Wednesday, April 23, 2014 8:01 AM
Published on: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
By Dr. Anita G. Naves
Bullying is an epidemic that knows no boundaries. It is a worldwide problem — not just for the victims of bullying, but for all of us.
According to the Justice Department, one of out every four children is a victim of bullying. And, at least two children are bullied every seven minutes. I would like to know how many of those children live in or attend schools in Prince George’s County. Well, let me raise my hand for my daughter.
My daughter, Amyla, is a bright, cheerful and studious sixth-grader who attends an elementary school located in Prince George’s County that currently does not have a school guidance counselor.
Perhaps, if the school had a counselor, maybe she wouldn’t have become the victim of bullying. Perhaps there would have been a trained professional who specializes in mediation and other therapeutic matters that would give some insight as to why some children choose to pick on other kids.
For several months last year my daughter was teased, harassed and constantly provoked by a group of her peers. These peers, once her friends, became angry when my daughter decided that she no longer wanted to be a part of a group of girls who often times seemed insensitive and mean spirited.
Considering my daughter has no sisters or brothers in her age group, I had to become her voice, her best friend and her advocate, while still remaining a parent.
It infuriated me to think that these students felt they had a right to torment others just because they cannot discipline their brains to respect and treat others as they would want someone to do to them.
So, I first started out by giving my daughter some coping lessons.
Secondly, I called the parent of the ring leader of the group to invite her to a mediation. The parent told me to “suck off.”
When that didn’t work, I addressed the school principal to see whether she would demand a meeting with the parents of the children. The principal seemed aloof and took the matter very lightly. There were no real repercussions for my daughter’s bullies. My observation was that the majority of schools, including principals and teachers, are inadequately trained to effectively resolve bullying.
One principal told me the reason for this lack of resolution is that there aren’t any harsh penalties for children who bully others.
I had to complete an official bullying complaint form and wait until the principal submitted it to the Prince George’s County Security Police, not knowing when they would be able to get to the school to investigate.
In the meantime, I made it my duty to visit my daughter’s classroom for several consecutive days. On the third day, I was told by the principal that I was visiting the school too much and making some of the teachers feel uncomfortable.
It was only until I threatened to legally sue the school and some of the offenders’ parents and report the matter to the news media that things started moving toward serious resolution.
My question is: Why is it that bullying is still taken lightly, especially in the public school system, when far too many children are losing their lives and in some cases committing suicide because they cannot endure the pressure?
Bullying can happen to anyone — your child, cousin, niece, nephew, stepchild, god child or grandchild. It affects us all, and we must continue to work to together to not remain silent about bullying.
Teachers and principals must do a better job at addressing the problem and cutting it off at the very beginning.
Students must be brave not to participate or side with known bullies.
Parents must get positively involved in their children’s lives and not tolerate bullying in any form.
Congress and other government bodies must find ways to make laws against bullying in schools. There must be public service announcements ads that speak against bullying — whether they are on television, on the radio, on the Internet or in print.
And finally, schools must begin to incorporate assemblies that permit life coaches and motivational speakers to share real life, raw truths to students on subjects regarding character, civility, compassion, self esteem and having respect for others.
And, what about a 24-hour hotline for victims of bullying? How about mandatory workshops for children who bully others?
It is time that we all take a stand against bullying because our silence could kill. Enough is enough.
Dr. Anita G. Naves is an author, educator and award-winning humanitarian.