Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation

If you saw the recent footage of a father storming a school bus to confront students he claims have been bullying his daughter then you have been made aware of just one of the many horrifying aspects of bullying.

As I have written in the past, the act of bullying is no longer confined to the gravel filled play grounds and hallways of school houses. The act of bullying has moved into cyber space or in another more popular term, it has gone viral. What are parents to do? Where can they turn for support when their children are being bullied? These questions and thousands more like them have parents and families struggling to find ways to protect their children from students who prey on them daily.

The action of that irate father is extreme and undoubtedly represents a fringe form of parent behavior. However, whatever it represented, his behavior captured and displayed a level of anxiety many parents feel as it relates to their children being bullied, harassed and intimidated. When one speaks with parents of children who have been subjected to bullying, it is apparent many families are more than upset they are frighten. Parents I have spoken with have asked why their children are are not protected on playgrounds, school houses and buses, especially when there is adult supervision. My response is simply, I have no idea how excessive and dangerous forms of bullying can take place during adult supervision, as later revealed in a video taped released about the father’s daughter. The video clip shows students throwing items at the young lady. It was reported that one item was a condom. It has been alleged that several of the young men on the bus were seen placing the condom on her head, while others pulled her ears. These unspeakable forms of mistreatment (bullying) were occurring on the bus in the presence of a paid school bus driver. I doubt the driver reported the behavior to school officials. If this is the case and perhaps the norm, I plainly see why parents are frighten.

During my research on bullying, harassment and intimidation in the state Maryland, I came across some startling data. According to the Maryland’s Model Policy To Address Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation released in 2009, the number of student suspensions/expulsions in 2007-2008 were 118,834. A look at the number shows that nearly 4,000 of those suspensions/expulsions were for bullying, harassment or intimidation of students. The report also posited that more than 24 percent of Maryland school districts reported that bullying was a daily or weekly problem. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of student bullying and student sexual harassment of other students.

What can parents of bullying victims do and what should they know? First, it is important that parents of Prince George's County Public Schools understand the definition of bullying, harassment, and intimidation are anti-social behaviors that are conducted with the intent to cause harm and are characterized by an imbalance of power.

Bullying, harassment, and intimidation is intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct, or an intentional electronic communication, that creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with a student’s physical or psychological well-being and is motivated by an actual or a perceived personal characteristic including race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socio-economic status, familial status, or physical or mental ability or disability or is threatening or seriously intimidating; and, occurs on school property, at a school activity or event, or on a school bus; or, substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a school. Who should a parent contact regarding as bullying? Dr. Diane Powell, Director Student Services, 301.567.5702.

Next Step: An official from Maryland State Department of Education will be on an upcoming Parent Talk

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1 comment:

  1. In this case the father carried out what most of us as fathers would have probably wanted to do out of extreme frustration but then decided to back off for the sake of better judgment. The fault in this case falls clearly on the cowardly bus driver who turned a blind eye by failing to stand up for what was right. He should be disciplined, if not fired.

    Clay Boggess


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