Nip Bullying in the Bud
By Nora Heston Tarte
Schools and bullying go together. While bullying isn’t a new trend, it does seem to be picking up traction with the help of online platforms that allow name-calling and threats to follow children home.
A recent UCLA psychology study revealed in 2014 that more than 70 percent of kids were aware bullying was occurring at their school. Thirty percent even admitted to participating in bullying another student.
Brookside Christian School in Stockton pays tribute to Aretha Franklin, using her infamous message of respect as a platform for their stance on bullying. Treating others with respect is preached from kindergarten through high school and has resulted in little to no apparent bullying on the school’s campus, according to Principal Dennis Gibson.
“We go over examples of being respectful and what generates disrespect,” he explains of weekly assemblies.
The occasional hurtful word may be heard on campus and staff is trained to intervene and treat these instances as moments of disrespect. When these instances do arise, though Gibson says it is not common, there are many avenues available to staff and students. Student counseling, a parent conference, suspension, behavior probation and expulsion are all possible interventions, according to Gibson, however, to date there has not been a need for any action beyond a parent conference, he says.
Cyber bullying adds a new facet. A staggering 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys admitted to experiencing bullying online or at school. Mean, hurtful comments and rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying, with cell phones the most common medium.
“We continue to see an increase in cyber bullying,” says Kathy Smith, Principal at Saint Mary’s High School in Stockton. “Technology now gives a bully a whole new platform for their actions. The old ‘sticks and stones’ saying is not true– both real-world and online harassment can have serious emotional consequences.”
Starting with students’ freshman year, St. Mary’s offers a program in which a teacher speaks to students about treating others with dignity and respect. “An important component the teachers speak to is the role of the bystander and how they can make a difference,” Smith explains. “During part two of this program a lawyer from the district attorney’s office speaks on the consequences of bullying from a legal point of view.”
In addition to staff trained to intervene, schools employ counselors that are available to meet with students who are being bullied as well as those who are behind the bullying.
Presentation Parish Preschool in Stockton houses children ages 3-5. While bullying looks different at this age, there are still opportunities for children to get their feelings hurt or feel ousted by their peers.
Mary Lou Deutsch, the school’s Director, cites pushing and exclusion as examples. Aggressors are asked to do something nice for students they hurt physically or emotionally, such as draw them a picture or share toys. Asking children to role-play or imagine how they would feel were the tables turned is one intervention staff uses often. “At this age just getting them to talk it through, then redirecting, works best for us,” Deutsch says.
Kids and parents are encouraged to get involved, be observant, and make a difference. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’, 57 percent of the time bullying stops within ten seconds of intervention.
For More Information/ To Schedule a Visit, or Enroll:
Brookside Christian School
Multiple Stockton Campuses
Saint Mary’s High School
5648 N. El Dorado St., Stockton
Presentation Parish Preschool
6715 Leesburg Pl., Stockton