According to research conducted by Dr. Sameer Hinduja, associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, co-director of the Cyber Bullying Research Center, and another guest speaker at the summit, approximately 15 to 35 percent of students have been victims of cyber bullying.
Research also shows that 10 to 20 percent of students have admitted to cyber bullying others; girls are as involved, or more involved, than boys; and involvement seems to peak in middle school (grades 6-8).
What to do now
“A testament to how badly bullying can affect someone is by how adults can recount, even decades later, with vivid feeling and detail, how they were bullied by someone in school,” said Duncan. “Bullying leaves scars that may never heal, thanks to its culture of silence and shame.”
According to Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, associate professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the public health sector has multiple levels of bullying prevention and response. These strategies include:
• Individual: interventions and counseling for children who bully and are bullied.
• Classroom: lessons to foster social-emotional skills and competencies, effective communication, and strategies for preventing bullying; effective classroom management.
• School-wide: a system of positive behavior support; a common set of expectations for positive behavior across all school contexts; involvement of all school staff in prevention activities; effective supervision; clear anti-bullying policies.
• Family: strategies for supporting children involved in bullying; open communication to promote disclosure of bullying; constructive role for parents in bullying prevention.
• Community: awareness campaigns that encourage intervention and prevention; community involvement in prevention activities and programs.
“There also needs to be a seamless system of support in schools,” said Bradshaw. “You can’t just have a separate program for each individual problem; otherwise, teachers will become overstressed and implementation will be faulty. Instead, social-emotional learning, bullying prevention programs, student services, school mental health programs, suicide prevention, special-education assessments and referral, and effective classroom management all need to work together. This way, not only will bullying be prevented, but a host of other issues [might be addressed as well].”
Dr. Susan Limber, a faculty member within the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life and Professor of Psychology at Clemson University, was sick and could not attend the summit; however, Bradshaw presented Limber’s suggestions, citing ways schools can take action against bullying.
According to Limber, there are 67 anti-bullying programs in 42 states, but only a few states require implementation of these programs.
“State laws on bullying require that school officials establish and enforce policies against bullying in public schools, but these policies vary in definitions and requirements,” said Bradshaw.
These state programs can include policies that call for reporting on bullying incidents, an investigation in these incidents, parental notification, discipline for children who bully, training for teachers, and prevention strategies.
Duncan said that while severe cases of bullying that lead to criminal offenses must be punished, a school’s code of conduct should not be all punitive; instead, schools must reward good behavior, too.
“Many bullying cases, especially in regards to race, sex, and disabilities, can violate civil-rights laws, and, in some severe cases, violate state and federal laws; however, it’s not my intention to try and lock up our nation’s youth. Instead, we have to prevent bullying from ever happening and/or escalating to that extreme,” he said.
Limber’s research suggests that many schools are implementing faulty policies, which include zero tolerance policies, conflict resolution and peer mediation, group treatment for children who bully, and short-term solutions.