Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2007

Students seek law against bullies

February 15, 2007


— Taunted by bullies several years ago, Alex Tranin finally had to leave his Johnson County elementary school to attend a private academy.

"I couldn't really learn because I was thinking about how I was going to get home or survive recess," said Alex, who is now 12.

Students and experts on bullying urged lawmakers Wednesday to adopt legislation that would require school districts to implement anti-bullying plans and report bullying incidents to the state.

Several members on the House Education Committee said House Bill 2310 was too broad, but Chairman Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, said he hoped the committee could "make this a bill that is best able to achieve its goals."

SuEllen Fried, of Prairie Village, a longtime mental health advocate who has written several books on bullying, said youngsters today are confronted with much worse bullying practices than in the past, including cyberbullying, where people write demeaning comments to children over the Internet.

"It is just as serious as beating kids up in the playground," she said.

Aishlinn O'Connor and Kate O'Neill, both students at Shawnee Mission East High School, said bullying behavior also manifests itself in excluding students from certain groups or in jokes between friends that denigrate someone.

Fried and Gina McDonald, vice president of education and awareness for the Kansas Children's Service League, said victims of bullying sometimes lash out. School shootings are often the result of a student reacting to being bullied, they said.

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"For the victim who either gives up and avoids going to school, or drops out, or commits suicide, or comes back to school with a gun, this is child abuse and they believe they have no other way out," McDonald said.

Twenty-seven states have anti-bullying laws in place, and nine more are considering them.

But lobbyists for teachers and schools said the proposed measure could be expensive for schools by mandating specific requirements for districts to follow in the event of a bullying incident.

Diane Gjerstad, representing the Wichita school district, said it would be better to leave it to individual school districts to come up with policies. The Kansas National Education Association also testified against the bill.

State Rep. Marti Crow, D-Leavenworth, said she thought the definition of bullying in the bill was too broad and could include any misbehavior. She also said the bill should focus more on providing anti-bullying education.

In Lawrence, school officials have implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in four elementary schools.

Chris Squier, director of the Safe Schools-Healthy Students initiative, said the program has resulted in a 50 percent decrease in bullying at Langston Hughes and Woodlawn schools, which have had the program the longest.

"In the past, people thought being bullied was just a part of growing up, but because of school violence that has been tied to bullying, people have begun to realize that we need to do something about it," Squier said.

She said a statewide mandate would increase awareness of bullying, but anti-bullying efforts should be tailored for each school with input from students, parents and teachers.

"People can then come to an agreement that in this building this is what bullying means, and everyone will be looking for it and see it and deal with it," she said.


Steve Mechels 11 years, 4 months ago

Teachers need to put a stop to it; if they paid attention this would not be a problem, at least at school. Before any starts lamblasting me, yes I was a teacher for eight years. I did not allow bullying and stepped in anytime I saw it. Anonymous student surveys said I was tough but that they felt safe in my classroom, unlike others where the teachers weren't paying attention to what was going on.

Steve Mechels 11 years, 4 months ago

BTW, this will be another law that is not enforced. How many of you have been ticketed for driving with your windshield wipers on but not your headlights? That has been a law since July 06; if your wipers are on, your headlights must be on also.

prioress 11 years, 4 months ago

The safety and security law already requires schools to report all crimes; bullying is criminal; let the little twits talk to the cops with their parents! A new law is unnecessary.

" (b) Each board of education shall adopt a policy that includes:

  (1)   A requirement that an immediate report be made to the appropriate state or local law enforcement agency by or on behalf of any school employee who knows or has reason to believe that an act has been committed at school, on school property, or at a school supervised activity and that the act involved conduct which constitutes the commission of a felony or misdemeanor or which involves the possession, use or disposal of explosives, firearms or other weapons;"

K.S.A. 72-89b03

Rationalanimal 11 years, 4 months ago

Bullying is deplorable, there can be no doubt about it. And while this law is well intentioned, it is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, it is simply unnecessary. On the issue of bullying, school districts do not need a law as a condition precedent to dealing with kids who are bullying other kids. Districts can come up with policies to address this issues. If districts lack the creativity to come-up with such policies, and are relying on such a law as surrogate creativity, therein lies the problem. Second, how is bullying to be defined. This is a highly subjective case-by-case basis. Codifying a definition of bullying will either end up being vague or so tedious that children will lack the ability to interact freely with one another without being suspended. We will end up raising a generation of social rejects as a result. The best solution is to adopt programs that educate parents, teachers, and some case kids about how to deal with this issue. Passing a law is essentially capitulates that we lack the creativity and professional capacity to solve this problem at the level it needs to be solved. If the current folks lack the requisite creativity, we need to find folks possess it because believe it, some 3rd Grade bully is not going to read the Kansas Statutes Annotated before they make another kids life miserable.

