Bullying in schools across the nation has become a real problem. It can occur in the classroom, lunchroom, during after school activities or on the school bus. According to the website “Stopbullying.gov”, there are several warning signs to watch for if you suspect your child is being bullied. Some signs are: coming home with damaged or missing clothing; continually losing items such as books, electronics, clothing; having unexplained injuries; complaining frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick; having trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams; having changes in eating habits; hurting themselves; being very hungry after school from not eating their lunch; running away from home; losing interest in visiting or talking with friends; being afraid of going to school or other activities with peers; losing interest in school work or doing poorly in school; appearing sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed; talking about suicide; feelings of inadequacy; blaming themselves for their problems; avoiding certain places; or acting differently than usual.
If you suspect someone you know of bullying others, here are some warning signs: if he or she often becomes violent with others; gets into physical or verbal fights with others; gets sent to the principal’s office or gets detention a lot; has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained; is quick to blame others; will not accept responsibility for their actions; has friends who bully others; or needs to win or be best at everything.
Bullying is not always physical. It can be in the form of name calling such as “retard,” “fatso,” or “dummy.” Bullying happens often in the form of “cyber bullying.” Cyber bullying happens through the use of technology such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Cyber bullying peaks around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. Other examples of cyber bullying include: sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others; spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks; creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others. Studies show students who are cyber bullied are more likely to be unwilling to attend school; receive poor grades; have lower self-esteem; and have more health problems.
Cyber bullying can also have long-term effects on those who are targeted. Research has found that young people who have been cyber bullied are significantly more likely to use alcohol and drugs, skip school and experience in-person bullying or victimization.
Schools that receive federal funding (including colleges and universities) are required by federal law to address discrimination (bullying is a form of discrimination). The statutes the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enforces include: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
It breaks my heart to see a news story about a child who has committed suicide because of being bullied. I’ve heard stories from parents in our own school district about their child being bullied. There is absolutely no reason we should tolerate this. There are steps you can take. If you suspect someone you know of being bullied, SPEAK OUT. If it’s a child being bullied, contact the teacher, counselor and school administrator. If it continues, don’t stop advocating. Call your state department of education and seek legal advice if necessary. If it’s an adult being bullied, TAKE ACTION. Call the Department of Family and Children Services and the authorities if necessary. We all have to work together, not only for special needs individuals, but for all individuals who cannot stand up for themselves.
Pam Rasmussen is a resident of LaFayette. She is a mother of a child with spina bifida and an advocate of special needs children and adults. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.