Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bullying and Family Violence May Be Linked But Let’s Not Lose Sight of the Act Itself


Michael A. Robinson, Ed.D.

The affects of bullying are harmful to the victim. Research has shown that victims of bullying have life-time scars related to their bullying experiences. Now a recently released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which was developed in partnership with Massachusetts Department of Public Health suggest children who are bullied and those that commit acts of bullying are very likely to live in a home where violence is prevalent. The study examined middle school and high school students throughout the state of Massachusetts. Their results revealed that acts of violence in the home of a student bullied and that of the person committing the bullying occurred more often than in homes where bullying is not evident. The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) which outlined the expanding research on the link between family violence and bullying, clearly suggest schools have to involve parents and families more in the development of positive school cultures.

While the report sheds additional light on the issue of bullying, I am concerned! I am very concerned that the report will simply serve as another means by which to persecute the victims of bullying. It remains imperative for school officials, teachers, community leaders, parents and all significant adults and role models in the lives of children not to lose focus on the act of bullying. However, the real issue facing schools, students, families, and communities is simply the acts of bullying. More specifically, the acts of bullying that result in the death of students. School officials and others should never feel comfortable in assuming the behavior of the victim or the student conducting the bullying is related to violence in the home. The focus should be on the act and complying with their public procedures and policies. I cannot stress the importance of focusing on the behavior and not assuming the cause. A lesson can be learned from the death of a young man who committed suicide at Rutgers University after his roommate placed a video of him having a sexual relationship with another man. The actions of the bully and the results of the act, a suicide are far more important than an attempt to explain the factors that may or may not lead to an affinity for bullying on behalf of each of the young men.

The CDC's study offers one of what are multiple lenses by which bullying manifest. The facts are that a large portion of bullying is not physical, but highly mental. Cyber bullying is as demoralizing as traditional playground bullying, but it occurs without the physical connection. Relational bullying designed to ostracized is typically practiced by girls does not involve a physical interaction, but yet its affects can be devastating. The victims of relational bullying have fatally injured themselves.

Exploring the link between bullying and home violence is a legitimate study, but so is the link between bullying and school culture, bullying and peer pressure, bullying and the number of hours of television watching, bullying and teacher supervision, bullying and race, bullying and gender, bullying and socioeconomic status and bullying and adult encouragement. Simply stated bullying is an issue and schools, homes, families, friends, civic leaders and community stakeholders have to take a stance to prevent it.

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