prioress 11 years, 4 months ago

While I tend to agree on some points, if the existing law were followed, people would have to deal with the criminal actions, regardless of the child's age. Training and awareness, with staff, parents and others are also critical. Cyberbulling is an emerging issue as well, which presents school staffs and parents with additional challenges. the 10-year-old who is a serious bully will, most likely, grow into a teen or adult with similar, more lethal habits. Helping them to see the error of their ways early is, IMHO, useful.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 4 months ago

We seldom agree on topics, con1, but on this one we have some common ground and I applaud your courage as a youth in your defense of others who may not have been able to defend themselves.

When I lived in Illinois it was a bleek existence. When we lived in the suburbs, I was from the "poor" family. When we moved to the inner city, I was the "white" kid. And in both places the children were very mean and down right cruel at times. When I moved here I made friends easily and didn't have the stigma of being the "poor kid," or the "white kid" and was no longer an outsider. I didn't expereince any bullying here, but when I saw it happening to others I was going to be damned if I allowed anyone to be bullied in my presence. Several times I told the oppressor that they would have to go through me first. Yeah, I had gotten tall and I think being from Chicago gave me defacto toughness, but it made the jack-offs back off so it was all good.

Grundoon Luna 11 years, 4 months ago

I must say that I am happy that my son's school is very proactive in addressing the issue of bullying. If such programs were in place at all schools, the new law would be completely unnecessary.

If all school these programs been in place 5, 10, or more years ago Columbine, and the other schools shooting may never have happened. The common denominator in all of these cases is that the student shooter was victimized by bullying.

salad 11 years, 4 months ago

Best weapon against a bully is your mouth. Next best weapon is your fist.
Unfortuneately, if no one has taught you how to use either one, you're in for a rough ride as a kid. Teach your children well.

denak 11 years, 4 months ago

I don't think a state law is needed. Yes, bullying can be extremely detrimental and I have heard of kids committing suicide because of school bullying. But I think the fault lies with the school and as such, should be handled by the school or school district.

I don't see what good this bill would do. If a child is such a bully, the school needs to step in and inform the parent. IF the parents do not do anything bout ie (ie disciplined at home, therapy) then the school should use its suspension power.

My daughter's school just had a school wide assembly over bullying. They put on a play and then talked to the students about how to prevent bullying and what to do if bullied.

The schools actions will have a lot more impact on the bully's behavior then a state law ever will.

Mama 11 years, 4 months ago

I've said it before and I'll say it again....If everyone in the world would live their life by one simple tenet, we wouldn't need stupid laws on the books such as the one proposed. Parents just need to learn it and teach it. What's the one simple tenet? Treat others the way you want to be treated. Very simple. Too bad so many people don't get it.

roadwarrior 6 years, 7 months ago

I keep thinking the same thing. Its not at all complicated. Thanks for saying it.

dacs23 11 years, 4 months ago

Don't blame teachers, don't blame parents:. Blame God. We are designed for dominance. Ask any sociologist about the natural pecking order of male social interaction or the concept of survival of the fittest. Next we will ask for laws to make everything fair. What in life is fair? Are these by chance the same people that got dodge ball taken out of schools? Man, I loved dodge ball as a kid. Talk about bullies... ever seen a congressional debate? Sure shelter your kid so s/he becomes weak and then commits suicide because they can't deal with their mid life crisis down the road.

Shardwurm 11 years, 4 months ago

"Best weapon against a bully is your mouth. Next best weapon is your fist. Unfortuneately, if no one has taught you how to use either one, you're in for a rough ride as a kid. Teach your children well."

How moronic.

Not every child is a fighter. Not every person feels like they should beat someone else up because of the way they were treated.

Despite this, I took your advice several years ago. My son was intellectually superior to virtually everyone in his grade. He was also a pretty good athlete. However, because his peers didn't understand him they abused him. At one point they tormented him in gym class so badly that I could have (and should have) sued the school district.

