I am the concerned parent of a 13-year-old boy who recently completed the 7th grade at a MCPS middle school. My son, who has been bullied by his peers as long ago as 3rd grade, was teased, taunted, and harassed every school day this year. Despite my many complaints to schoolteachers and administration, the bullying continued. School staff made recommendations to me to have my son ignore his bullies. Although my son attempted to ignore the ridicule as suggested, he quickly found that ignoring seemed to only up the bullies stakes. In any case, asking a child to ignore such abuse is unfair. School staff also informed me that my sons reactions to the bullying were causing the bullying to occur. They were blaming my son for the hateful, anti-social behavior of the other students that were victimizing him! My son quit writing for the school newspaper because of a bully that also participated. My son was scared to eat lunch in the school lunchroom because of bullies. Only with great trepidation did he attend the class trip, and, due to bullying, did not enjoy it. I watched sadly as my childs self esteem, which was shaky to begin with, hit a new low.
The policy of the Montgomery County Public Schools does not address bullying. Although both "Physical Attack on Student" and "Verbal Abuse and/or Threat" are both listed as grounds for suspension, this policy is not enforced. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 9.7% of suburban students in grades 6 to 12 report being bullied at school. According to special educators, students with special needs are the targets of bullies three times more than in regular education. In an article published in the Sunday, May 9, 1999 edition of The Washington Post, it is reported that approximately 282,000 students are physically attacked in U.S. high schools monthly, and about 8% of students miss one day of school each month because they are afraid to attend. The Washington Post also reports that ten children commit suicide in Great Britain each year because of bullying.
According to a report on youth violence presented to the U.S.House of Representatives by Dr. Ronald D. Stephens, " school yard bullies reflect(s) that about 80 percent of bullies were first victims of bullies in the form of parents, peers, siblings, or others. Many victims become perpetrators of crime in response to their own experiences with ridicule,
physical punishment, torment, and abuse". The National School Safety Center includes "Has been bullied and/or bullies or intimidates peers or younger children" on their Checklist of Youth Who Have Caused School-Associated Violent Deaths"! To continue to allow bullying to occur in our schools puts both the bullies and their victims at risk for violent episodes.
It is my goal to have the MCPS implement a ZERO-TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING policy as soon as possible. According to researchers, the policy should contain the following items:
Rules against bullying should be publicized, posted schoolwide, and consistently implemented.
All school staff members should be trained to label bullying as the unacceptable behavior that it is, and to recognize the full effect that bullying has on its victims. Staff should closely monitor bully hotspots, including the school cafeteria and playground, at all times.
Beginning in early elementary school, students should be introduced to the "bully-proof" policy. Students should participate in activities that will promote kindness and compassion for the feelings of others. Schoolwide activities designed to build self-esteem by spotlighting special talents and abilities should be developed. All schools should have a peer-mediation program to solve disputes.