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THE BULLYING ISSUE

Schools across America are being plagued by chronic bullying, even in suburbs and semi-rural areas.
An additional change is school climate is the dramatic increase in girl-on-girl harassment and aggression.
Over the last decade, I've purchased many of the books on bullying that have flooded the market. My frustration with their advice has prompted me to offer these comments.


The current increase in bullying should not surprise any educator. The increased pressure on students and teachers for academic achievement and higher test scores has elevated levels of stress and competition as never before. The most natural and normal, although not acceptable manner through which students are communicating their anxieties is through their behaviors. Unfortunately, their stress responses are being interpreted as a lack of discipline, a character flaw, and a call for schools to implement more control over students.

The evidence of the impact of bullying on their targets, both directly and indirectly, is now clearly depicted in literature which school administrators are beginning to acknowledge. However, virtually no recommendations are offered administrators or counselors regarding proactive responses to the bully as a strategy for ending the dilemma. Enhancing the assertiveness skills of the student body, which include potential targets, will not bring about the end of bullying. Neither will it generate the sense of security all students need in order to learn up to their potential.

Expecting the potential targets to end bullying is equivalent to expecting battered spouses to rnd domestic violence.. The majority of the students intuitively sense teaching assertiveness skills will not end bullying; it only causes the bully to focus on new targets in different locations. Unfortunately, the lesson learned by most of the students is that the adults do not know what to do to end bullying and generate security to everyone, especially emotional security.

In addition to the crucial necessity of responding to the needs of the victims and the silent-by-standers, educators will have to develop proactive ways to reach students who bully and harass, the great majority of who have been victims themselves.
The correlation between becoming a bully and having experienced or witnessed violence has been clearly established. In some fashion, these youngster's perceptions of themselves as being helpless has been shaped by trauma, robbing them of the capacity to shape their own destiny. Helplessness is the lasting imprint of trauma and shocking losses, especially when opportunities to heal are not provided by someone outside of the family.

Richard Kagan, Ph.D., in his book, Rebuilding Attachments with Traumatized Children; Healing from Losses, Violence, Abuse a nd Neglect, offers this insight.. When the bully sees fear in the eyes of a victim, they find some relief from their own fear, the terror experienced from living with family violence and maltreatment. According to Kagan, the relief the bully senses far exceeds the effects of any restrictions or disciplinary actions that may be imposed. Bullying the bully only exacerbates their anxiety.

As I see it, schools cannot realistically expect victim-bullies to give up this negative quest for relief without providing some activity or experience to replace it. The value clarification game I offer can become one of those tools for that process, followed by the healing activities from my new book. Make copies of the "board" and cards for the game, "Why Students Need to Feel Safe in School". The most productive way to use the game is in one-on-one counseling with the school counselor, social worker or a trusted teacher. Cut apart the "cards" and ask the victim-bully to prioritize them on the game board. They must indicate what they would add through the Wild Card, based on what they sense is missing from the choices in their perspective. As they look down at the game board, gently pose questions related to the cards and their placement and the meaning of the issues to them.. Ask; "How might a student know that the policy/guidelines is being put in place?" "What specifics would tell a student they could trust the guidelines and how the staff are following those principles"? "What suggestions would they like to make that would increase their sense of security?" In follow-up sessions, engage the victim-bully in creating hall, restroom, and playground guidelines for assuring everyone could feel safe. Expand to other areas in the or around the school plant and different grades.

Discuss where the victim-bully would like to share these guidelines; student council, the principal, the gym teacher, and others. Ask if he/she would like to be trained in conflict management? Engage the student in some of the healing activities offered in my book, "Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8'

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