Bullying continues to be a problem at all grade levels of the Killeen Independent School District, including the schools located in Harker Heights.
State and local school administrators have addressed this problem and continue to do so. That notwithstanding, bullying continues to occur.
Bullying has been present in the school environment since schools were established at the onset of this great country of ours.
In recent years, bullying has been at the forefront of issues affecting student learning and academic success. So much so, that Texas enacted a host of laws addressing the subject.
These laws are an integral part of the Texas Education Code and are specifically addressed in Sections 21.451, 25.0342, 28.002 and 37.01 through 37.217.
Educators and administrators are bound to know and abide by these laws. Educators are required to participate in staff development sessions, which address nearly all aspects of bullying.
In a 2015 national survey, nearly half of all students polled reported that they had been bullied or subjected to worse forms of victimization, according to a study in the Journal of School Violence.
What is bullying? When we think of bullying, we picture a bigger, more aggressive student intimidating or physically attacking a smaller, more docile student. Certainly this is bullying, but it goes far beyond that.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a perceived or real threat by another student of any age.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading untrue rumors, physically or verbally attacking someone and purposely excluding someone from a group.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power and repeated aggressiveness.
Kids who bully use their power over their intended victim, such as physical strength or popularity among peers to control or cause harm to others, physically or emotionally. This is known as a power imbalance.
Repetition is a key. Bullying behaviors occur more than once and have the potential to happen repeatedly.
There are three main types of bullying. These are verbal, social and physical. All are equally harmful in some way.
Verbal bullying includes teasing, taunting, name-calling, threatening violence and inappropriate sexual comments.
Social bullying is particularly stigmatizing to teens seeking the acceptance of popular peers. Social bullying involves hurting one’s reputation or social standing and includes purposing omitting someone from a group, embarrassing someone in public, spreading rumors and directing other children to avoid being friends with the victim.
Easily perceived to be the worst type of bullying, physical bullying involves hurting or damaging a person’s physical body or tangible possessions. Among these are hitting/kicking/pinching, tripping, or pushing, spitting, making rude or obscene hand gestures or stealing or breaking the victim’s possessions.
Bullying usually occurs during school hours but can also happen after hours. While most reported bullying happens in school buildings and campuses, much of it occurs on buses or while walking to or from school in local neighborhoods.
In this age of technology and the abundance of social media, bullying has also gone cyber. The Internet has become the playground for tech-savvy bullies. Verbal and social bullying thrives on social media.
The best attack on bullying is to stop it before it starts. Highly visible and well-publicized policies regarding bullying are key. Students must know that bullying is not acceptable, will not be tolerated and will result in severe punishments. None of this will be effective if there is no follow-through.
It is essential that everyone in the community works together to combat bullying and to send a unified message that bullying will not be tolerated.
Parents and teachers should unite to form a school safety committee to evaluate each school’s bullying prevention plan or implement one if a plane is not in place.
Lastly, parents must encourage their school-age children to report bullying so that appropriate corrective action can be taken against the bully.
John Vander WERFF is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.