American society has made progress in addressing the problem of bullying in school. We no longer see boxing lessons for the victims as the most practical solution.
But parents, members of the community and schools, in particular, need to remain vigilant in addressing bullying. Each year a new group of children reach an age in which they are more susceptible to bullying or tempted to engage in it themselves.
Area schools, including those in both York and Chester counties, recently have begun including special classes about bullying as part of an effort to educate “the whole child.” That is the phrase used by Lewisville Elementary School Principal Wanda Frederick regarding the importance of including lessons in subjects other than strictly the basics.
Lewisville Elementary is one of the schools that works to reach children at a tender age about bullying. Mary Ann Weir, Chester County’s teacher of the year, initiated the “Awareness: The Key Friendship” program at the school to teach third-graders how to recognize bullying and how to develop more empathy with the victims.
As part of that program, students are taught what it might feel like to be partially blind or hard of hearing. They also are taught that not all children learn at the same rate.
This and other similar programs are designed not only so children have a better idea how victims might react to being bullied, but also so they will recognize bullying when they see it and feel more comfortable reporting it to teachers or other adults. And that includes kids who might be victims themselves but are reluctant to report it.
As noted, we have made progress since the days when the onus was on the victim to retaliate or learn to cope with being pushed around, either verbally or physically. Those were the days when ads in comic books advised “90-pound weaklings” to lift weights so bullies wouldn’t kick sand in their faces.
Daily bullying in person – ranging from taunting to physical abuse – is bad enough. But the various forms of social media, which allow hurtful messages and pictures to be disseminated among hundreds – if not thousands – of people, take bullying to a new level.
The results can be devastating. Some bullying victims have been driven to suicide. Many others have been socially isolated and forced with the daily terror of being hurt and humiliated, which can affect all aspects of their lives, including their ability to succeed at school.
We, as a society, need to continue to delve into what motivates young people to bully others. We need to make potential bullies aware at a young age of what they are doing and help them steer away from this destructive behavior. And we need to find ways to encourage victims to get help from teachers, parents or others early in the process.
And, perhaps most significantly, we need to acknowledge that bullying is not “normal,” not something we have to accept as part of the educational experience, part of growing up. Bullying is something that can inflict life-long wounds, and it is a phenomenon that we can work to reduce, if not eradicate, as we do with other forms of abuse.
We are gratified that area schools have decided to focus on this serious problem and find innovative ways to stop it in the early grades. These lessons are a valuable addition to any school’s curriculum.