Posted by Darpan Mehta and Angela Giannetto at Friday, May 22, 2015 1:32:11 PM CDT
Our area of research is into Bystander programs as a method of social justice to try and solve the issue of bullying in schools. Bystanders are individuals that know about the existence of bullying around them, often right in front of them. There are mainly two types of bystanders, hurtful and helpful. In the video Bully, the girl who informed the school officials of Alex being bullied is a helpful bystander. So is Ty’s friend who stands up for him and tells the Bully to back off. Unfortunately, we see instances of hurtful bystanders much more often in the video, even in real life. The kids who egg the bully on and tell him “give it to him good” when the bully is hurting Alex, the kids who remain silent and provide an audience for the bully all contribute to justify bullying. Worse even are the school officials who are supposed to protect the children but don’t do anything about the bullying. They ignore the problem, pretend it doesn’t exist, believe the victim was asking for it by annoying the bully or even reprimanding the victim for not wanting to shake his bully’s hand. Sometimes they offer to help, but often just get the story from the bully’s side, and simply reprimand the bully with words. After talking to the bully they then speak to the victim, in this case Alex, who they ask if he trusts them to take care of the problem, getting defensive when he suggests that he doesn’t. These factors show that there is something glaringly wrong with the current system of dealing with Bullying as an individualistic problem instead of a social one. They are simply facing it on a case by case basis, assuming that they are acknowledging the problem even exists in the first place. The failure of this system, and the avoidable deaths of children that occur scream for a new social justice approach of attempting to solve the bullying epidemic.
The social justice approach of dealing with bullying recognizes bullying as a systemic issue and tries to address the underlying gender socialization issues that lead to bullying, including the underlying social inequalities. It is a program that aims to educate the children on “emotional literacy, social injustice and inequality,” through the curriculum in order to bring forth social change to reduce bullying. The social justice way of dealing with bullying raises awareness with the aim of reducing, if not altogether eliminating the social structure that has led to children taking their own lives. An example of a program that does so is the “Stand for the silent” program created partly in honor of Ty Smalley, an 11 year old child who took his life because of bullying. The program reaches out to schools and educates the students on just how harmful the effects of bullying can be and how to be a helpful instead of a hurtful bystander. So far the program has 1,053,000 kids in 1,043 schools as shown on their website. This massive campaign is slowly changing what the norm has been for students to do when they are bystanders in bullying. Because of this program more children have the knowledge of what they can do to help and address the situation effectively, instead of staying silent and providing a form of justification that what the bully is doing is okay.
School administrators should have participation in a program, such as Stand for the Silent, be mandatory for all teaching staff. They are really the first line in stopping bullying because although the kids in the school that see things like this happening can speak up, they really have no power over the bully to prevent retaliation back on them. These kids that speak up should know that if they go to the administration something will be done to help the situation. At this point in time they have absolutely no faith that will happen. The administration likes to stand behind saying, “Well there is nothing I can do. Kids will be kids.” But there is something they can do; taking the school bus as an example the kids that are constantly being written up for bullying should lose bus privileges. They should not be allowed to ride the bus when they are constantly making threats and hurting students. The parents of the bully will see this as an inconvenience and possibly actually talk to their child about the issue and maybe this will stop the student. Other examples would be detention and mandatory write ups in the child’s file if they are caught bullying. The blaming of the victim which seemed to happen a lot in the video needs to stop. The school board needs to show these children that they will protect them because once they step through those doors onto that bus they are in the school’s care until they step off of that bus at the end of the day.
The kids as bystanders need to realize when they are seeing bullying. Part of the problem when the kids on Alex’s bus went to report the issues was many of them said that, “They were just kidding around.” Maybe that has something to do with culture that they really do not understand how hurtful bullying can be. Videos like Bully and other programs like Stand for the Silent should be apart of every child’s school experience. The children should learn what bullying looks like and techniques as bystanders to put a stop to it. This also goes back to the administrators making it clear to the child that when they report a problem it will be solved. Once a child reports an issue they should be given follow-up on what the administration did with that information and be told what to do if it continues. In Alex’s case he self-reported an incident that the school said they took care of, although not really quite frankly, but he did not know anything about what happened from there. Possibly schools should even form separate clubs in conjunction with Stand for the Silent. So that these kids can help the administration identify and stop bullying where the teachers do not necessarily see it. The administration stated in interviews that they cannot be everywhere all the time. This is most certainly true, but maybe if the kids thought the administration would do something they would be more likely to report these issues when they see them.