Three years ago, Baltimore City school officers received 12 formal reports of bullying. The next year? 26. The year after that? 231. And last year? A whopping 541.
Which hardly means that kids were nice five years ago, and suddenly turned mean. Instead, it probably reflects a growing awareness both locally and nationally of the prevalence and consequence of bullying. Shaniya Boyd, a fourth-grader at Gilmor Elementary School, was so scared of classmates who knocked away her crutches and kicked her in the head that she tried to jump out the window of a classroom. The incident resulted in some soul-searching by the school system, which reacted by strengthening city school’s bullying policy.
After a string of horrible stories about young children committing suicide after being tormented by bullies, the US Department of Education started paying close attention, too. But anti-bullying activists worry that some kids will fall through the cracks: students at private schools. Unlike their public counterparts, they don’t have to have bullying prevention policies, nor do private schools have to report incidents.
Who’s bullying who, anyway? According to a recent study, it’s hardly a matter of the popular kids picking on the super-dorks. In fact, the kids at the very top and bottom of the social ladder weren’t actually all that involved in bullying. Who was? Everyone else: “overall, the majority (56%) of students were involved in aggression or victimization, either as pure aggressors (25%), pure victims (14%), or both (17%)…. kids do not always fall into the stable roles of bully & victim. Instead, they seem to be sporadically pulled into conflict.”
If such a large proportion of kids are involved, do schools have a place to intervene? And how should they?
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