According to the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS) for 2015:
1 in 5 high school students reported having been in a physical fight one or more times in the past 12 months
1 in 5 said they had been bullied on school property, and
1 in 6 said they've been electronically bullied.
And while bullying is only one of several key factors that can affect mental health, it is heart breaking to see that:
30% of high school students reported having felt "sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row"
15% made a plan about how to attempt suicide.
Bullying has a lasting impact on both those who are bullied, and those who are doing the bullying. (Both, by the way, need intervention- both need help). Physical and mental health can be harmed, and numerous problems both in and out of school can result.
David's Law was passed this summer in Texas, and defines bullying as written, verbal, electronic or physical, and "that is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive that it creates intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment, disrupts the educational process, and infringes on the rights of students."
Bullying has a three-part definition:
(1) It is unwanted, aggressive behavior
(2) It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, and
(3) It is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.
Bullying has become a serious concern for students, parents, and educators. We must work together to strengthen our families and communities and create positive, healthy environments where students have freedom to reach their dreams and goals.
Early intervention is key to keeping hurtful words and disrespect from escalating both in quantity and "quality." Meaning, left uncontrolled, disrespect happens repeatedly and can grow to be violent. And with each escalation, the impact on the one being bullied intensifies.
True or false?
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!"
Most of us learned this familiar saying as kids. Hopefully as adults, we've recognized how untrue it is.
Words have great power- the power to both build up and to tear down. From the time our children are little, they can be taught to use their words for good and not for harm. We can set a high expectation that words are to be spoken only with respect. Even words of frustration or anger can be spoken with respect for the one to whom they are being spoken.
Respect means: To consider worthy of high regard (giving care or consideration). Every person is worthy of care and consideration because of their very nature as a human being. Each person is unique, and their differences should be respected. Really, they should be celebrated.
As we begin this year's Bullying Prevention Month, may we all take a quick self-survey of our words. Are we modeling respect, care and consideration for others? Are we correcting disrespect before it escalates? Let's discourage disrespect together, and fill our homes and schools with words that build up!
For parents: Work as a family. Use an online or "old-fashioned" dictionary and look up key words from this article: respect, disrespect, consideration, regard. Give examples of words that build up and words that tear down. Watch a favorite TV show together, and watch for examples of helpful and harmful words. Set a family policy for correcting and disciplining disrespectful words.
For schools: Teach key vocabulary words from this article: respect, disrespect, consideration, regard. Host a poster contest or writing contest (poetry is always fun!) with a topic related to respect and disrespect. Work with administration towards a "no tolerance" policy for disrespect, and define appropriate consequences for each offense.