By Kimberly Nabarro
Instructor Danny Wyatt
Leeward Community College-Wai’anae
[Note from the instructor: The assignment was for students to write a research paper using their three previous essays as a basis. The topic is “Bullying,” and it started with a video on bullying I showed to the class. They then wrote a cause/effect essay concentrating on the effects of bullying. The second essay was to examine why people (kids) bully one another — looking at the process that kids go through when they become bullies. The final paper was a persuasive essay on what should be done to address this issue: put all three together, cite them, develop the cited idea, and “voila” they have a research paper (more or less). -Danny Wyatt]
Lyrics influence youth to believe that overpowering people is the only way to survive. Mobb Deep is a popular rapper that many teens enjoy. In his track, “Survival of the Fittest”, power and dominance are glorified through “gangster” lifestyles and selling drugs. The song’s lyrics “Only the strong survive…Walking with your head down, scared to look, you weak…” presents underlying characteristics of bullying behaviors-anger, powerlessness, and the need to take control. Rappers lyrics and other media influences promotes that the solution to deal with anger or the feeling of powerlessness is to dominate or bully others. The belief that stems from media influence is that you either victimize others or become the victim. Bullying has become glorified through society classifying people as either the weak or the strong. JumpStart your Health, a company that promotes health, fitness, and well-being for adults and children has created a handbook “Gangs and Bullying” which states, “watching too much violence on television or videos can also trigger bullying behavior” (“Gangs and Bullying”). This statement from the JumpStart Youth handbook further proves that children are influenced to bully by the media in various ways.
According to “What is Bullying?” on the stopbullying.gov, a website entirely dedicated to preventing and dealing with bullying, bullying is defined as “any unwanted, aggressive behaviors among school aged children that involve a real or perceived power imbalance”. It further explains how bullying behavior is “repeated or has the potential to be repeated”, either physically, verbally or psychologically (“What is Bullying?”). Schools in Hawaii have adopted the definition found on that site and attempt by means of videos or handouts to educate their students. Many students don’t know that their “teasing” or taunting of their classmates can be defined as bullying. Being aware can help resolve bullying. Here in Hawaii, studies have shown that middle schools have more bullying occurring than in high schools. Preventive measures and action plans towards bullying are seen mostly in elementary schools. Characteristics of bullies and victims alike seem to stem from home life situations and the lack of self-esteem. Parents, teachers, and students all have a part in addressing bullying and contribute towards its resolution here in the local community. By becoming aware of all these components of bullying, we can overcome the issue.
Bullying occurs in all levels of schooling. In the book Bullied: What Parents, Teachers, and Kids Need to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear, author Carrie Goldman, parent and anti-bullying activist, includes a 2010 study by the National Center for Education Statistics that discovered “32% of students between ages 12 and 18 were being bullied six months prior to taking the survey” (Bullied). In Hawaii, a study was conducted by the Mental Health of America of Hawaii (MHAHI) in 2011, which reveals “20.3% of high school students were bullied on school property and 14.9% were bullied electronically.” The study by MHAHI states “40.7% of middle school students reported being bullied on school property; 23.7% were electronically bullied.”(MHAHI) Although, students of all ages and grade levels have some type of bullying occurring, children in middle school have the highest rate of occurrences.
The beginning of adolescence and the transition out of childhood occurs during middle school. Based on the table, found in I Never Knew I Had a Choice by Marianne Schneider Corey and Gerald Corey, they define the stage of adolescence as the Pubescence stage that includes children ages 11-14 years old. The description of pubescence states that this stage is” of finding one’s own voice…, this is a time of expanding sense of self in relation to peers.” Middle school students going through the pubescence stage of life are experiencing the need to feel a part of and to relate to their peers (Corey & Corey). Meanwhile, celebrities and hip hop stars publicize to their young fans that the way to fit in is by being strong, mean and violent. According to the media, violence demonstrates strength. By becoming a bully, the adolescent is accepted, seen as strong, and many times looked up to. Other times during the transition into the stage of pubescence, the adolescent becomes vulnerable trying to search for a way to relate to his peers but continues to stand out. This vulnerability in turn becomes looked at as a weakness and in turn makes the child a target.
A person may be targeted to be bullied for various reasons; these reasons are due to any significant difference. Targeted victims of bullying are of the minority of the population of their schools, they are intellectually above or below the majority of the schools population or have an apparent disability. The most common reason for a child to be targeted to be bullied is having any kind of disability. These disabilities can range anywhere from social dysfunction and having the inability to socialize appropriately with one’s peers, to physical deformity that makes ones mental disability apparent just by looking at them. In the documentary Bully, Alex, called “Fishface” by his peers, suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. Just by looking at Alex he is obviously different. Alex’s disability affects his physical, mental and social skills. Alex has a very hard time making eye contact with people, he is delayed and unable to interact “socially appropriate” for his age; his comprehension in a conversation is not able to decipher or “catch-on” to the intended meaning of the person talking to him. For example, on the bus ride home an older student calls him names and threatens him yet Alex honestly believes that what this other boy is saying is meant as a joke so in reaction to this older boy’s threats, Alex laughs and thinks nothing of it. When coerced to tell his dad what the kids say to him on the bus, Alex calls the boy his friend and ensures his dad that his “friend’s” threats are just being “funny”. Alex is picked on not only for the way he looks but because of his awkwardness and inability to fit in due to his disability. Interestingly, those who bully have their own dysfunctions as well.
