School Bullying: A Matter of Life and Death

September 1, 2016 2:01 pm Last Updated: September 1, 2016 2:01 pm

As the 2016–2017 school year begins, I am reminded of many tragic suicides of students, including 15-year-old Phoebe Prince from South Hadley High School in Massachusetts.

Phoebe was mercilessly bullied for months before taking her own life, a reminder to all that bullying can have deadly consequences.

Bullying is cruel, destructive, and as tragically realized with Phoebe Prince, it can be lethal.

The tragedy of Phoebe must not be in vain, but serve as a clarion call to educators, parents, students, and law enforcement to intensify bullying awareness and prevention.

Aside from Phoebe, other youngsters have committed suicide as a result of the torment caused by bullying, including the following:

Jessica Logan—18-year-old Sycamore High School senior who sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend. According to a published report, the photo was sent to hundreds of teenagers in at least seven Cincinnati-area high schools after the couple broke up. Jessica hanged herself after attending the funeral of another boy who had committed suicide.

Jon Carmichael Loflin—13-year-old from Loflin Middle School in 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-year-old from Mentor High School in 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.” Tragically, Eric did just that.

Megan Meir—13-year-old from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Dardienne Prairie, Missouri. Megan Meir committed suicide by hanging herself, three weeks before her 14th birthday. The suicide was attributed to a cyber-bullying hoax.

Bullying: A Communal Failure

The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center estimates that nearly 30 percent of American youth are either a bully or a target of bullying.

Bullying takes place not only in face-to-face encounters, but through cell phones, social media websites, and other online methods that are contributing to an alarming number of cyberbullying cases leading to suicide.

(NoBullying.com)
(NoBullying.com)

All elements of the community; including educators, counselors, parents, students, law enforcement, and community leaders, must rise to the occasion and with dedicate themselves with full forceto bullying awareness and prevention initiatives.

For educators and counselors, who have a uniquely critical role with bullying awareness and prevention, I would encourage their enhanced understanding and implementing of bullying awareness and prevention initiatives.

This enhanced understanding is also critical for education leadership, in order for to be better able to cultivate a bullying prevention culture in classrooms, schools, and districts.

Once excellent source to begin with is the StopBullying.gov website, which includes the following tips for educators:

• Learn what bullying is and what it is not. Many behaviors that look like bullying may be just as serious, but may require different response strategies. You can also learn about what to look for as warning signs that some of your students might be involved in bullying and who might be at more risk for being involved. Know about special considerations for specific groups.
• Establish a safe school climate. Often the first step to preventing bullying is making sure the students, teachers, and administrators alike are educated about bullying. Tools like the online videos School Bus Drivers Training and Classroom Teacher Training can help. For kids, tools like these webisodes can help them learn about bullying.
• Learn how to engage parents and youth in the building a positive school climate. Learning how to talk about bullying with youth is a critical step.
• Know about your obligations under your state’s anti-bullying law. Learn also about federal laws that require schools to address harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disabilities. Work to establish rules and policies to help let the entire school community know the expectations around bullying and procedures for reporting and investigating when something happens.
• Assess bullying in your school and understand how your school compares to national rates of bullying.
• Respond when bullying happens. Learn how to stop it on the spot, find out what happened, and support all students involved.
• Avoid misdirections in bullying prevention and response strategies.
• Utilize free Federal and Non-Federal Resources on bullying.

The Preventive System of Education

Finally, educators must familiarize themselves with the preventive system of education.

In my presentations on school violence prevention throughout the nation, as well as in numerous published works, I emphasize the importance of implementing this pedagogical system which includes the following:

• 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 in behavior are motivated
• Speedy measured intervention in response to warning signs takes place due to vigilance and awareness
• Educators earn the admiration of youth
• Discipline can be as effective as an expression of disappointment or a reproachful look because there is loyalty from the young people to the educator who cares for them

Final Reflections

In essence, the preventive system of education is a natural complement to character education which is a matter of the heart from an educator who truly cares.

Character education and bullying prevention are inseparable and must be inspired by America’s educators.

This culture in American schools will only be authentic and bring results if the students know that educators are sincerely concerned for them.

America’s youth must experience this genuine care, concern, and compassion from their teachers.

If the students experience a caring community, they will be inspired to attain great heights of character, and deficiencies of character, including bullying, will be prevented.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com

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