Hope for bullying prevention

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[wpbp_blocks set=”all” ids=”363785″]It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association.

On February 28, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) was reintroduced to a congressional committee by Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA) and co-sponsor Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). The bill was originally introduced March 8, 2011, by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA39). The act presented in 2011 was an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Jonah Matthews, a seventh grade student at Arcade Elementary in Sacramento, experiences bullying daily, and many are vowing to make it stop.
Jonah Matthews, a seventh grade student at Arcade Elementary in Sacramento, has experienced bullying, and many are vowing to make it stop.

The updated version of the bill would require schools to adopt comprehensive and research-based anti-bullying policies, provide prevention education and support services and collect data on bullying reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

Deborah Temkin, Bullying Prevention Initiative Manager at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, noted the immense changes the bill has had over the last several years.

“This year’s version contains specific mentions of relational aggression, a behavior that is often neglected as a form of bullying, as well as a focus on positive supports for bullying and recognition that ‘zero-tolerance’ approaches where kids who bully are removed from schools are often counterproductive,” she said.

According to the National Education Association, 90 percent of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying. Sherry Matthews, mother of five, experienced bullying first-hand when her oldest son was a victim of bullying in seventh grade.

Her son was in a class where two students were disrupting the class to the point that the teacher had to stop instruction. The teacher only identified one of the offending students, so he asked the class if anyone saw who the other offending student was. Her son, knowing the answer, reported who the other student was. After class, he was kicked and pushed all the way to his next class by friends of the student he identified. After that class, they found him and continued their bullying.

“While this was not the first incident of bullying, it was the worst. You come to realize that many kids out there come from homes that teach that kind of behavior, even if unintentionally,” Matthews said.

“Or they have parents that are too busy or too tired to really keep tabs on what kind of behaviors that their son or daughter is portraying at school. Sometimes kids who have been bullied turn around and bully others to make them feel powerful.”

Matthews thinks the bill is a good start and is happy that the issue is being talked about.

“It seems that it’s a comprehensive bill that covers many of the issues that parents have. I like that it talks about cyber bullying. I don’t know if it would reduce bullying … but if the reporting chain is in fact effective, more information about bullying can be gathered to maybe take a more tailored approach. The more it’s talked about, the easier it is to address,” she said.

A statement from BYU’s David O. McKay School of Education website reads, “Bullying among school-age children is more common than some adults realize. Bullying has expanded in recent years from pushing someone down on the playground to spreading malicious gossip by e-mail.”

Cassandra Gonzalez, an elementary education major from Salem, Ore., has learned about bullying in her classes and has been able to brainstorm ways she will prevent bullying in her classroom.

“As a future teacher, I want to make sure that the issue of bullying is figured out by taking the approach of figuring out why an individual student is bullying. It involves intervention and care from the teacher and the staff, and addressing it to the parents,” she said.

Gonzalez feels a sense of responsibility and duty to help children who fall victim to bullying.

“Bullying must be addressed because of the long-term effects that come from it. Children need to know their values and their importance, and I believe that this will help begin to solve bullying,” said Gonzalez.

Temkin feels that this bill will help unify schools across the nation in their effort to prevent bullying.

“The most important component of SSIA is the unifying definition and the overall recognition that addressing bullying is a critical component of ensuring students’ academic success as well as the physical and mental health,” she said.

While Temkin cannot speak on behalf of Senator Casey or his staff, she noted that, “SSIA has more bipartisan support than any bullying prevention bills in the past — which have been introduced each year for at least the past 10.”

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