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We need zero tolerance for bullying

By Chase Little, March 19 2015 —

Coverage of bullying shows up in our national news only when there’s an extreme case or a catchy hashtag. This is a bad way to talk about this issue, as bullying is a part of our social landscape and should be talked about consistently.

Most bullying occurs in schools. This epidemic is often untreated by educators. The old adage that bullying is just part of growing up rings false these days. Forcing children and young adults to undergo antagonization as some sort of character test is irresponsible. 

Certain attributes like homosexuality or physical deformity are often deemed worthy of mockery in environments where every child strives for acceptance. An interest in academics can fade as students see their school as a conflict zone full of mockery and embarrassment.  

Bullying promotes violence and in its most extreme forms, leads to depression and suicide. Children who undergo bullying are impressionable. Bullied children may internalize the idea that they deserve this kind of treatment. And the bullies learn that harassing others is acceptable, unless there are harsh and immediate consequences. 

Teachers have a responsibility to focus on bullying prevention. Over half of bullied children do not report incidents to teachers. Educators need to do everything in their power to stay aware of this behaviour, and they need to respond swiftly and appropriately to incidents when they occur. 

Schools should be zero-tolerance zones for any kind of harassment and students must be severely reprimanded for any incidents. School policies should have clear mandates to dole out consequences, and these consequences should be immediate. This includes options as extreme as suspension and expulsion, depending on the severity of the incident. The consequences for bullying should be as serious as the issue.

Schools need to establish the idea that even the smallest hint of bullying will result in harsh punishment. Current protocols usually involve a sit-down discussion between the bully and the victim. Parents are present, an
apology is offered and everyone assumes the issue is resolved. This current protocol is inadequate.

We cannot underestimate the ability of children to be cruel to each other. In a world where harassment now extends beyond school grounds to social media and the Internet, students are more susceptible to its effects than ever.

Bullying needs to be weeded out in schools. This means zero-tolerance policies combined with classroom lessons that should be seen as important as any other subject. 

This is an important issue, and bullying should constantly be a topic of public discussion — at least until we have policies that deal appropriately with its severity.

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