Addressing Emotional Safety

Bullying wears many different faces and happens in every social circumstance one can imagine. Presently, it is out of control. Students should not fear coming to school because they will be harassed, ridiculed or demeaned ...

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Bullying wears many different faces and happens in every social circumstance one can imagine. Presently, it is out of control. Students should not fear coming to school because they will be harassed, ridiculed or demeaned in the cafeteria, in study hall, in the locker room or in between classes.

Boys waiting on line in the cafeteria for lunch should not fear name calling, like being called the fatty freak or obesity boy. Girls shouldn t fear humiliation in the locker room by being labeled a slut. This is only the beginning of the bullying nightmare.

The new fad in bullying and maligning someone s reputation is text messaging and using social network sites with instant and devastating impacts. Cyber bullying has the appeal of anonymity. People can be vicious and slanderous and hide their identity.

Cell phone use and text messaging in schools is out of control. Many schools have policies that prohibit their use during the school day, but lack consistent enforcement. It s hard to imagine that life did exist before this technology. Students did make it through the day and actually survived.

This technology is frightening because there is always a new tool to use that can inflict emotional pain on an innocent powerless young person. Consider happy slapping " one person physically or verbally provoking an innocent bystander, while a third-party videotapes the act on a cell phone, then uploads and shares it with the masses.

Now there s Bluetooth bullying, where someone sends a derogatory cell phone message to everyone within a certain vicinity. You may ask why? The reasons range from revenge to fun to the victim deserved it. Many bullies minimize the behavior and claim they are just messing around.

Tragically, many junior high students see no connection between actions and consequences. Some students are clueless to the emotional impact this behavior can have on the victimized student. In one Metropolitan community it took the suicide of a seventh grader who was consistently targeted by a group of bullies to make that school community realize that there was a real problem. Many students in that school had no concept that bullying/slandering another could be so powerfully hurtful.

When schools consider maintaining a safe environment, too often, they focus only on physical safety. Rarely do school administrators aggressively address emotional safety. It must become an urgent priority in every school community.

Teachers that bully and intimidate students need to be confronted and held accountable for that reprehensible behavior. Too many student victims are afraid to come forward for fear of the ramifications of their allegations. Some who have stepped up and out regarding their harassment and intimidation felt their concerns fell on deaf ears.

Bullying is not conflict. It is human victimization. Therefore, conflict resolution is not appropriate for dealing with this human victimization. It s also not anger management. It is blatant aggression.

How do you address this serious growing violent problem? Schools are controlled by adults. The adults in charge are well-educated. Hopefully, everyone sees the seriousness of this issue, and the need for everyone from the Superintendent down to the support staff to be in concert with each other in addressing this issue. There must be common agreement that no one on staff take a soft approach, when bullying/harassment/intimidation erupts. No one should be exempt from being accountable for inappropriate behavior, especially when it victimizes a student, who is powerless.

There should be workshops to train teachers and support staff in how to recognize this horrific behavior and also a protocol on how to respond to the victims and the victimizers. Whatever guidelines are established in this regard must be enforceable. Students also need to be educated about their choices and about how to use technology and electronic devices in a positive way. It should also be clear to them if they violate school policy, they will be held fully accountable.

In educating students regarding bullying/harassment/intimidation, it should be woven into the curriculum beginning in preschool and addressed every year until the student graduates from high school. Every discipline should reinforce the school district s position on this issue. Teachers in every subject should attempt to create a positive, respectful environment in their classes.

There is another form of bullying that needs to be addressed. They are our insurance companies and specifically our residential drug treatment programs. It is unconscionable that a rehab program would accept a patient who has a chronic addiction to heroin and discharge that patient before treatment is complete because insurance has run out. It would have been more humane to have said no, before treatment began.

Insurance companies that play games with clients lives, who have serious illnesses should be held responsible when people die because treatment has been inappropriately terminated due to coverage. The way some insurance companies bully their clients, who desperately need certain kinds of treatment is despicable.

Recently, an 18-year-old boy, who is a chronic heroin abuser sought treatment. His mother is a teacher and she had reasonable insurance coverage. One of our premier treatment centers in Suffolk County took the boy s insurance and began treatment. They acknowledged that he needed extended care. The day his insurance ran out he was discharged. A social worker in charge of his case admitted that he was not finished the treatment. She expressed regret but said her hands were tied. They kept him for two weeks.

JK is someone s son, brother, nephew or friend. He comes from our community and grew up with your children. Is this how we treat our national treasure?

Hopefully, he will not become another heroin statistic in Suffolk County. This kind of treatment is the worst form of bullying, because it is lethal!