KOMU 8 viewers share opinions, stories about bullying
Many viewers who responded to a KOMU 8 News survey on bullying said educators should be more vigilant about looking for the behavior and take stronger action when they see it happening.
The following statements were made by respondents who identified themselves as women who have a bullied child:
- "Educators need to pay better attention and intervene sooner."
- "When school administration are informed, it needs to be taken seriously. There needs to be consequences and education."
- "School officials need to be on the lookout for behaviors that indicate that there is bullying going on. You can't always wait for the student being bullied to speak up because that creates it's own problems."
- "Schools need to be honest about what happens on school grounds. People need to realize bullies are likely being bullied as well. Punishments need to be more strict."
Several of the 247 respondents specifically suggested schools enact a "zero tolerance" policy for bullying, but there were critics of that approach who said it punishes the victims who stand up for themselves.
A woman who said her teenage daughter was bullied said, "When my daughter was bullied, the vice principal defended the bully, and blamed my daughter. When physical threats became an issue (on the walk home on school grounds), they said they didn't have enough staff to man the property. She ended up being jumped in the bathroom. The instigator got suspended - and so did my daughter for defending herself."
Another woman had a similar story: "My daughter was harassed in grade and middle school. In 8th grade it was unbearable. She told teachers but got no help at all. Finally it became physical. She was attacked by a group of students. She did as we told her and tried to defend herself. Due to a no tolerance rule she was arrested for fighting along with the main aggressor."
Many people who responded talked about the difficulty of identifying bullying when it happens. One man said the definition has been "softened so much" that anytime someone feels insulted, it's defined as bullying. He said "being called four-eyes" is not bullying.
Several respondents said there's a fine line between bullying and "kids being kids."
The website StopBullying.gov defines bullying as "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance."
A power imbalance involves using "physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others."
According to the website, bullying takes three main forms:
- Verbal - such as name calling, taunting, making inappropriate sexual comments and threatening to do harm
- Social - such as spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public and telling others not to make friends with someone
- Physical - such as hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, pushing, and taking or breaking someone's belongings
58 percent of respondents said either they or their child was verbally abused. 34 percent said social bullying was the problem. 27 percent said the behavior turned physical.
A full 91 percent of respondents said they have a child, friend or relative who has been bullied. 83 percent said they were bullied themselves.
A large portion of the bullying described by respondents, 85 percent, happened on school property.
But for many respondents, the solution may lie at home.
A man with a bullied child said, "Parents need to behave, use manners and be respectful to others. Children learn from those around them."
Another man, who has a friend or relative with a bullied child, said, "Parents should be held accountable for bullying. I believe that behavior starts at home."
A woman with a bullied child said, "Parents need to be sure their kids know this isn't right, don't touch other kids, don't make fun of them and recording to upload to social media is wrong!"
A man with a bullied child said, "I would say ‘practice what you preach,' as there is so much name calling, hatred and negativity in the speech and actions of too many adults. What else are our children going to do but mimic what they learn from us."
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. KOMU 8 News will feature the topic in the premiere of Town Square Thursday at noon.