Monday, April 29, 2013

Bullying: Questions and Solutions

My series on bullying was one of the more popular set of posts in "Insight" history. I hope that it continues to serve as a starting point in an ongoing digital conversation among parents, fellow teachers, school staff, students and all other concerned citizens in our society.

The entire feature is being presented again in chronological order today for your convenience. 

Bullying: Part 1 

Bullying has always existed. The convergence of many events, including the modern family structure, the litigious land we live in, a focus on personal feelings, desensitized developing brains, a perception that there are no consequences in life, in addition to other factors, are linked to the issue that is known as bullying.

Let me be clear: Anyone (child, or adult) who threatens violence against another human being is guilty of “bullying” that person. Anyone who joins with others to do the same has participated in group bullying behavior. Obviously, committing an act of violence against another person is a crime (to varying degrees under the law).

Bullying can be delivered in-person, or through a virtual world.

All of these incidents must be prevented (if possible), stopped during the process, or resolved.

I have a zero-tolerance policy in my classroom in this regard for all legitimate bullying issues. And legitimate is the key subjective word to keep in mind. More will be offered about this important topic within this digital space tomorrow.

Bullying: Part 2

There are many children who are being (or have been) conditioned to become overly sensitive. Parents/family members/guardians, etc. who don't have adequate parenting skills (or who are honestly developing these skills) and educators who are encouraging children to become professional “tattletales” are adding to the confusion that surrounds this issue.

I completely understand and value the intent of the authority figures who I've just mentioned. Their feelings are genuine. But, these individuals are clearly in the early stages of forming their thoughts and resultant reactions regarding this developing social issue.

Serious problems must be recognized and dealt with. Ignoring bullying reports is negligent and shouldn't be tolerated. But, honest problems are undercut whenever people inadvertently (or intentionally) make thin, or false claims. This aspect of the bullying issue can't be denied and represents one of the more challenging aspects to an already complex topic.  

Time will be needed before our society can come to grips with what has come to be referred to as "bullying". Everyone who cares about solutions and honesty will remain open-minded and flexible as they  relentlessly pursue justice for true victims and don't back down from those occasions where education about this issue is warranted.  

Bulling: Responses and Solutions - Part 1

1. Listen to what people are saying

Never disregard what anyone (child, or adult) reports about this topic. If someone says that bullying has taken place, pass no initial judgments. Yes, you will have to make some type of decision in these instance. But, initially you need to be compassionate and start to gather facts.

2. Ask, but don't interrogate

It's very challenging to be the victim of bullying and then have to prove it through verbal explanations. No one is capable of being objective about himself, or herself, which can make relaying this type of information very hard. 

Be gentle when you ask someone questions about the incident(s). It probably won't be a linear conversation and you need to be prepared for that.

3. Seek outside help in every instance if you are the victim, or if you are the one who is receiving a report about bullying

Victims: Never keep this topic to yourself. Talk to a trusted individual about this matter, or about any other matter that's of importance to you, as soon as possible. You are never alone and defending yourself is your right.

Report Receivers: Don't feel that you must solve the problem on your own. Regardless of your own experience level in handling these issues, asking other people (be they family members, co-workers, etc.) for assistance in responding to these situations is strongly advisable. 

Bulling: Responses and Solutions - Part 2

4. We must try to NEVER undercut this serious issue by falsely labeling all issues as "bullying". 

Confront the "bully" only after hard evidence has been confirmed. Be completely aware of resulting legal consequences if you make the decision to also confront the family/guardian of the "bully" based on thin, or non-existent evidence.

In the United States we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Some of the hysteria surrounding this issue labels people as guilty based purely on what someone, or some group of people claim to be true. Issues connected to underdeveloped minds and overly sensitive personalities are being mixed with this issue because many of these situations involve children reporting other children. 

5. Recognize that not all people can be saved and that the human behavior is not something to legislate, or to be forced into becoming whatever your personal ideology makes you believe it should be. 

6. Continue to educate yourself by seeking information from other parents, trusted friends, religious personnel, law enforcement, educators, children and through other legitimate sources of research on this matter. (For example, this blog post doesn't count as a legitimate, or final source of information. It represents my opinion.)

Legitimate sources of information would not be connected to a slanted political view (either left, or right), or one that is favorable to making institutional devices stronger. Legitimate sources will be easily seen as protecting the best interests of all true victims and by not turning innocent parties into villains. 

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