Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Community Connections, Fall 2003
Although the tragedy at Columbine High School sent shock waves through the country and all of us asked, "How could this have happened?", bullying still exists in many schools. The problem is often ignored, minimized or denied. The end result is that the most vulnerable students - those who differ in appearance, physical ability, mental ability, social skills or emotional demeanor - are forced to endure taunts, intimidation and physical abuse on a daily basis, for years at a time.
In an interview on 20/20 in 2001, Glen Stutzky, a school violence specialist at Michigan State University warned: "Each year, one out 13 kids under the age of 19, attempts suicide, a rate that has tripled over the last 20 years. Each year, more than 2,000 of them succeeded…. . We're not even realizing the fact that bullying is a quiet little secret. It's picking off our kids one at a time. We have allowed a culture of abuse to thrive unchecked in our nation's schools and we are paying for it with the bodies of our children."
In 2001, the Kaiser Family Foundation published a survey of 1249 parents of children ages eight to 15 and also surveyed 823 students, ages eight to 13. Bullying and teasing were at the top of most children's lists of problems at school and they said that talking to parents didn't help. 43 percent of a group of students, ages eight to eleven, said that students were treated badly in school because they were different. 67 percent of an older group, ages 12 to 15, also said that students said the same thing. 74 percent of the younger group and 86 percent of the older group said children at their school get teased or bullied. 55 percent of the younger students and 68 percent of the older students said teasing and bullying were big problems at their schools. Children who are neither targets nor bullies also feel unsafe and have difficulty attending to their lessons because they fear they might be the next victims or because they empathize with their peers who are being victimized.
What happens to the bullies who are not taught that their behavior is unacceptable? Some of them will outgrow the behavior but others become adults who bully spouses and children at home because it is an expedient way to be “in charge".
What happens to the students who are repeatedly targeted by bullies? Research shows that many of them suffer from major depression and/or PTSD. The rage they feel has to go somewhere; it either turns inward and causes suicidal ideations, or it explodes. A poignant example of the explosive rage that can occur is clearly spelled out in a note left by Eric Harris, one of Columbine High School’s attackers: "Your children who have ridiculed me, who have chosen not to accept me, who have treated me like I am not worth their time, are dead.”
Center for Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) in Boulder, CO has
a model Bullying Prevention Program. For information about this and other
resources, see: http://www.colorado.edu/cspv/blueprints/model/programs/BPP.html.