, on their cell phones, on the streets, making the most common form of violence that children face today in America. Over 77% of students are bullied mentally, verbally, or physically. Every 7 minutes a child is bullied on the playground. Over 3 million students are absent each month from school due to bullying. And surprisingly 1 out of every 4 teachers sees nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time when they see the bullying occur.
I have pulled suicide rates for the state I currently live in Florida in a 2010 poll Suicide is the 9th cause of death in the state; the 10th Nationwide.
· The 5th cause of death between children ages 5-14.
· The 3rd cause of death for youths ages 15-24.
· The 2nd for ages 25-34.
The fact that these numbers are so high in youths is troubling to say the least. So much to look forward to in their lives and they feel so helpless they want to end their life rather than face their oppressors.
I am writing this article for personal reasons. Up until a few months ago I never would have imagined that my twelve year old daughter would be so affected by bullies at school that she would attempt to take her life. My daughter MacKenzie was a full of life, ambitious, creative, outspoken, beautiful child that if she set her mind to something, look out she could move mountains. In just a few weeks into her fifth grade year she was quiet, losing weight, having increased anger outbursts on her siblings, unable to concentrate, unable to sleep.
We were at her school repeatedly over a six month period, reviewing the standard bullying policies from the school district. Her school did very little to prevent the attacks on other kids. We had meetings, every time with the same result; we will take care of it. She was being brutalized by a group of nine children in her school. We were told that without catching the students in the act they had very little to go on short of counseling the students and attempting our daughter to agree to put the despicable things the kids were doing to her behind her. Just a week prior to her attempting to hang herself we took photographs of welts on her back to the principal, and guidance counselor, MacKenzie came home stating that one of the kids hit her with a stick on the back in gym class. Nothing was done about the incident to our knowledge. When our daughter was finally able to speak about the on-going bullying she stated a few of the kids had knives in school and she was threatened if she told they would use it on her.
She described being told if she ate any lunch they would jump her later and when a girl physically attacked her from behind she fought back and was told she was being suspended for defending herself. We were told that because the group of kids was so large it was easier to separate our daughter than disband a power hungry group that was wreaking havoc on their school by tormenting other kids. Our daughter was isolated by holding her out of Field Day activities, but when questioned about it the school said this wasn’t the case. Our daughter talked about being chased by the kids and she had to run to her bus before they caught up with her.
Finally on the day our daughter was pushed over the edge, she stated the school guidance counselor pulled her aside and said each of the nine bullies’ names and MacKenzie, whose name do you hear most often? She replied,” my name.” and he said “Why do you think that is?” and she said, “I don’t know, because they hate Me.” he responded by saying I think it’s because you’re the problem; it’s always your name that gets thrown around. It wasn’t an hour and her little twelve year old body was hanging with a scarf from her closet.
MacKenzie has been diagnosed with PTSD she has nightmares almost every night. She has once again gone from a vibrant 12 year old girl, to being virtually incapable of going into a store, shopping, the mall and she isn’t attending Middle-School, and she has been forced to try to conform to virtually based learning. Just over the weekend she went to her friend’s birthday party and threatened to beat some little girl up because she ran into MacKenzie in the hallway. She reported having a flashback and the party was too overwhelming.
I write this with a heavy heart. We live in Florida so she was taken to the emergency room, evaluated and we Baker-Acted her on a three day hold. MacKenzie was evaluated by the psych team at Morton Plant and they found she had solely situational depression. I found the Children’s mental health ward so depressing, we came to find three other families with children who were hospitalized at two separate facilities, but all kids went to the same school and all were there for bullying issues. The day the school was notified of the hospitalization they waited over 5 hrs to contact us with a weak unfeeling apology. Her own teacher never called us, she was basically silenced by school officials unable to comment on anything. As a mother, there were no words to describe the helpless feeling of leaving your child in a mental health ward. MacKenzie's first night there her roommate also her age tried to slit her wrists with a pen in front of MacKenzie. No child should ever be meant to feel unsafe when they leave the home and attend school for a higher learning. Our daughter fights every day for the acts of these negative and prejudiced children. She still hasn’t regained her life back after a single year at the school she attended.
It is time as Americans to stand up for our children and put an end to bullying. Join groups in your hometown to prevent the spread of the ignorance and violence. If you notice signs of withdrawal in your child, changes in their sleeping, eating and hygiene habits, talk to them and don’t take no for an answer. Part of the reason bullying continues across the world is because some people feel that bullying is a rite of passage in growing up. IT ISN’T! There will always be normal conflicts between school age children, bullying is a deliberate intentional cruelty, harassment, and emotional, physical and sometimes even sexual abuse. It can set a tone for a lifetime of intentional cruelty or worse. And the consequence to the victim can seriously affect them for the rest of their lives.
Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition (2010) Florida Vital Statistics Annual Reports, Retrieved September 17, 2012 from http://www.floridasuicideprevention.org/the_facts.htm
The Book Bank Foundation (2012) Nationwide Bullying Statistics, Retrieved September 17, 2012 from http://thebbf.org/nationwide-bullying-statistics