I taught him to fight and he tried that. But there were some of the kids that were just too big and strong.

We talked to principals. We talked to teachers. We told him to let people know when he was being picked on. He said: "I can't do that because when I say something they just come at me harder the next time. And the teachers tell me to ignore it."

He was living in hell and we eventually moved him to another school. Despite that he continued to be picked on by people from his old school (we lived in a small town in the area and moved him to Lawrence.)

Longer story short: He was on the verge of committing suicide. Fortunately we discovered this and were able to get him help. Today he is much better but still struggles with what happened to him as a child.

He didn't tell us everything that happened to him in school. We attempted to work with the administration and I called several parents asking them to call off their children. I taught him how to stand up for himself.

None of it made a difference, and because of the mental makeup of my child he couldn't take it. The result was almost fatal. Maybe you and I could have handled what he went through...but not him. Certainly his intellect and behavior influenced how others treated him. But did he DESERVE to be abused?

There needs to be a policy in our schools. The policy should be that both parents of the bully and the victim are notified on each and every incident. There should be zero tolerance.

If you were getting shoved around at work would you take it? I don't think so. Then why should our children be subjected to it at school?

dacs23 11 years, 4 months ago

"My son was intellectually superior to virtually everyone in his grade"

A bit pretentious dont' you think.

"because of the mental makeup of my child he couldn't take it"

Make up your mind was he mentally strong or not.

salad 11 years, 4 months ago

"My son was intellectually superior to virtually everyone in his grade."

Yeah, right....if the kids so freakin' smart, how'd he manage to become the "it" guy TWICE!!!! You're the one who sounds moronic, "But did he DESERVE to be abused?" life is hard, and "deserve" has got nothin' to do with it. I stand by my first post, it's what bullies respond to.

dacs23 11 years, 4 months ago

"if the existing law were followed, people would have to deal with the criminal actions, regardless of the child's age"

Not true. A child under the age of ten can not be charged with a crime.

"the 10-year-old who is a serious bully will, most likely, grow into a teen or adult with similar, more lethal habits"

Sorry disagree again. The victims are the lethal ones as they raise the stakes when they retaliate.

salad 11 years, 4 months ago

dacs23 is correct about the victims raising the stakes. Notice how every single case of lethal school violence in the US was done by a male who was bullied and couldn't stand up for himself, then chose the coward response and brought a gun to school.

Leprechaunking13 11 years, 4 months ago

So much for the next generation of kids learning to stick up for themselves.

mrhanky 11 years, 4 months ago

Prioress is correct education is the key.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 11 years, 4 months ago

I think in an effort to build self-esteem in kids, we have instead created egotistical monsters, who don't have a sense of self worth. They have to put down others to make themselves feel superior. The whole self-esteem movement really backfired. But there were bullies when I was young, in the Dark Ages, but there just seems to be more now. Also watch kid's progamming. I never thought TV influenced kids that much until I started teaching. The other day I called down some students for using ""Jew" in a derragatory sense, and then another teacher told me they are learning it from South Park.

Cait McKnelly 11 years, 4 months ago

The current policy of the Lawrence Public Schools is a "no tolerance" policy toward violence of any kind. This INCLUDES hitting back. Children are told that the ONLY time it is condoned is if they are literally cornered and trapped and cannot run away. Self defense is NOT an acceptable excuse if there is a way out. Even pinning an attacker down and holding them so they can't hit you isn't acceptable as long as there is a place to run away to and an adult to tell.

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

What would Jesus do? OOps! wrong board ( BOE, that is) to ask! Appeasing the bullies will probably work for libs and keep the aclu off the BOE's case!

james bush 11 years, 4 months ago

When I was in school, the Benedictine nuns made us pay.....unless u were a favorite.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 4 months ago

No wonder there are bullies in schools. Look at the so-called adult responses to Shardwurm's post.

Are you all jealous that her child had above-average intellect? (Which is NOT the same as emotional strength, by the way.) The way you all swarmed around like sharks and started attacking just because Shard said the boy was smart, and was picked on because of it. Good heavens, you're all picking on him here because he's smart, and you don't even know the boy.

Evidently, the bullies at school are learning it from their parents.

prioress 11 years, 4 months ago

Evidently, the bullies at school are learning it from their parents.

Could be true; everything is learned through modeling and repetition, including how to treat a spouse, a child, or how to bully others to get your way.

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