Name calling or taunting among school-age children has often been viewed as “child’s play” or innocent playground banter. But in recent years teasing has become vicious and has grown from a few mean words to physical and harsh verbal abuse among children. With the advent of online social media networks, bullying has become even more powerful. As many as 160,000 students stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines bullying as a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.
Children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
Control plays a major factor for children who bully, the AACAP cites. These individuals thrive on controlling and dominating others and often are victims of bullying themselves. Bullies may also be depressed, angry or upset about events at school or at home. One out of 5 kids admits to being a bully, or doing some “Bullying.”
Those who are targeted by bullies also tend to fit a particular profile. Bullies often choose children who are passive, easily intimidated, or have few friends. Victims may also be smaller or younger, and have a harder time defending themselves.
At the tender age of four-years-old LaNiyah Bailey began to be teased and bullied about her weight. Her classmates called her “fat” and would encourage other children not to play with her. Little did her classmates know, Bailey struggles with her weight because she suffers from a medical condition that causes her to have severe constipation.
One day, Bailey decided to write a book as a therapeutic way to deal with the bullying. “Not Fat Because I Wanna Be” was released in March 2011. The book is not an autobiography, but yet tells the story of a fictional character named “Jessica” who was bullied because of her weight just like Bailey.
Now seven-years-old, Bailey, a bubbly second grader is an anti-bullying advocate. She has garnered national and local media coverage and most recently appeared on ABC 7 Chicago’s “Windy City Live.”
Bailey’s mother, LaToya White explained to the Chicago Citizen the changes she noticed when LaNiyah first began getting bullied.
“I started seeing signs of separation anxiety, signs of depression,” White said. “She would talk and she would always be crying. It was like a subtle depression and I didn’t want to see her going through that.”
Although she has become an activist, Bailey still faces criticism from classmates, according to White.
“It happens sporadically. It just seems wherever she goes it follows,” her mother said of the bullying.
Bailey has words of advice to those who bully others.
“It’s not nice to bully people because if they did it to you, how would you feel?,” she told the Chicago Citizen. “It would hurt their feelings so you shouldn’t bully other people”
White also believes parents play a critical role in helping prevent bullying.
“It starts at home,” she said. “They need to teach their kids you need to accept people for their differences no matter what.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that during the 2007-2008 school year, 25 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of bullying compared to primary and high schools.
Local Chicago-area public school districts are noticing the importance of bully awareness and education and are implementing policies to address the growing concern.
The Chicago Public Schools is also targeting within its discipline rubric. In the 2012-2013 CPS Student Code of Conduct, the district explicitly details how it plans to remedy bullying if and when the act occurs.
Tatiana Carter, Positive Behavior Support Specialist told the Chicago Citizen part of the new policy includes fostering a positive school climate so that bullying or other negative behaviors do not become an issue.
But if problems do arise, Carter says CPS is working to steer school staff away from punitive measures such as suspensions.
She added that the goal is for staff to teach behavioral expectations and reinstate school rules and policies without removing students from the classroom.
In the South Suburbs, Bloom Township High School District 206 is addressing bullying through a $1 million grant it received in 2010, according to Joseph E. Malizia Director of Teaching, Learning, and Grants.
The “High School Graduation Initiative” grant allows the district to train teachers and students how to recognize and address bullying.
The workshops are offered throughout the school year in conjunction with Aunt Martha Youth Service center.
Bullying can take many forms but it usually includes the following types of behavior:
• Physical – hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack. Damage to or taking someone else’s belongings may also constitute as physical bullying.
• Verbal – name calling, insulting, making racist, sexist or homophobic jokes, remarks or teasing, using sexually suggestive or abusive language, offensive remarks
• Indirect – spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumors, sending abusive mail, and email and text messages (cyber bullying).
• Cyber Bullying – any type of bullying that is carried out by electronic medium. There are 7 types including:
1. Text message bullying
2. Picture/video clip bullying via mobile phone cameras
3. Phone call bullying via mobile phones
4. E-mail bullying
5. Chat-room bullying
6. Bullying through instant messaging (IM)
7. Bullying via websites
For more information on LaNiyah Bailey please visit www.notfatbecauseiwannabe.com and to read more on bullying visit stopbullying.gov
Sources: www.makebeatnotbeatdowns.org, www.learn360bullying.com
By Thelma Sardin