Facing down a bully was once thought to be a nearly harmless, "kids will be kids" right of passage -- no more.
Bullying, whether a student is the target or the victim, has now been linked to school shootings, student delinquency and drop-out, patterns of violence and abuse that carry on to the workplace, parenting and marriage -- even teen suicide.
According to Sue Tucker, community outreach director at Summit County Domestic Relations Court, bullying behavior is at its zenith among middle school age kids.
Students can be targeted for any number of things. "Weight, height, grades, dress, what group a student is in, what group a student is excluded from -- anything that is a perceived difference," said Tucker. "The big thing they go after is whether someone is perceived as gay. There's this sanction our society gives for someone who is gay or someone who is overweight. Kids say vicious things -- because they sometimes think that anything that is not physical is not abuse. They also see people on reality shows, and maybe even other adults they know, harassing others."
Tucker said that "entitlement and an aggressive approach for life" leads to abusive behavior in schools. She said it is important that students who find themselves bullied know that the insults hurled at them are not valid. "There's nothing wrong with you," she tells them. "Nothing about you can make somebody do something aggressive to you."
A version of the No Bullies No Victims program was originally developed for the Summit County Courts. The program includes a student assembly, a seminar for teachers, and a meeting for parents of the Copley-Fairlawn Schools at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 11) at .
Copley Middle School Vice Principal Beverly Parker said that he always receives more reports of bullying after Tucker speaks."I'm glad that more people are aware, even if what they report isn't always bullying," Parker said, "because those actions have consequences too.
"I tell people that if someone tells their child, 'I don't like your shoes, they're ugly,' that's not bullying."
Targeted, repeated abusive behavior, is bullying, Parker said, whether the behaviour is on-line, the remarks are in person or the abuse is physical, emotional or sexual. "We know that there’s no community exempt from bullying, and that some kid bullies grow up and become adult bullies," Parker said. "Our goal is to minimize this as much as we can."
If you can't make the meeting, here are a few tips suggested by Tucker and Parker
Signs your child may be a target of bullying
- Your child loses money you give them (maybe someone is taking it from him or her).
- A child suddenly does not want to ride the bus or takes different routes walking to and from school.
- A child who is usually interested in school feigns illness or skips classes.
Social media concerns
- Demand passwords on your child's cell phone, computer and social media accounts.
- Make sure your computer is located in a public area of the house so that you can see what your child is doing on the computer.
- Learn how to check for computer and cell phone history. Frequently check your child's phone and computer for images and text messages.
If you witness bullying or are the target of bullying
- Don't leave the person alone to be harassed.
- If you're bullied or in a group where someone is bullied, tell the aggressor to stop.
- Ask for help.
If your are a bully or using computers or social media to send inappropriate images or messages
- Know that some abusive behavior can get your suspended from school, even arrested.
- Be careful about what you post on-line because it exists forever and may be around to embarrass you years later at a job interview or keep your from being admitted to a college of your choice.