Consequences their anti-bullying statutes. In “Accountability in School

Consequences

            Every day approximately one hundred
and sixty thousand children stay home in fear of being bullied at school.
Bullying is a global epidemic. But this isn’t something that we were clueless
about, as a human race there has been bullying since the beginning of
civilization, in the form of fighting for food and dominance. As the world has
grown and accomplished many great feats, we still struggle to this day of how
to effectively handle and deal with the act of bullying. Today we are faced
with the issue of ineffective policy in the legislation
of states regarding their anti-bullying statutes.  In “Accountability in School Responses to
Harmful Incidents” by Avery Calhoun and Gail Daniels they discuss a study held
in Calgary about holding youth accountable for their actions and how they
affect the juvenile youth, the victim, and the supporters. “Examining factors
influencing sentencing decisions in school shootings” by Sherzine McKenzie and
James Crosby looks at the ‘behind the scenes’ of what happened. What led to it,
how it could have been prevented, and how to appoint the appropriate
consequences to the parties involved. Another article goes into the deep and
researches the anti-bullying laws that states have put up and if they are
effective, “A Content Analysis of Protective Factors Within States’
Antibullying Laws” by Lori Weaver, James Brown, Daniel Weddle, and Matthew
Aalsma speak about the method used to create the legislation and if it had the
intended results. The last source is by Peter Smith, “School Bullying” talks
about the history of the research of bullying back to the 70’s and the trends
of the ever-growing topic.

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            Bullying is nothing new, in fact, there have been studies over it dating
back to the early 1970’s. In “School Bullying” by Peter Smith, he goes into the
research that started the fight against bullying. The systematic study of
bullying in schools first began with a man named Olweus in Scandinavia. He
developed a school-based intervention program, his first evaluation of the
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program encouraged researchers and inspired the next
wave of research with reports of reduction in bullying by 50%. In 1989 the
second wave of research really broadened the definition of bullying to include indirect
and relational bullying. Originally, only direct
bullying-the physical component of bullying- was apart of the
conversation but when they added indirect and relational bullying to the list,
it became much more difficult to identify. Today researchers have identified
more sub-categories of bullying such as bias bullying, identity-based bullying,
or prejudice-driven bullying which refer
to bullying based on the grouping of
characteristics (rather than the individual)
and include racial harassment, faith-based bullying, sexual harassment, and
homophobic bullying. With so much research and evidence about the topic, you would imagine that states
legislation would have a clear stance on the subject. However, many states only
cover direct bullying or are not clear in their written policy on what the
states cover, leaving many schools unsure of how to deal with the many
different types of bullying that have come to the surface over the years.

Today most people know someone that has been, or they
themselves have been bullied.  However,
there wasn’t much public awareness of it until the early 2000’s, it was
something that many people brushed under the carpet, simply telling their
children to “man up”, “don’t be a tattle tale”, or “fight back”. In 1999 the
term “school shooting” became a part of the American vernacular following the
devastating loss at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. In
“Examining factors influencing sentencing decisions in school shootings” by
Sherzine McKenzie and James Crosby they talk about how the effects of bullying
have lasting and sometimes deadly effects. Many researchers at this time found
that there were connections between bullying and school shootings,

“a recent review of 28 school
shooting events, between 1988 and 2009, revealed that the majority of
the perpetrators were Caucasian, had a history of depression (71%), psychiatric
treatment (57%), and violence (61%), experienced victimization through
bullying, abuse, or neglect (54%) and/perceived some form of rejection (50%), a
validation of the earlier characteristics.” (McKenzie, Crosby 38)

This
ties into what they later tell us about how the perception of peer rejection
and social isolation by the shooter, rather than actual or targeted
victimization, may be an underlying motivation behind acts of mass violence
like school shootings. Not saying that bullying causes school shootings but
that a history of peer victimization may increase the likelihood of such an act
of violence in individuals who possess the other warning signs or risk factors.
Only recently has there been an awareness of the changing ideas of bullying
that influence the decision-making process and what penalties juvenile youth
face regardless of a history of victimization and limited support. All of this
ties into the idea of needing better anti-bullying legislation, we can
hypothesis that if it was in place we could limit the number of incidents, and
decrease the harm caused by the youth on both sides.

While many people stand on the sidelines and root for
the players, Avery Calhoun and Gail Daniels got into the game and researched
ways that bullying affected those harmed and how to prevent it, but also how to
cope with it. In “Accountability in School Responses to Harmful
Incidents” they tell us of a program in Alberta, Canada in a town called
Calgary. “Calgary Community Conferencing” or “CCC” for
short is a program where juvenile youth that are interested in apologizing or
taking responsibility for their actions have the chance to do so. During this
program the victims of said harmful incident, the supporters of each person,
and the juvenile youth all come together and tell their version of the events
and how it had affected their lives. Following, there is a question period,
then the juvenile youth drafts a proposal for redressing the harm, which is
presented to the victim and their supporters. Usually, the discussion is
continued until a mutually acceptable restoration agreement is made. There are
four main goals of the CCC program, “the young person demonstrates
accountability for his/her actions, respectful relationships among participants
are established, participants experience ‘closure’ regarding the incident, and
participants experience meaningful involvement in and commitment to repairing
harms.” (Calhoun, Daniels 27) Taking accountability for actions helped all
parties involved saying that the victims that participated felt that the
conference helped the youth develop empathy and that the victims consistently
described feeling “relieved”, “glad”, and “happy” that the juvenile youth had
taken responsibility of the harmful event. Many of them before had convinced
themselves that what had happened was somehow their fault. One of the reasons
this program was created was to help the youth that had made mistakes, to let
them know that the school system had failed them. The system has failed them by
not taking accountability for what happened, but also for not having the
resources available to the student that could have prevented the harmful
incident and helped them.

