Bullying is interwoven through my brain of late. As an advocate of A NewDawnAA, where our mission is to reduce bullying and #endthestigma of mental illness and a teacher, my desire is to solve it. This weekend, as I attempt to recover from a horrific cold, I decided to do some research on the topic, especially since our nation's schools have had a barrage of incidents in the past weeks. The purposes of this post is to discuss some of the articles and videos found and to ponder ideas to solve this heinous epidemic.
The first article describes a bullying incident in a Georgia school. According to Broady of WSBTV.com a student was struck in the head by a chair and then again with a hand by another female student. The video swarmed social media. Administration responded and consequences were put in place, yet the questions about the teacher were brought to the forefront. Before I address this topic, I would like to also report other cases I found on the Internet through my search, in which I found 4,340,000 results.
A parent spoke out against bullying at a board meeting last Tuesday, January 23, 2018, according to McHugh, a reporter with WJHG.com Channel 7 news. A 12 year old student took her life on January 10th. Parents and investigators believe it was as a result of 2, 12-year-old girls cyber-stalking her, and parents complained schools aren't safe enough.
In Florida, a bill is moving forward to provide bullied students vouchers to attend private schools. A video by Taylor Swaak was posted on Newsweek, talking about the effects of bullying. She apologized profusely to those tormenting her and stated that she coped by posting her comments publically. She again apologized for her public comments, and questioned if they were the reasons her victimizers were attacking her. The bill being proposed only addresses moving the students to another school, not changing the bullying and warnings that the bully will find another target were brought up in the article.
Today, Mandy McLaren, Louisville Courier Journal of WPSD Local 6 reported that Marshal County is seeking answers for a shooting connected to bullying. In one of the videos of the nine listed, a female responded, "You have to wonder what the shooter must have been dealing with," and it's such a heinous crime, we must think about the perpetrators as well. I can't help but wonder, if we intervened and got them help, perhaps many more people would be living today.
A few days ago, the Tennessean reported that a federal study released data revealing 1 in five middle and high school students are bullied. According to the article by Tennessean, Franklin High school is investigating a report where a student's wig was ripped off her head and video was recorded and made public on Snapchat. The mother of the girl reported her daughter had been bullied for over a year and a half and she wears the wig to cover up a skin condition.
Nowell reported that Waynesboro school officials surveyed students on bullying and slightly less than one third of the students reported being bullied. The whole school district is trying to put something in place and from K-12, 25% of the high students reported bullying, 27% of middle school students and 30% of elementary school students reported bullying. Most of the bullying reported was cyber bullying through social media, but some reported verbal attacks.
Wow, astounding statistics, facts and issues in our nation's schools. As a teacher, I'm witness to several incidences of bullying. So much that it's difficult to always know. Once students are gone for the day, whether they are in after school programs, on the bus, in after school sports or at home; what are they doing and who's monitoring them?
In our school, students aren't allowed to have their cell phones on during the day, only with them for before or after school needs. I have worked at schools where students carry them from class to class and are responding between class, in class and all times throughout the day. If social media is the main threat to the cyber-stalking and bullying, why are these students allowed to have their phones? What type of legislation needs to be enacted to hold the purchaser or user of the technology delivering the threats accountable?
As a parent, I pay for my child's device, or at least when they were under age. All of my kids are grown adults, but it's imperative that our parents are held accountable for the actions of their kids, using devices and computers. School Technology Use policies and Internet address configurations make it difficult for me to integrate videos into my lessons, so I know the filters are excellent. I cannot get on social media with school WiFi, but parents pay for service for their children and part of the use comes responsibility. Right? Maybe contracts for purchasing devices needs to be more stringent for the buyer, just like with guns. Parents and care-givers need to be liable for how their kids use the devices. If guns are used to harm or kill, and if cyber-bullying harms or kills, aren't cell phones like guns in this case? Just food for thought! Since the real problem is cyber-bullying and bullying, we must address it from all angles.
As a teacher and mother, I know some kids are victims of parental or sibling stress and violence. Occasionally kids come to school upset, angry or at times depressed. If they don't have an outlet, sometimes they will lash out and become a bully. Especially if they are bullied at home, and endless studies have been done, I need not quote them here.
We must ensure we are connected to our students in the classroom and provide them with a safe environment, reducing the need to be upset or angry. Understanding the needs of our students enables us to connect and provide interventions or supports. I've made countless referrals to counseling for troubled kids. Just this week we are intervening with five girls about bullying. We must be instrumental in changing the interaction between kids, first and foremost by providing intervention.
My classroom is full of 30- 6th graders and at the beginning of the school year we had a teacher professional development on Mindfulness to reduce anxiety. I started doing this in my classroom once per week and after a few weeks my students started asking for it. We now practice this twice per week for 5-10 minutes per day.
I've also been introduced to Tapping for reduction of anxiety and I've only just begun this with my kids. They haven't been as receptive to it, but I'm going to keep trying. In this process, the students with the most difficulty are the most resistant to these activities. They are skirmish and don't close their eyes, or breath when instructed. They don't know how to relax and their worlds, most often than not, are filled with high intensity and toxicity.
Nevertheless, I move forward to try to reduce the anxiety, anger, stress and to teach them a Growth Mindset can be a better path. They can change their responses and reactions to issues where they are used to being upset or impulsive. We are practicing this each day and some days are better than others. As adults, it's a difficult thing for us some times, so teaching our young is so much more imperative and necessary. Especially in a world where toxicity is the norm, especially on social media where most of our young 'live' during off peak school hours.
My hope and goal is to educate a parent, teacher, administrator, law maker or someone who can also help to reduce the desire of bullies to bully and victims to be heard and get the help they need. We all need to reduce stress in our lives for the sake of ourselves and our families, especially considering how it impacts everyone around us!