With most children across the country making the adjustment to the 2011-2012 academic term many are facing another adjustment which parents and all those involved in educating children must be aware of. Bullying among children has reached such critical levels that parents, educators, state legislatures, health professionals and many others, including the president of the United States have sounded the alarm that enough is enough.
“Bullying is a common experience for many children and adolescents,” the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reported in March. “Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis.”
The White House estimated earlier this year that a third of the nation’s schoolchildren, about 13 million, have been subjected to bullying.
The website, www.bullyingstatistics.org, defines child bullying as “a form of intimidation or domination toward someone who is perceived as being weaker. It is a way of getting what one wants through some sort of coercion or force. It is also a way for someone to establish some sort of perceived superiority over another person.”
Besides the common physical form of bullying, the website explains, there also is verbal and emotional bullying. “And, with the rise of the Internet, there are now instances of children being bullied online through email, chat rooms and on Facebook,” according to the site.
Schools around the country have become acutely sensitive to bullies on their campuses in recent years and are implementing stricter bullying rules. Parent groups and numerous organizations offering information and solutions have sprung up in response to the rise in bullying. Even the president of the United States weighed in on the issue, not only because of the growing concern, but because of his own experience with bullying.
“With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune,” President Barack Obama said when he and First Lady Michelle Obama convened the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. “I didn’t emerge unscathed. As adults, we can lose sight of how hard it can be sometimes to be a kid. It’s easy for us to forget what it’s like to be teased or bullied, but it’s also easy to forget the natural compassion and the sense of decency that our children display each and every day when they’re given a chance.”
The following sites and are useful tools to identify and protect the children in your life from bullying and its consequences.
Georgia Department of Education School Safety Hotline: 1-877-SAY-STOP
On August 14, 1998 the Georgia Department of Education announced the arrival of Georgia’s toll-free, anonymous 1-877-SAY-STOP (1-877-729-7867) school safety hotline. 1-877-SAY-STOP is the nation’s first state-sponsored school safety hotline and is one example of the Georgia Safety and Violence Task Force’s accomplishments.
How does the hotline work?
The hotline is designed for crisis prevention. If students know of an unsafe situation in school (weapons violations, bomb threats, drugs or alcohol, bullying, etc.), they can anonymously pass on that information through the hotline, initiating immediate and appropriate action.
Depending on the urgency of the call, the hotline operator contacts the appropriate law enforcement agency and the local school system. The local school system is asked to inform the Georgia Department of Education of the outcome and subsequent actions taken in conjunction with the call.
Of course, not all hotline calls are emergencies. The hotline is also a valuable information resource for educators, administrators, parents, and anyone who may have questions regarding safety in Georgia schools.
When can I call 1-877-SAY-STOP?
1-877-SAY-STOP is a toll-free, 24-hour school safety hotline. During regular business hours, the operator at the Georgia Department of Education works the hotline. Hotline calls are transferred to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after regular business hours and on weekends and holidays.
Do I have to reveal my identity?
No. Hotline callers are not asked to reveal their identities unless they choose to do so.
What can I do to help?
- Become more active in your child’s school by introducing yourself to teachers and administrators.
- Volunteer to help by offering your expertise, time, and resources.
- Make the most of conferences and other meetings concerning your child’s education.
- Come prepared with a detailed list of questions about your child’s progress and goals.
- Focus on what your child does well and needs to learn, and find out how to help if your child is having problems.
- Spend more time with your child. Monitor your child’s behavior.
Look for signs of trouble or emotional distress such as:
- A sudden plunge or a slow, steady slide in grades and/or increased absence from school.
- Dropping old friends in favor of a new, unfamiliar crowd — especially known drug and alcohol abusers.
- Withdrawing from other people, family, and events.
- Secretive or sneaky behavior.
- Hostile, defiant behavior against authority and rules.
- Loss of memory.
- Change in personal grooming habits (little attention to bathing, dress, hair, etc.).
- Need for money resulting in requests for allowance increases, stealing cash, or selling possessions.
- Loss of appetite or noticeable weight change. Disappearances for long stretches of time.
- Red, glassy-eyed look.
- Runny, irritated nose.
- Hyperactive “up” behavior alternating with irritability.
- Possession of room and breath deodorizers, rolling papers, and other paraphernalia
All material in this article is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the con-tents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.