In his recent ABC news opinion column, “Want to Stop Bullies?” Lee Dye cites new studies that claim that:
- Girls are more likely than boys to intervene to stop bullying than boys are.
- Girls intervene more because they’re expected to by their parents, best friends and favorite teachers.
- Popular males are more likely to pick on weaker boys, while unpopular, weaker but aggressive boys are more likely to pick on girls.
Of course. So what?
I’m glad Mr. Dye is speaking out and I share his desire to stop bullies and harassment, bullying and abuse in schools.
The reason I’m sarcastic is that I think these studies, done by interviewing 269 middle school students in four schools in North Central Florida, are typical of the thought process and pseudo-scientific research that says that if we knew more we could design better programs to stop bullies. And they imply that we can’t have successful anti-bullying programs until we have more research.
However, this research adds nothing we didn’t already know. And the generalizations are contradicted by evidence from the recent suicide deaths of four girls in Schenectady, New York.
We already know that getting the kids involved in anti-bullying programs is critical. We already know that it’s crucial to teach children what to do when they are bystanders and see bullying. In order to incorporate that knowledge into anti-bullying programs, we don’t need to wait until there’s more pseudo-science research to prove that point.
In summary, we know that it’s everyone’s job to stop bullying in schools and everyone’s help is necessary, especially the kids. No one group can make a program work if the other members of the local community resist or are uncaring. The programs in New Hampshire are only the latest reports documenting what we know already.
Successful programs have the seven elements crucial to success:
- The programs specify acceptable and unacceptable behavior
- Children are taught specifically what to do if they’re bullied or if they’re bystanders
- The programs involve everyone – school board members, police, principals, teachers, administrative staff and bus drivers, the kids, and at least a vocal, core group of parents.
- Consequences are clear and effective action rapid
- Courageous and proactive administrators, school principals and teachers
- Kids are also trained at home not to bully and how to stop bullies
- All steps are implemented simultaneously
Anti-bullying laws are necessary to force reluctant or uncaring district administrators and principals to act. They’re also necessary to protect principals and teachers who do act from bullying parents who defend their little terrorists and threaten to sue the principal and school for harassing their little bully. That’s like in the Harry Potter series where Lucius Malfoy protects his vicious son, Draco.
The biggest problem in stopping bullies is not the lack of research about bullying: It’s the lack of skillful effort being put forth by the most caring people. At many schools, well-meaning principals and teachers need to join forces with a core group of parents to get programs in motion. At other schools, frustrated and angry parents need to rally other parents in order to force uncaring or cowardly school district administrators and principals to make effective school policies and then take act promptly and strongly.