What happens when bullying creates terror in our schools?
Mention the word “bullying,” and you’ll undoubtedly get reaction from opposite ends of the empathy spectrum. There’s no middle ground on the subject.
For most adults, the word/act evokes impassioned rage, at best, or at least a disgusting shake of the head as they wonder how something so reprehensible continues to be tolerated in a civilized society. At the opposite end of the gamut, however, are those who encourage it and defend it as nothing out of the norm. It has become rationalized, appropriate behavior made mainstream by, of all things, emboldened political candidates.
For children, they are likely either the bully or the bullied, or classmates who stand by and allow it to happen.
The bully isn’t a bully by accident. It’s taught. It’s encouraged and rationalized. It’s environment. It’s cruel. The bullied can be just about anybody, but are often vulnerable. They didn’t ask to be bullied — although the bully will surely disagree — and all they want is for it to stop. Survivors might experience PTSD, and might never recover.
Among the classmates who allow it to happen, there are probably some who are conflicted or ambivalent, or those who’d like to intervene, but are fearful of being the next target of the bully’s wrath or of subsequent social exclusion.
Bullying can be overt and physical — probably the first imagine that comes to mind — or, in the case of cyberbullying, clandestine and empowered by anonymity.
At Vian Public Schools, superintendent John Brockman says reporting bullying can be anonymous by using the bully button on the schools’ website home page, or can be reported to an administrator or middle school counselor Danielle Brockman, who is the school district’s bullying coordinator.
“After the report is made — they’re all investigated — the principal and the counselor will investigate it and see what they can find out, if bullying has occurred. If it has occurred, then depending on the severity of it, how long it’s been going on, there’s several factors, we’ll go into the discipline. Discipline can be from maybe a warning to after-school detention, and can work its way all the way up to a long-time suspension, if it warrants that, if it’s been a continuing behavior,” the superintendent says.
“There’s always some bullying, but most of it never gets to the point of a long-term suspension. It’s usually handled by educating the kids, talking to them and getting it straightened up that way. The vast majority of it is handled that way.
“Kids can say stuff that they may not consider bullying, but the other person takes it as bullying. It does happen occasionally. And our kids know we’re not going to tolerate it. The main thing we see more and more of in school is the social media stuff. If it disrupts the school day, it (social media) can fall under us,” Brockman says.
“There’s a pretty lengthy process. It’s investigated and students are talked to. The first time, you hope that by talking to them, it stops it, and the majority of the time it does. It’s when it continues again after the first, initial time that it’s been addressed is when discipline will occur.
“It’s normally handled internally, unless when there are threats or something like that, of course, then it will go to law enforcement. We’ve never had one get to that point, but law enforcement could be called in in that instance,” the superintendent says.
Bullying occurs in all age groups and is investigated regardless of grade level, Danielle Brockman says. She encourages the more than 800 students in the Vian school district to use the bully button, which she says is collects information about any bullying incident, and provides the opportunity to identify the bully.
“This has been a very valuable tool for our district,” the school counselor says. “We receive these referrals, which are anonymous unless the person puts their name. We investigate each report we receive.”