Schools all over the country started in the last month. There was excitement about going back for many. Seeing old friends, hoping to get that special teacher that everybody wants. Making new friends.
But there were a significant minority of students who looked at the start of school as another year of torture, humiliation, and fear. These are the children who are victims of bullies.
What is interesting is that many of the bullies are not seen as bullies by themselves, their peers, the teachers, or the parents. They are given the privilege of belittling and even injuring their peers, because “kids will be kids”. The ones being bullied are told that they have to learn to live with others and not be such wimps.
Not all of these students are special needs. Some, like Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me, was a good student, who just happened to feel that all students should be treated nicely. She voiced her displeasure if her friends teased a special needs or other student, or even a teacher. She also volunteered to help in the special needs classrooms during her recess and lunch hours. This garnered her contempt from her peers, people who used to see her as cool.
They didn’t stop at just shunning her, however. They would physically attack her, leaving her bloodied and battered. Her parents felt that she must have done something to deserve such an action. The teachers and administration told her to get along with her peers. This went on from 4th grade through high school graduation. She changed schools frequently, went into a severe depression, and saw more psychiatrists and other counselors than she cared to count.
I can tell you that I still hear from children that these behaviors occur in their schools despite the no bully policies. At times it is the teachers themselves who are bullying the students, although they wouldn’t see it that way.
I would recommend that all parents read this book or her follow up book, Please Don’t Laugh at Us. Ms. Blanco now goes around the country talking about the horrors of bullying. I don’t know if she mentions it (but I would assume that she does), but studies have shown that 1/3 of all bullies are themselves bullied, either by peers, or by family members.
We need to understand how to put a stop to this type of behavior. But it is so much more than just handing out discipline, suspensions, and expulsions to the bullies. It is creating a learning environment of understanding and tolerance for each other, which for the bullies has to be directly taught, modeled, and given frequent feedback on. Our prisons show us the negative reactions don’t work for most people. We have to find a better way.