What to do with the Tragedy of Bullying?

Photo credit to guardianlv.com

October is National Bullying Prevention month.  It is a time when, as a community, we should be educating our children on what bullying is and its potential consequences.  This is not merely a complicated topic for our children.  Our legal system is struggling to find the line between preventing tragedy while still holding those responsible who are at fault when the repercussions from bullying become tangible, and not overstepping the bounds of how we treat our children regarding privacy, free speech, and parents rights.

An arrest was made Tuesday in Florida of two young girls linked to the suicide death of a classmate. As reported by ABC news:

Authorities in central Florida said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death Sept. 9. But the two girls arrested were primarily the ones who bullied Rebecca, the sheriff said. They have been charged with stalking and released to their parents.

Rebecca is one of at least a dozen or so suicides in the past three years that were attributed at least in part to cyberbullying.

Legal questions remain related to whether or not the parents will be charged and the extent of any punishment if in fact the girls are found guilty of the charges.

None of this, however, brings Rebecca back to her family.  Punitive action, which has typically had little influence on this age group anyway, is on the wrong side of the timeline.  This is less a legal question and more one of education policy, parental and student education, and resources for teens experiencing bullying.  There are curriculums out there for awareness and prevention.  There are support groups, hotlines, and trained professionals who are available.  And there are, of course, repercussions for when it goes too far.  We can’t always stop children from being awful to each other, but it is our duty to prevent these tragedies from occurring with whatever resources or strategies we have available.  Find a way you can help this month and beyond with your local school, through PACER (who spearheads Bullying Prevention Month), or just with your children at home.

Battling Bullying

abcnews.com

Students nationwide headed back to school this week.  Doubtlessly, this happening resulting in much anxiety for parents and children alike.  Wonders about new teachers, different schedules and new routines had to be abundant, and for some, wonders about another kind of worry are bound to have arisen: bullying.

abcnews.com

abcnews.com

Bullying has become a major problem for students.  The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice statistics reports that 28 percent of students nationwide in grades 6–12 experienced bullying in 2011.  Bullying is a critical issue because it can lead to serious behavioral consequences like poor performance in school, depression, anxiety, and even suicide.

Lyle Cogen, an artist and educator from Merrick, N.Y., is vowing to tame this trend.  Cogen is producing a one-woman musical, Sticks & Stones, this fall to help children identify, respond to and prevent bullying behaviors.  “I’ve been working in schools for many years, witnessing things around me, listening to teachers speak about kids and the challenges that children were feeling,” said Cogen. “I started thinking about it so much, that I began developing a character study on bullies.”

Sticks & Stones catalogs different themes like how to identify changes in friendships, how to speak out when you see something, and how adults can react to these behaviors in their very own children.  Cogen points out that, “Sometimes when you are a victim of bullying, you can become a big bully yourself. I’ve seen that play out, where victimized kids turn around and show aggression toward somebody else.”

The musical ends with a discussion session where kid viewers can actively reflect on the performance.  According to Cogen, this is the most important part because it creates awareness and a springboard for discussion.  The musical will tour in Ohio, Texas, and other states this fall.