By Judy Cromartie
School Liaison Officer
Mayport Elementary hosted their Mid-Year Stakeholders' meeting on Tuesday, February 11th in the school's media center. Parents, community representatives, faculty, and administration were present. After a report by Principal Yvonne DiMattia on the school's academic progress, Melissa Hammond, school counselor, and Susan Schanen, Military Family Life Counselor presented the program "Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain."
This PowerPoint was followed by a group discussion of ways to manage bullying and to resolve conflicts. Discussion points included the following:
What to do when older sibling bullies you.
â€¢Use self-defense (student).
â€¢Confront the bully.
â€¢Learn conflict resolution strategies practice at home/at school.
â€¢Take steps to resolve conflict.
â€¢Use "I need" statements instead of "Youâ€¦" statements.
Summary: Learn the skill of positive, productive communication.
What to do if there is a threat of more hurt if the bullied person tells.
â€¢Tell an adult in front of the bully; make it transparent.
This program was a response to concerns about bullying - at school and in the neighborhood. You also read about it in the national media and see it reported on television. You probably remember some bullying that took place at some time during your school days. You may even have experienced some level of bullying or maybe a friend did. As an adult you may have experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace.
Bullying is an all-too-common human activity that has existed since the beginning of recorded history and is present in most cultures. It is enacted by both males and females. Research suggests that somewhere between 30 percent and 60 percent of American schoolchildren report being bullied.
Bullying is about power. One psychologist is quoted as saying, "It's all about big on little, many on few, smart on less smart, older on younger." At some point you may have been the smaller one, the younger one, or the individual in the office with the least experience on the job. Whether it happened to you during school or on the job, you had your interests and feelings unfairly damaged by someone more powerful than you.
And this power can take different forms. In terms of school, Florida law defines bullying as "systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious, or racial harassment, public humiliation, or destruction of property."
To be officially identified as bulling, the mistreatment must
â€¢be hurtful (physical or psychological),
â€¢occur more than once, and
â€¢be a power imbalance.
Indirect bullying behaviors include the following:
â€¢destroying and manipulating relationships,
â€¢destroying status within a peer group,
â€¢humiliating and embarrassing,
â€¢gossiping, spreading nasty and malicious rumors and lies about someone, and/or
â€¢creating hurtful graffiti.
Harassment is "any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture; use of data or computer software; or written, verbal or physical conduct directed against a student that places the student in reasonable fear of harm to his person or damage to his property; has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school."
All parents of school-age children should know the law. Florida Statute 1006.147, "The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act," prohibits bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a Florida public K - 12 educational institution. This law requires that each school district in Florida adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a public K - 12 school.
The Duval County School Board has adopted an anti-bullying policy to address bullying in the district. If your child tells you he has been bullied, the incident should be reported to the school principal or another trusted adult. This report can be done anonymously. Call the Bullying Hotline at (904) 390-HELP. An investigation will be conducted at the school level by the principal or his/her designee. Consequences will be in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct. If necessary, individuals involved will be referred for appropriate services.
Now that you know the law, consider the following tips to deter and diminish bullying at your child's school:
â€¢Communicate to the school's designated administrator your concerns about bullying, such as issues with supervision and monitoring of students.
â€¢Help your children build a social safety network, and encourage them to travel via the buddy system.
â€¢Visit Florida's statewide anti-bullying campaign website at www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov to find ideas to prevent bullying to share with your children.
What about your children? Are they being bullied? Possible warning signs include the following:
â€¢has torn, damaged, or missing belongings,
â€¢has unexplained cuts or bruises,
â€¢frequently makes up excuses to avoid attending school,
â€¢begins to do poorly in school,
â€¢complains of headaches, stomachaches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, or bad dreams, and/or
â€¢suffers from low self-esteem.
If you recognize these symptoms in your child, trying talking to him about what is happening at school. If your child will not share the problem with you, call your child's school counselor and ask if he/she will talk to your child about your concerns. Sometimes children will open up to a trusted adult before they will share with a parent. It is vital that you work with the teacher or school officials to find a solution.
For more information:
The "Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act" is a memorial to Jeffrey Johnston, son of Debbie and Robert Johnston. Jeffrey's story can now be found, with other "bullycide" stories, in the book, "Bullycide in America: Moms speak out about the bullying/suicide connection". The book can be ordered at www.bullycide.org.
Available in schools:
Pay It Forward (HS Character Education Library)
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Sarah and the Naked Truth (MS Character Education Library)
Stand Tall Molly Lou Mellon (ES Character Education Library)
2001 G.P. Putnam and Sons
Judy Cromartie is the School Liaison Officer for NS Mayport. If you have questions about this article or concerns about an educational issue impacting your child, she can be reached via email at Judith.email@example.com or by phone at (904) 270-6289 X1305 [office] or (904) 993-5860 [cell]. Or you can schedule a meeting with her in her office in Building One.