Harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) legislation revolves around preventing, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents that occur on school grounds and off school grounds under specified circumstances. Laws were adopted, in part, in response research on the incidence, prevalence and effects of HIB that has emerged since the adoption of the original HIB law in 2002. Some of the main states that specifically define HIB in their legislation include New Jersey and Washington.
While controversy exists whether such HIB laws and legislation actually reduce the number of incidents or improve things like school climate and safety, the laws are here to stay and its important to understand their implications. It is becoming an important reality that schools must follow such laws or face potential legal consequences. At the very least, HIB laws encourage schools to establish, implement, and assess bullying prevention programs and approaches designed to create school-wide conditions to prevent and address HIB.
Students are bullied for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to race, religion, popularity, intelligence, vulnerability, isolation, physical characteristics, economic circumstances, disabilities and success.
Some people argue that changing behaviors and appearances to mitigate bullying is the answer in reducing incidents; however the real answer is identifying, reporting and changing the behavior of the bully. Actions need to have consequences and without reporting, bullying situations tend to get worse; they do not magically get better without intervention.
Although often over looked, successful students get targeted for bullying frequently and even when reported, school administrators tend to dismiss these incidents due to the perception that successful students can’t be bullied… because they are successful which somehow negates the bullying in the minds of these administrators. Nevertheless, it does happen and it happens far more than it is reported. There is a stigma attached to the successful students and it is that those students do not need help and they are expected to deal with the bullying on their own. This stereotyping by school administrations needs to be addressed and corrected. Often, the results of whom are being targeted and bullied are surprising to school officials.
High school locker room bullying has been a “tradition” for many, many years and is usually referred to as hazing which has also led to many tragedies on college campuses across the country in the fraternity and sorority systems. Whether bullying or hazing takes place in high school or at college it is totally unacceptable and has ruined many lives.
According to one recent study three in five students in college experience some form of hazing and an alarming forty seven percent of students in high school sports experience bullying before entering college. Student athletes who receive hazing often suffer physical injuries hampering their ability to perform. These incidents are often mentally and emotionally harmful as well. The challenge goes beyond athletic teams and frat houses, fifty five percent of students involved in performing arts have experienced bullying or hazing so the challenge isn’t an isolated one.
Because school is a common place for bullying, schools may have a variety of tactics for handling bullying among their students. Some schools may encourage students to speak up if they see bullying happening or are experiencing bullying while others may tell students to stay out of it and not get involved. Either way, it’s important for parents to work with their child’s school to effectively combat bullying.
If parents reach out to the school, or vise versa, open communication regarding bullying incidents is crucial. The parents of all children involved, those being bullied and those doing the bullying, should meet and openly discuss what is going on. All in all, talking about bullying, why it’s occurring, and how to stop it can go a long way. School staff should act quickly if they notice bullying occurring. Better yet, they should teach their students not to bully and what to do if they are being picked on. Seminars, presentations, and even talking with students individually about the negative impacts of bullying can go a long way.
There are programs, and even certain types of technology, schools can invest in to catch and prevent bullying. Bullying impacts children severely. From physical pain to emotional trauma, it’s important to help those who have experienced bullying. So whether you’re a parent, a student, or a school staff member, always do your best to look for warning signs of bullying and take action quickly.