Who hasn’t been part of, or witness to, an ugly incident on the playground? You know the scene. Recess is going well, everyone is having great fun, then a disagreement ensues, over who knows what. Before you know it, there’s a torrent of threatening words, a flurry of shoves and finally a knee to the gut or a punch in the face.
It can be a rough place, the playground.
If only that were the sum of the unpleasantness our kids had to endure at school.
The truth is, for a lot of school children, the bloody nose is a small matter. The much deeper pain comes from a kind of constant harassment that can push them into isolation, depression and even suicide.
Bullying takes them there, into that dark place that makes a child feel helpless and vulnerable.
The good thing is, the nation is beginning to understand that bullying can no longer simply be dismissed as a way of life, as something that children do and have to go through. Now, there is an understanding that it can and should be combated.
Over the next few days, JJIE and the Southern Education Desk (SED) will be examining the problem of bullying. You will be able to read the stories on both websites, but you will also be able to listen to them thanks to our partnership with the SED.
The SED is a consortium of public radio stations clustered in the Southeast with a collective journalistic mission to explore “the challenges and opportunities confronting education” in the South.
Bullying is, indeed, a challenge. But in the struggle to understand and curtail it, there is also opportunity. In our effort to make our schools a safer, more tolerant, more understanding place we are making our society safer, more tolerant and more understanding.
In this series, the focus is on Georgia. We do that not only because JJIE and SED are located here, but also because the state has recently put some punch in its anti-bully law, broadening it to include the younger and, therefore, often the more at-risk of the school population.
One of those vulnerable kids was 11-year-old Jaheen Herrera, who took his life in 2009 after a long period of being harassed at his school in suburban Atlanta. It was a staggering tragedy that sparked lawmakers in Georgia to implement a stronger anti-bully law.
Georgia, then, has made some progress in protecting its school children, but there’s still a lone way to go. And that journey is complicated, emotional and sometimes difficult.
Beginning tomorrow, JJIE’s Chandra Thomas and SED’s Maura Walz, however, bring clarity to this issue with compelling stories of parents, children and administrators grappling with it every day.
We hope you will take a few minutes to read and listen to what they have to say.