Combating Racial Bullying
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!” Almost all of us heard this chant growing up. Today, many of us repeat the same adage to our children. Yet, this advice fails to acknowledge the lingering effects that unkind words can leave behind. The average broken pinky finger heals in 3-4 weeks and the average broken arm heals in 6-8 weeks. Harmful words can break a person’s spirit, which sometimes lasts a lifetime in the forms of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Most of us could agree that dealing with the local bully used to be seen as “just part of growing up.” However, that view is now antiquated in education circles. Since 2006, October has been designated “National Bullying Prevention Month.” The campaign, founded by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, aims to unite communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness about bullying prevention.
Defining bullying is especially challenging when we take into account that some childhood behaviors are developmental or unintentionally rude. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Steve Stoll, vice principal of Harney Elementary School in Vancouver, clarifies this definition further as, “repeated and targeted behavior towards another student in a demeaning way.” In other words, one individual offense does not amount to bullying. Stoll explains that there is no typical “bully” profile, but rather, “bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They can come from stable homes with lots of support and homes where there is no support.”
To solve these problems Stoll notes that, “Punishment doesn’t work. Prisons are full of examples of that.” Harney Elementary School, along with other elementary schools in Southwest Washington, handle bullying though Positive Based Instructional Strategies (PBIS). PBIS is a twofold system that celebrates kids when they make the right choices. When they make the wrong choices, the child is encouraged to accept responsibility for what they did wrong and has a restorative justice conversation with the person they hurt. Stoll continues, “It gives kids a voice and teaches them mistakes are fine as long as they learn from them and limit them.”
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center and research done by the National Center for Educational Statistics, 20% of students report being bullied, or a little more than 1 in 5. These children may experience being cruelly teased, verbally attacked, or excluded from activities, in addition to being hit or other physical aggressions.
Sometimes this treatment is because of their race or ethnicity.
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The inspiration behind National Bullying Prevention Month: