By Israel “Izzy” Kalman, MS, NCSP
There is a growing phenomenon of schools being sued for failing to stop students from being bullied. A search of Google for the term, “parents suing schools for bullying” reveals more than 1.3 million articles. It is easy for parents to believe that their school has either done nothing or “not enough” to stop social aggression. However, a clear majority of schools do not tolerate bullying and typically follow prevailing “anti-bullying” policies.
If your child is being targeted by other students, you may understandably be tempted to blame the school for failing to protect your child. After all, these laws mandate that schools guarantee a bullying-free environment. The real question is, do these intervention procedures work?
My suggestion to you is instead of blaming the school, work with and collaborate with school officials, teachers, parents and your child to help students who may experience bullying in school.
The simple truth is that anti-bullying laws have had little effect on preventing hostile student behavior. Every state in the Union has a school anti-bullying law, yet bullying continues virtually unabated. Furthermore, recent research indicates that even the most effective laws only reduce bullying by 20%.
So, when your school insists that it is trying to help your child, it is likely telling the truth. It’s just that schools are required to conduct investigations into bullying complaints, judge and punish children for the way they treat each other. Unfortunately, these interrogations tend to escalate hostilities instead of preventing them, as each child and their parents want the school to take their child’s side. Think about it for a moment; when we take the same approach at home and play judge between our own children, they tend to fight even more.
Nevertheless, when we usually blame a school for doing nothing; it is a natural reaction for the school to defend itself from what it considers to be an unfair accusation. The school may even suggest your child or your parenting is the problem. Thus, we often get into a state of war with the school without any resolution for children.
A better approach is to recognize that these laws are not the answer. How difficult is for you as a parent to make children always be nice to each other? It is just as difficult for the school as it is for you at home. Think about your school and its teachers as partners, which makes it much easier to work together and create bullying prevention strategies that work to reduce bullying.
I would also like to leave you with a reason for optimism. While anti-bullying laws do not stop to bullying, the situation is far from hopeless. Logically, the best way to help children is by providing them with the wisdom and resilience to make others stop bullying them. With the right techniques, this is actually much easier to accomplish than most people imagine. While it takes months and years of daily lessons to teach children the three “R”s, it only takes a few lessons to teach students to understand the dynamics and solutions to bullying.
I am excited that Be Strong is working with me to develop and resilience program that teaches children the simple skills needed to navigate social aggression and even to turn the kids harassing them into friends. These are skills that will help children have better relationships throughout life.
Think about it: Wouldn’t you rather have your children be resilient and wise than to need other people to protect them from social difficulties?