Monday, April 05, 2010

School Bullying Awareness and Prevention: A Matter of Life and Death

The recent suicide of fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince from South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, who was mercilessly bullied for months, reminds us that bullying can have deadly consequences. It is not an acceptable rite of passage for American youth, but it is cruel, destructive and as tragically realized in this student's story, it can be lethal.

Aside from the tragedy of Phoebe's death, which has made national news and will hopefully serve as a clarion call to educators, parents, students and law enforcement to intensify bullying awareness and prevention, other youngsters have also lost their lives, including:

Jon Carmichael Loflin, 13 years old
Loflin Middle School
Joshua, Texas

As an eighth grader, Jon deserved to be excited about his upcoming high school days. Instead, acts of bullying by students who tormented him for being short led to his suicide.

Eric Mohat, 17 years old
Mentor High School
Mentor, Ohio

The excruciating bullying was so explicit that a bully in class dared him, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will ever miss you," and Eric tragically did just that.

Parents have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against school administrators and a teacher. They claim bullying resulted in the deaths of 3 other students in Eric's class in 2007 which according to a published report, has been confirmed by officials at the school.

Megan Meir, 13 years old
Immaculate Conception Catholic School
Dardienne Prairie, Missouri

Three weeks before her 14th birthday, Megan Meir committed suicide by hanging herself. The suicide was attributed to a cyber-bullying hoax through the MySpace social networking site. An investigation led to the mother of a friend being indicted on the matter, although she was subsequently acquitted.
In my opinion, aside from the bullies who must be held accountable, bullying is a failure of the entire community and all elements of the community, including educators, counselors, parents, students, law enforcement and community leaders, must rise to the occasion and with full force dedication to bullying awareness and prevention initiatives.

For educators and counselors, who have a uniquely critical role with bullying awareness and prevention, I would encourage their leadership through the participation in a five day facilitated event by the U.S. Department of Education. It is a web based program designed to enhance an understanding of bullying among people. This program will also provide information needed to create or refine the school's bullying prevention plan and it provides an opportunity for the following:

  • Review the meaning of bullying and the extent of the problem for students and schools
  • Learn about the three main roles that students can play with respect to bullying, as well as the short- and long-term consequences associated with bullying
  • Examine a range of bullying prevention strategies, including educational campaigns, anti-bullying legislation and policies, and bullying prevention programs
  • Explore the need for a comprehensive approach to the prevention of bullying and identify the components of an evidence-based bullying prevention plan
  • Assess the status of your school's bullying prevention plan and explore additional resources that can further inform your bullying prevention efforts

Finally, educators would do well with familiarizing themselves with the preventive system of education. In my presentations on school violence prevention throughout the nation, I emphasize the elements of this pedagogical system which emphasizes:

  • Educators are admired in their dedication to the youth entrusted to their care
  • Educators are respected as individuals with character
  • Character is the edifice of the preventive system
  • Vigilance is exercised to prevent inappropriate behavior
  • Improvements with behavior are motivated
  • Speedy intervention to warning signs take place due to vigilance and awareness
  • Education earns the admiration of youth
  • Discipline can be as effective as an expression of disappointment or a reproachful look

In essence, this system of education is a natural compliment to Character Education as a matter of the heart. It can only be developed if the students know you care. They must experience your concern. If they know that you care, they will be inspired to attain great heights of character and achievement and deficiencies of character such as bullying will be prevented.


Exploring the Nature and Prevention of Bullying
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