The Plague of Bullying

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The U.S. Department of Education held the first summit on school bullying this week. It comes in the wake of several high profile suicides linked to bullying, including two children in Georgia.   Education Secretary Arne Duncan called bullying in schools across the country “a plague.”   The Christian Science Monitor provides these alarming statistics:

  • Nearly 1 out of 3 students in middle and high school said they had been bullied in 2007.
  • 1 out of 9 high schoolers – 2.8 million students – said they had been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on during the last school year.
  • 900,000 high schoolers reported being cyberbullied in 2007.
  • One recent study found that when young people victimized by moderate-to-severe bullying reported the incidents, the situation improved just a third of the time.  For 29 percent of students, it got worse.

Duncan says some bullying of children is sexist, homophobic and racist, and may be violations of harassment laws.  The federal government plans to enforce civil rights violations and will issue policy guidelines to schools about their responsibilities, according to Education Week.

One challenge facing schools is the need for a clear definition of bullying and other aggressive behavior in schools.   The Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying this way:

  • Attack or intimidation with intent to cause fear, distress or harm that is either physical, verbal or psychological.
  • Real or perceived imbalance of power between bully and victim
  • Repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over time.

Politics Daily reports that children who are bullied are more likely to smoke, drink, and cut classes.

Under Georgia’s new anti-bullying law, schools must notify parents when their child has been involved in a school bullying incident.  It also requires schools to come up with bullying policies and procedures for dealing with incidents.

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