What is wrong?
Bullying in different schools has been common in the United States as well as in other parts of the world. In some places, it is considered as a teenage rite of passage, where students learn from the experience how to persevere through hardships in life. According to some people, the junior and senior students in school should look after the discipline of the freshmen and sophomore counterparts. This is a misguided notion, because all the students are governed by the set rules and regulations, regardless of their class, race, or social status. Bullying within institutions of learning has come with high stakes, where teenagers are committing suicide due to some traumatizing experiences that they have had at school. Children who are bullied are more likely to develop depression, resort to suicide, and end up taking their lives. The negative impact of bullying spreads to the academic performance of the victims. Traumatized children are less likely to focus all their energy on studies due to the feelings they are struggling to manage. By extension, parents will also feel the impact through having to live with their depressed children, who often withdraw and do not express themselves, due to the fear instilled by bullying (DeLara 290).
What is lacking?
What is lacking is a full and proper implementation of state laws against school bullying. All the 50 states in conjunction with legislators have acted in a bid to protect school aged children and stop bullying for good. Through model policies and pieces of legislation, each and every state has addressed the issue of school bullying in a unique manner. These laws have helped to reduce the incidents of bullying among school aged children quite substantially. However, a sizeable proportion of around 20 percent of high school students report having been bullied, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at the end of the year 2015 (Welch 4). The study found that in the states where the laws were pursued in accordance with the DoE’s recommended anti-bullying guidelines, school-aged children were about 24 percent less likely to be victims of harassment.
Among the 25 states studied, Alabama had the lowest rates of bullying reported at 14 percent, while South Dakota topped with 27 percent (Welch 6). In this light, the legislation has not achieved the target of zero cases of bullying reported. The laws prohibit different forms of bullying including; theft, violence, hate crimes, and repeated intimidation. The state laws have been quite effective in curbing violence and assault, where students reported about a 5 percent response to the positive prevention of physical assault. The school and state administrations have managed to protect a majority of kids from physical harm from their senior counterparts. However, there have been major obstacles in curbing the issues of hate, intimidation, and theft. An issue such as theft is a question of security, but of the 20 percent that reported being bullied, they felt that they lost their valuables under unclear circumstances, and report that the perpetrators were never identified to be investigated (Welch 6). In the same way, some of the seniors continue to bully younger school children through threatening them, and this has been a major cause of low self-esteem for them.
In the year 2010, the legislature enacted a bill in relation to bullying in school a series of aggressive incidents of harassment that resulted in students committing suicide. The Massachusetts School Bullying Prevention decrees that districts should create school policies that act in protection of student victims by stoppage, reporting, examination, and intermediation. In Massachusetts, schools do an annual report having bullying data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The schools are compelled to submit aggregate statistics on the issue of bullying to both the Legislature and the Attorney General (Brabaw 3). The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have to provide information to parents in regard to the avenues that they can use to seek assistance. There is the requirement to recognize that some students are more susceptible to bullying as compared to their counterparts. This is through race, gender, disability, socio-economic factors, and other variables.
The state of Arizona requires all district schools to create procedures and policies that ban bullying and enforce the prohibition. The state leaves it to the school management to develop certain actions that are termed as bullying. In California, the right of students to learn is protected in secure, peaceful, and safe classes. In this state, bullying is regarded as any verbal or physical act encompassing written work that is likely to instil fear or mental distress that impacts on the studies of the victims (Brabaw 5). In New York, bullying constitutes abuse, intimidation, or threats that substantially obstructs academic performance of the students. Washington authorities regard bullying as verbal, written, or physical acts that harms victim students or damage their personal property. These are some of state legislations that have been passed by authorities in a bid to clearly define acts that constitute bullying within schools (Brabaw 7). It is evident that a majority of states concur in the context of defining what is regarded as bullying. However, Massachusetts seems to be more advanced, or serious than other states in regard to handling bullying in schools.
What is unknown?
What is unknown is the cause of the significant failure in achieving success in abolishing bullying through the implementation of the set state laws. It is imperative that all individual school administration systems ensure that the laws are enforced in their respective institutions. Even this being as clear as it is, there remains a lack of clarity about whether it is the school management teams or the student themselves that are to blame for the failure to completely abolish bullying. The school administrators should have the best interest of the school community at heart by applying the laws, but persistent resistance from the students is likely to frustrate such efforts. Therefore, it remains unclear to both the school and state authorities which path to take to ensure that some of these laws are successfully enforced, and followed by all the parties involved in various learning institutions. It is important to develop a viable strategy that will ensure that all the parties within each school act in the best interest of the entire school community, by upholding state rules and regulations that pertain to the issue of bullying.
Who benefits from the problem being addressed or solved?
When bullying is addressed, it is a win-win situation for the victims, parents, school board and the states at large. The children are provided with a safe and conducive environment to study, without the burden of traumatizing experiences that deter them from achieving the best that they can in school. It will also prevent the health complications that affect the victims in the form of depression and physical harm, which were prevalent before the introduction of the legislation (DeLara 290). The parents of school children also benefit, in that they are not worried about their children being potential victims of bullying. This means they can send their children to any school with peace of mind that their children’s safety is fully guaranteed. The school boards benefit as students have a conducive atmosphere for learning, and hence teaching them becomes easier and more fruitful. School examination results and other achievements will improve. The state's authorities benefit because they will not have to manage the criminal and civil cases arising from bullying within their institutions of learning.
Proposed Action Plan
There should be a reconciliation of the differences existing between the states in their implementation and enforcement of laws covering bullying in schools. Among the 50 states, only two of them have provisions covering all the key and school district elements. All the others have 16 components or less. This indicates that there is a broad failure to reach the desired goal of a 100 percent bullying free education system. States need to expand and re-emphasize existing bullying legislation in order to address emerging issues in the schools. There is a need to develop additional legislation barring cyberbullying as a method that some students use to intimidate their peers through online platforms. In this way, it will be possible to seal the existing loopholes that can be exploited by technology, and ensure that the children’s security is assured both inside and outside the school.
Other than merely compelling parties to follow the law, it is also important to run an awareness drive that discourages the act of bullying in school. It should adopt a convincing and informative tone that conveys the message that bullying is unnecessary and an uncivilized way of behaving. The intention here will challenge the thoughts and behavior of those students and members of staff who are still prone to bully the younger students. A well run anti-bullying campaign will ensure that peer pressure and knowledge imparted to students combined, will encourage students to abandon bullying behavior and manage their differences more effectively. Such campaigns could prove to be more effective than compelling people to follow state laws. This is the case because through education and awareness, they are more likely to shun bullying out of free will, without coercion from external forces. Action born from personal conviction is more likely to transform behavior in the longer term, and even encourage permanent change for the better.