Local

October 4, 2012

Stop the bullying!

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Susan Alderman-Schaefer
Family Advocacy Program Manager and Licensed Clinical Social Worker ACS, NTC and Fort Irwin

Raina Hoy and Alyssa R. Avilas show their support for the anti-bullying campaign at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin. The girls are members of the Middle School and Teen Center program on the installation.

Our children are being bullied here. Our campaign to stop it officially begins October 10. Join us in this movement forward to stop bullying.

Bullying is a problem in the Fort Irwin community.

Bullying affects children in our community from elementary school-age groups to high school. There are also reports of cyber bullying occurring to children in ages ranging from grade school to high school.

Bullies, as well as children that are being bullied, need our help.

Recently the International Violence Abuse and Trauma Conference met and was attended by numerous military and military civilian personnel on the issues of violence in our families. Fort Irwin was represented at this conference and returned with valuable information to share about this widespread problem. One sobering note of the conference was to hear several researchers assert that bullying others is a ‘modeled’ behavior that often starts in the homes of our children and are carried outside the home to others by those children.

What is bullying?
According to Ken R. Wells, an author and a presenter at the conference, bullies are aggressive children who repeatedly physically or emotionally abuse, torment, or victimize smaller, weaker, or younger children. Bullying usually involves an older or larger child or children victimizing a single child, who is unable to defend himself or herself. Bullying is generally viewed as a form of harassment committed by a child or children who are older, stronger, or otherwise more powerful socially, upon weaker adolescents. Often, the power of the bully is dependent on the perception of the victim, with the bullied child often too intimidated to effectively resist the bully.

Shannon Morse, a ninth grade student at Silver Valley High School, made the drawing supporting the anti-bullying campaign at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin.

Although the stereotypical bully is male, girls engage in bullying behavior almost as often as boys. Their tactics differ, however, in that they are less visible. Boys who are bullies tend to resort to one-on-one physical aggression, while girls tend to bully as a group through social exclusion and the spreading of rumors. Girls who would never bully individually will often take part in group bullying activities.

Bullying begins at a very early age; it is not uncommon to find bullies in preschool. Until about age seven, bullies appear to choose their victims at random. After that, they single out specific children to torment on a regular basis. Nearly twice as much bullying goes on in grades two to four as in grades six to eight, and, as bullies grow older, they tend to use less physical abuse and more verbal abuse.

Bullies are often popular among their peers until about sixth grade. They average two or three friends, and other children seem to admire them for their physical toughness. By high school, however, their social acceptance diminishes to the point that their only “friends” are other bullies. Despite their unpopularity, bullies have relatively high self-esteem, perhaps because they process social information inaccurately.

For example, bullies attribute hostile intentions to people around them and therefore perceive provocation where it does not exist. “What are you staring at?” is a common opening line of bullies. For the bully, these perceived slights serve as justification for aggressive behavior.

Children who become the targets of bullies generally have a negative view of violence and go out of their way to avoid conflict. They tend to be “loners” who exhibit signs of vulnerability before being singled out by a bully. Being victimized leads these children, who already may lack self-esteem, to feel more anxious, thereby increasing their vulnerability to further bullying. Being the target of a bully leads to social isolation and rejection by peers, and victims tend to internalize others’ negative views, further eroding their self-esteem. Although bullying actually lessens during adolescence, this is the period when peer rejection is most painful for victims.

Sometimes the victims of bullies are larger, stronger, or older than the bully but allow the bullying to continue because they are intimidated, do not believe in violence, or are taught non-violence by their parents.

Studies show that students, who are gay or bisexual or are perceived as gay or bisexual experience an extremely high rate of bullying, not only by other students, but often by teachers and other school personnel. Also, bullying against gay and bisexual students is often ignored or sometimes encouraged by homophobic school staff members.

According to the American School Health Association, students who discover they are gay or bisexual often experience rejection, discrimination, isolation, and violence, and this fact makes it all the more important for teachers and administrators to be supportive and sensitive to them. Schools are obligated under federal law to protect students from discrimination and harassment, from other students as well as teachers and all other school employees. In 1996, a federal appeals court ruled that school officials can be held liable under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution for not protecting gay and bisexual students from harassment and discrimination. The ruling still stood as of 2004.

Parents should be aware of common signs that a child is being bullied. These include trouble sleeping, bedwetting, stomachaches, headaches, lack of appetite, fear of going to school, crying before or after school, lack of interest in social events, low self-esteem, unexplained loss of personal items and money, unexplained bruises and injuries, and acting out aggressively at home.

Parents should teach their children proper communication skills that they may need to seek assistance if they are being bullied, according to the Web site <www.bullying.org>. Other advice for parents from the Web site include:

  • Be involved with the child’s school and talk to other parents about the problem.
  • Meet with school officials and make sure the school has an anti-bullying policy and that it is strictly enforced. If a child is being bullied, meet with school officials to find out what they are doing about it. If no action is being taken, demand that it be done.
  • Talk to the child’s teacher or teachers to determine if they have seen any bullying problems in the classroom or playground.
  • Talk to a school counselor and ask that person to discuss bullying with children.
  • Report all verbal or physical threats against a child to school authorities and insist they take action. If they do not take action, report the problem to local police.



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