Bullying in schools

A bully doesn’t have a distinct physical appearance.

The gamut of bullies can run all the way from a tall and insecure loner who’s disliked by everyone to a well-liked, blond-haired beauty.

Since bullies come in all shapes and sizes, the only effective way to recognize one is by his or her actions. Although bullying can be defined in broad terms, bullies are generally overbearing people that can be abusive. Their victims are typically smaller, weaker, younger or simply “different”.

Bullying can come in a variety of forms like verbal, physical, indirect or cyber-bullying, which includes harassment through text messaging, photos, emails, chat rooms and instant messaging.

Because bullying has become an issue that affects the community at large, there is hope that bringing awareness will help to prevent it, while teaching kids how to deal with being subjected to it and finding strength during difficult times.

According to the National Education Association, “it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.”

Even the most successful people on the planet have been subjected to bullying. The list runs from famous celebrities to world leaders such as Madonna, Lady Gaga and even President Barack Obama. Due to her talent and success at a young age, Christina Aguilera was bullied in school.
Rapper Eminem experienced bullying to the point that he would come home beaten and bruised, and his mom had to sue the Detroit Public Schools for failing to protect her son.

Former Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day is currently competing on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice for her choice charity, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which focuses a lot on anti-bullying campaigns. In an NBC interview, O’Day opened up about her personal experience with bullying and expressed the need for more awareness on the issue.

“I was a victim of bullying when I was growing up as a youth. I never fit in and I was constantly subjected to a lot of hate, a lot of criticism, getting beaten up,” said O’Day. “You don’t even want to know the things I’ve been through. I cried every day and I always wanted to feel like someone understood me. The issue of bullying in schools is large, and it’s growing every day and it’s being talked about on a larger scale more and more.”

President Obama has taken notice of the issue and held the first White House conference on bullying last year to launch stopbullying.gov, which provides information about bullying prevention. According to the White House, an estimated 13 million children are bullied each year.

Juliana Tapia is a full-time teacher at St. Juliana Falconeiri School, a private Catholic school located in Fullerton, where the issue of bullying has been brought to the attention of students.

“We have an excellent bullying program due to the school counselor who was hired two years ago,” said Tapia. “I have seen a huge change in the school on a whole … but bullying does still happen. I will always talk to the kids involved one-on-one and I typically will call parents. I have seen a huge decline due to the weekly lessons and then integrating the lesson into everything we do.”

Vanessa Machaco, a Cal State Fullerton human services major experienced bullying firsthand in elementary school.

“The way we’re treated in school affects the way we develop. It’s a difficult time just in general, and for me personally, being a victim of bullying made school more challenging because it happened during a time when I was trying to figure out who I was,” said Machaco.

Programs that prevent or reduce bullying, as well as different government subsidies, loans and grants that provide assistance with understanding the issue, are becoming more and more common. The Department of Education, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and mental health organizations are a few examples of programs that have provided funding.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a school-based program that aims to prevent or reduce bullying in elementary, middle and junior high schools and involves the staff, students, parents and community. Over 40 elementary schools have implemented the program, and it has also been modified and adopted by several middle and high schools in Orange County.

Marlene Snyder has been a part of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program for the past 13 years. She is the director of development for the United States program.

“It truly is a system’s change program,” said Snyder. “Meaning that the school decides it’s important to address bullying from now until forever. That they want to do things system-wide that are going to prevent bullying from happening. We also teach people how to intervene. So it’s really a bullying prevention and intervention program.”

Snyder said that school attendance starts to drop when students are bullied.

“They start finding all kinds of excuses not to go to school — ‘my head aches, my stomach aches’ — and they’re staying away from school because they’re fearful,” Snyder said. “Kids have lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates. For every dropout there is a financial loss in terms of loss productivity, loss in taxes, (in) their place in society. How important it is to protect kids from depression, thoughts of suicide, keeping kids away from the juvenile justice system? The importance is taking a look at all of these things.”

About Roxanne Telles