More respect may equal less bullying

It’s hard to believe that the students are back in school and summer is quickly winding down. I’m sure many parents are sighing a big relief right now. Not necessarily because their little ones are back in school, but because getting them on a set schedule is usually most helpful to the entire family.

I always enjoyed school and had many friends. I still have many friends. Have you ever heard the phrase “In order to have friends, you must first be a friend”? You must cultivate each friendship and stay in touch. This is a topic for a future article.

A long time ago there was a bumper sticker on vehicles that proclaimed “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” So much truth to that statement. I have grandchildren just learning to read. It takes a lot of patience to help them. Our teachers work hard to not only educate our children, but they have many jobs throughout their workday. Henry Ford once stated, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” Henry Ford died at the age of 83, having retired a year and a half before, from his automotive empire.

So, as I contemplated a topic for this month, I wanted to write about things that affect our children as they go through their school days. When I was a youngster we really didn’t have to worry about bullying. Yes, I got teased a lot about being so tall (giraffe), wearing glasses (four eyes), being skinny and having freckles. Back then it was teasing, today it’s taken to a whole new level and becomes bullying.

The definition of a bully is (as a noun) a rough, overbearing fellow; or (as a verb) to intimidate. Bullies attack by several means, such as cyber, mental, verbal and physical. About six years ago I wrote an article on this topic. Back then, statistics for 2010 revealed 1 in 7 school students was either a bully or a victim of bullying. Today, bullying statistics in 2017 show a definite rise in reported incidents of bullying, including cyberbullying (15 percent of all bullying is cyberbullying). It is estimated that 63 percent of all bullying victims do not report it. Approximately 160,000 students stay home every day to avoid bullies. More than 1 out of every 5 (20.8 percent) students report being bullied. Bullying is a nationwide problem.

According to a large study, the following percentages of middle school students (grades 6-8) had experienced these various types of bullying: name calling (44.2 percent); teasing (43.3 percent); spreading rumors or lies (36.3 percent); pushing or shoving (32.4 percent); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2 percent); leaving out (28.5 percent); threatening (27.4 percent); stealing belongings (27.3 percent); sexual comments or gestures (23.7 percent); email or blogging (9.9 percent). Generally, peers and educators are not witnesses to bullying. Therefore, the victim lives in fear of the next occurrence. Reporting can also lead to later retaliation, so victims tend to remain silent. Other places include outside on school grounds, and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community. And of course, cyberbullying occurs on cellphones and online. I found these percentages of middle school students experiencing bullying at various places at school: classroom (29.3 percent); hallway or lockers (29.0 percent); cafetoria (23.4 percent); gym or PE class (19.5 percent); bathroom (12.2 percent); playground or recess (6.2 percent).

Although bullying may contribute to an individual’s suicidal tendencies, it may just be the tipping point of an at-risk individual. A child with suicidal tendencies may be dealing with other issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression or gender identification. Never assume that bullying is the sole cause of suicide, other emotionally charged issues must be addressed. Approximately 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others. 70.6 percent of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools while 70.4 percent of school staff have seen bullying; 62 percent witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41 percent witnessed bullying once a week or more.

When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time. In others words, bystanders who intervene on behalf of young people being bullied make a huge difference! Studies also have shown that adults, including parents, can help prevent bullying by keeping the lines of communication open, talking to their children about bullying, encouraging them to do what they love, modeling kindness and respect, and encouraging them to get help when they are involved in bullying or know others who need help. There is no federal anti-bullying law. Although 49 states have anti-bullying legislation, bullying is not illegal.

So, as I close my article this month, let me quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” Let us also respect our teachers, our parents, our fellow man in general. And if we do this more often, we may see less bullying!