“… a primary goal of school
discipline should be to keep students in rather than exclude them from
education… Students need to be reassured that schools will take effective, respectful re-active, and pro-active
steps to ensure a safe learning environment… student participants in a study by
O’Dea and Loewan (1998) described school disciplinary actions as unlikely to
have desired consequences. Student participants in this study indicated a preference for disciplinary approaches that
place value on respect within relationships, thorough understanding of problem
situations, hearing the perspectives of all individuals involved in a conflict,
and involving parents in school disciplinary problems.” (Calhoun, Daniels 24)

The
reason the author has added this information is to inform the reader that just
because the school system says that they are doing the best thing doesn’t mean
the children-the ones that get affected by it- think that it is the best.

            Bullying
may not always be easy to pick up on, it is often subtle and covert. Parents
trust their schools to keep their children safe, but not all states communicate
clearly and concisely what is expected from school officials to stop bullying.
In “A Content Analysis of Protective Factors Within States’ Antibullying Laws”
by Lori Weaver, James Brown, Daniel Weddle, and Matthew Aalsma dig under the
surface and look at the policy that the states have in place and if they are
helpful, or effective. The definition of bullying is an unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged
children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. A researcher named
Olweus found three main criteria for the definition of bullying, there must be
“aggressive behavior or intentional ‘harm doing'”, the act must be carried out
repeatedly, and there is an imbalance of power… occurring without
apparent provocation. Bullying behaviors
are sorted into three main “categories”: verbal, physical, and relational,
including cyberbullying, these three categories can be direct forms or indirect
forms of bullying, so it can become difficult deciphering them. The problem is
that states need more specific anti-bullying
statutes, the term “bullying” can encompass more subtle behaviors than those
targeted by harassment or school safety laws, so only the statutes that mention
the specific word bullying are purposefully written as anti-bullying legislation. “Researchers found that although the
majority of school employees reported that their district had an implementation of an anti-bullying policy (93%), only about half of all staff received
training.” (Weaver, Brown, Weddle, Aalsma 160) So not only do we not have the
proper guidelines in place, but how are we to know that they are even put into
action. Only 8% of state’s laws mandate schools to provide annual training for
school employees.

“the implementation of specific
youth protections varied widely across states. Nine states identified school
officials as possible aggressors with the laws. Less than half of state laws
(40%) require schools to have a mechanism in place for students to report
bullying and are often unclear regarding expectations for school bus drivers to
report (20%). Only 40% of states require school employees to report suspected
bullying acts. It was found that less than half of state’s laws require school
of?cials have an identi?ed investigator (46%). Counseling is rarely mandated
for the bully (8%) or the victim (6%). There are limited provisions to protect
victims from additional acts of bullying (30%). The content and consistency of
parent protections varied widely across states’ anti-bullying
laws. A limited number of states did not identify a procedure for the
parent/guardian to report acts of bullying (30%). Six states have mandates that school of?cials notify parents
when a report of bullying is made, and 12 states have mandates to contact the
victim’s and bully’s parent if a report of bullying is substantiated.” (Weaver,
Brown, Weddle, Aalsma 166)

The
reasons the authors bring this up is to shed light on the critical facts affecting this nation’s future. Three states
have no specific anti-bullying
legislation and only 36 of the remaining 47 states have clearly stated the word
bullying in the title or subtitles of their laws. The fact is that our nations
school systems are not prepared for
bullying, and we need to take immediate steps to reassess our legislation and policies towards school
bullying. Bullying is always changing, as we change, our technology has
advanced, our knowledge has grown, and our laws should grow and change with us.
But it hasn’t, as a nation we need to be clear on what will, and what will not
be tolerated. The teachers of our children must know how to handle these types
of situations and not be clueless. We need to recreate our policy and
legislation on bullying in the school system to make sure that we are helping
our students, not harming them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

….. Smith, Peter K. “School
Bullying.” Sociologia, 71 (2013): 81-98. Print

…..
McKenzie, Sherzine. Crosby, James. “Examining factors influencing sentencing
decisions in school shootings.” Journal
of aggression, conflict, and peach research, 9.1 (2017): 38-48. Print

…..
Calhoun, Avery. Daniels, Gail. “Accountability in School Responses to Harmful
Incidents.” Journal of School Violence,
7.4 (2008): 21-47. Print

…..
Weaver, Lori. Brown, James. Weddle, Daniel. Aalsma, Matthew. “A Content
Analysis of Protective Factors Within States’ Antibullying Laws.” Journal of School Violence, 12 (2013):
156-73. Print