Every school has its share of bullies and most kids have heard the refrain,”Oh he’s just a big bully, don’t pay any attention to him and he’ll leave you alone.” How many recall receiving guidance like that growing up? I am afraid too many of us remember and would like to forget. It seems that bullies come with the territory when one goes to school, or that is what many of us have come to believe. They roamed the halls and stairwells, or loitered in rest rooms. They were always not far from the locker room, were always lurking on the playground at recess, rode the school bus, and they always seemed to appear when no teachers or administrators were around. And yet everyone seemed to know who they were and what they did.
They loved knocking your books out of your hand, destroying your homework or favorite baseball card, or just taking it. They loved to tease, hurt and intimidate you, or take your lunch or lunch money. Sometimes embarrassing you seemed to be the goal of their day, from making fun of how you looked or dressed, to pulling your gym shorts down when the girls went by in gym class. Oh yes, bullies were just part of the territory going to school—just one of those necessary rites of passage we were told, and one that we would have to confront on a daily basis.
Well, not any more! Enough is enough, as they say, and finally people need to take it seriously and call it what it actually is—assault, battery, menacing, theft, intimidation, harassment, destruction of private property and the list goes on. Students need to speak up. They need to tell their parents, teachers, or school administrators. And these adults and persons in authority need to be responsible and take action. In fact, they have a fiduciary obligation to children in their care to do so. Bullying is no longer to be tolerated or excused. I submit that most teachers and administrators know who the bullies are in their building, and they know where bullying occurs. It’s time to let the school community know that bullying will no longer be tolerated and that those that bully will be dealt with. Turning a blind eye, is no longer an option. No child should be humiliated, intimidated, or made to fear going to school by some punk or punks be they male or female. Bullies may have their own emotional problems, most do, but frankly, that is a secondary concern. The first issue to be addressed is protecting the innocent, not the aggressor. If the concept of zero tolerance has any place in schools, it most certainly should be applied to bullying and bullies. Make no mistake, bullies are both male and female. Their methods may differ – from physical intimidation to cyber bullying on the internet, but the results are the same. Victims of bullying, both girls and boys, have been found to have problems with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and poor school attendance, resulting in poor school performance. Bullying has also resulted in suicides.
It is important to help create a school environment where all children feel safe and can learn to the best of their abilities. It should no longer be a place where bullies and bullying are just part of growing up. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Policies should be developed or reexamined and plans implemented to attack the problem from the very first day of the school year. School administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents and the community need to be involved. All should be informed and forewarned that bullying will not be tolerated, and swift and deliberate action will be taken if it occurs.