Kudos to Jennifer O'Brien and to her editors for allowing her the time to do the research, contact the sources and do the interviews. In a busy newsroom, this is any reporter's largest challenge-- to be assigned the story (whether editor-generated or reporter-initiated) and more importantly, be given enough time to give it justice. It's a great example of how a newsroom and a journalists takes an immediate-impact article (the recent death of a high school student) and comes back to it after taking a breath and keeps asking questions.
I think it hits all the right notes I was trying to sound myself last week when I posted on Elizabeth Witmer's resolution for a November anti-bullying awareness week. It correctly points out that while schools and their staff members cannot be excused from their role in observing, reporting and enforcing meaningful consequences for the bullying that continues to occur within their domain, crapping on the school system won't bring the panacea families of bullied children are so desperately looking for. I contrast O'Brien's piece with a full-pager in the Toronto Sun today by Michelle Mandel on a 13-year-old being kept home from school by her parents because of repeated bullying.
From the LFPress piece:
You can find a parent in almost every Canadian city - many, in this one - who blame school boards for allowing bullying to continue, blame teachers for turning a blind eye. The London Free Press receives calls regularly from parents who say their kids are being bullied and the board isn't helping. Many applaud Ontario's just-imposed requirement that any school staffer or volunteer report bullying behaviour to the principal, while others question why that wasn't required in the first place.Coloroso is eminently quotable and always finds the exact place to stand on when it comes to the issue of bullying. Her landmark text was the first to find headlines across media to educate on the concept of the triangular relationship that always exists in bullying. I would take every one of her quotes and scream them from a mountaintop if I could.
Other social ills - smoking and drunk driving, for example - have lost some of their harsh edges from years of public awareness campaigns, many of them focused on school-age kids. But after a generation of similar treatment, bullying remains such a persistent problem that Ontario, for example, recently had to beef up its legislation meant to help tackle the problem.
While experts point to a variety of factors, and note school boards aren't off the hook, many say the wider solution needs to start at home.
With the mean behaviour continuing, even growing through Internet technology such as social networking sites that leave victims vulnerable online, 24-7, even in their own homes, anti-violence researchers across the board say it's time parents, themselves, addressed what's become a national in-your-face culture that supports bullying.
"Parents want the schools to handle bullying. But how do you handle treating hired help? How do you handle it at a family gathering, when someone makes a racist or a sexist joke? If you say something, you've taught your children to stand up and speak out when something isn't right," said Barbara Coloroso, a best-selling U.S. author and anti-bullying consultant.
See for yourself:
"We've come a long way, where kids and schools are recognizing this is not a part of growing up, not normal and necessary. However, we are dealing in a culture where, on one hand, we say be kind and loving to others, and then, here are our TV shows that kids watch. . . where they learn to laugh at somebody else's pain," said Coloroso, who pointed out reality TV shows and aggressive celebrity gossip programs are contributing factors.So, there is no easy answer. There is increasing realization that ending bullying requires cultural change at a level that goes far beyond the walls of a school or the employees in a school system. We live in a culture of mean, where those who bully get ahead and are often rewarded for their actions. Until society is prepared to realize that, we'll never do justice to tackling the problem.
"Kids are swimming in a culture of mean."
Coloroso firmly believes school staff and all other adults must hold bullies accountable. That includes those who join in or support the behaviour, through laughter or comments on Facebook.
Bullies, she said, should never get off with just a warning.
"Bullying is never a (simple) mistake," she said.
She said schools need to enforce what she calls the three Ps: strong anti-bullying policies, strong procedures in place and strong programs in place.