Monday, March 15, 2010

G&M goes a little deeper on bullying and schools

This tripped across the e-mail alerts this AM as I was getting ready for work. I think it nicely reinforces some of the points I've been trying to make here about a school's role in identifying and preventing bullying from becoming a bigger challenge than it should be. Given the platform of the Globe and Mail should help make the point among many who likely never could have believed the bullies were among their own. The educators and parents quoted here show the complexity of tackling these behaviours when (or if, even) they're first noticed. From the piece, with the ellipses indicating where I've skipped some paragraphs:
The evidence suggests that reacting strongly to bullying when kids are still kids is essential to stopping the behaviour before it progresses from “I don’t want to play with you,” to public humiliation in high school.
Such a response can possibly avoid situations like that in St. Thomas, Ont., where a 13-year-old girl was charged with criminal harassment this month after allegations of bullying at her elementary school. And it can prevent the pain suffered by the victims, who, too often, struggle with depression and anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. But educators and experts says that’s not always a parent’s first reaction when the call comes. More often, it is denial, or, especially in the early years, dismissal.
“Most kids have engaged in some kind of bullying behaviour in elementary school,” says Wendy Craig, a Queen’s University psychologist who studies the issue. According to one study involving the early grades, only 36 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys said they’d had no involvement in bullying over the course of the school year.
“The message for teachers and parents is to identify them early,” Dr. Craig says. “If you get a call twice in the school year, you need to be vigilant.”
And yet, says Cindi Seddon, a principal in Coquitlam, B.C., most parents don’t react like the Marins. Ms. Seddon says she’s had to hang up the phone on abusive parents or leave the room when meetings turned hostile – often with their child watching mom or dad’s own bullying behaviour. (my bold emphasis) “Parents are incredibly upset,” she says, when they learn their child is being accused of bullying. They don’t always agree with the school’s interpretation of events.
“They are the kids who are nice to their parents, and have good social skills with their teachers and peers,” Dr. (Tracy) Vaillancourt says. “But they are also really mean.” Their bullying is done with sophistication, such as excluding people from their social circle and spreading rumours, often sneaking under the gaze of adults around them.
Hollywood rules apply, even in Grade 1: “You can get away with murder when you’re hot,” Dr. Vaillancourt says.
The good news, however, is that these are the bullies most easily stopped, since they respond to discipline. But, she says, “parents need to attend to it right away, and take it seriously.”
This is an important piece because it takes us away from the focus on the bullied, and how various people in their lives have failed to support them and call out the inappropriate behaviour they've witnessed. It places it on the bully-- and the wider range of bullying behaviours that can be seen everywhere, every day, in a multitude of different social situations. We need to learn more about that side of the equation, as this piece has laid out.


RetDir said...

Absolutely correct ER - bullying behaviour is found widely in many other places in people's lives, from their workplaces to their families. And in some cases it is glorified as a way of getting what one wants, or as behaviour that is glorified. I cringe whenever I see Gordon Ramsey do his routine on the food network - bullying as an art form. What makes it not only acceptable but a good source of celebrity status in that instance. And why is it only schools that have to wear the responsibility for stamping it out?

Anonymous said...

I had written a lengthy response to your post ER but it disappeared.

Essentially I said that the whole issue of getting behind the reason for bullying has been on-going every since I was in school with seemingly little offered up as solutions.

I still like the idea a school had in Michigan where a bully's parent is called in to look after their child in class(with a chair next to the kid's desk) while the teacher can get on with his/her job.

It's not always the fault of the parents and their perception however. I've had knowledge of incidents where the parent and school admin. have been on the same page and its the board that overturns a disciplinary decision.

Also there is definitely a hierarchy among parents at a school. Sometimes if the misbehaving child or bully is a person of some importance in town teachers and admin. turn the other cheek to the bullying.

There's enough blame to go around.


tina said...

I really believe that we parents can highly affect the behavior of our kids. If we do something about the bad behavior they are showing as early as possible then they will not become worse in their exhibited bad behavior such as bullying. I encourage parents to do so because it is for the good of our children.