Based on a study conducted by UNICEF on the impact of domestic violence on children, “Many studies have noted that children from violent homes exhibit signs of more aggressive behavior, such as bullying, and are up to three times more likely to be involved in fighting” (UNICEF). In Hawaii, domestic violence is most often present in homes of children whose parents and siblings are battling drug abuse. Many children are being raised unconventionally. The feeling of insecurity due to the instability in their home life causes displaced anger and frustration that may start to build within these children. They in turn seek victims to fulfill the idiom “misery loves company”. Timmy for example lives on the beach both his parents are daily habitual drug users. His mother works at the laundry mat at the “Fold & Go” but most of her earnings supply her and Timmy’s father’s habit. Although uniforms are worn at Timmy’s school it is obvious that he is less fortunate than his classmates. Many times Timmy re-used his clothes for days in a row. Timmy didn’t allow his living arrangement to bother him but what really affected him was the “down days” the days when Timmy’s parents were unable to afford or “score” drugs. On these days fighting was non-stop and almost always ended up with black eyes and injury to his mother. In school, Timmy acted out his frustrations on certain classmates. Timmy relieves his anger by being violent and aggressive towards his peers, it gives him a sense of power, in his life where he is powerless over everything else Timmy feels the most comforted to affect and control how much hurt he can inflict on others. His need to obtain that “powerful” feeling drives Timmy to consistently bully others. Students who bully others are angry, aggressive, and violent, but there is hope for the children of Hawaii.
According to the Board of Education as stated in the “DOE Efforts to Curb Bullying” report made earlier this year, Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe presented Bully Action Plans being set in all public schools to better protect and support students against bullying. The report stated “school-wide positive behavioral interventions and support systems” are being implemented and are all coordinated by the State of Hawaii Board of Education. These supportive services include but are not limited to on-campus counseling and in-class accommodations like being put in smaller classrooms with for example, a 6 to 1 student-teacher ratio. If needed the campus counselor refers students to the DOE Behavioral Health Department (DOEBHD) for further therapy and support. This system set in place by DOE “promotes sense of belonging and acceptance for all students”(DOE). Through these services students who bully or are at risk to be targeted can seek and receive proper assistance.
Changes made federally and by the state of Hawaii about bullying require Department of Education and the Board of Education to make mandatory regulations in response to bully related deaths of children across the nation.
HB688, a bill regarding bullying passed in July 2011, requires the Board of Education to monitor the Department of Education to implement “administrative rules and statutes governing bullying, cyber bullying, and harassment.”(HB688) This bill requires the Hawaii State Department of Education to set standards and regulations for schools to implement including a reporting line for students victimized and for bullies to be severely consequenced; this bill was added to the student code of conduct handbook also known as Chapter 19. Public schools across the state have implemented such policies and statues in section the student conduct code better known as Chapter 19, which states the description and severity of bullying behaviors and the anticipated consequences to follow.
Furthermore, up to date prevention tactics and resources are available for schools, parents, and students alike on federally funded websites such as stopbullying.gov. Manana Elemantry in particular has incorporated the information from this site to bring awareness to their students through role-play, videos, and power points. These are used to inform the student body of identifying types of bullying, defining bullying, effects of bullying, strategies of bullying, and problem solution steps to resolve them. As the school’s website conveys, it is important for students to understand what is considered bullying so that they in turn can be aware and accountable for their actions. In prevention of students becoming a target for bullying, problem solution steps have been taught as well. Manana has teaches problem solution steps from the reputable anti-bullying site for their students to use when confronted by bullying. The students are told that in response to being bullied to use the “STOP, WALK, and TALK” method. The steps are: Say ‘Stop’ verbally or with the hand gesture signaling to STOP the tormentor from the bullying behavior, immediately, walk away if the torment continues and then talk to an adult preferably two adults in authority, a teacher, counselor, or designated reporting representative for bullying at your school. It has been made clear that the severity of bullying isn’t what’s important, but the action itself. Kamaile Academy shows their intolerance towards bullying in their student handbook, which states that regardless of the severity, consequences will be given for their behavior. According to the Chapter 19, bullying is considered a Class B offense. Class A and B offenses are similar in the severity and punishments given. Class A offenses include possession of firearms, possession of illegal substances and threatening or assault. Just like the Class A offenses are illegal and punishable by Law, bullying is also illegal now that laws have been passed in Hawaii. In this way, Legislature and the Board of Education are working hand in hand.
Further changes should be made in prevention and as a solution to bullying. There are three parts of responsibility surrounding prevention and solutions of bullying. Parents displaying a positive outlook on treatment of others and controlling the exposure of their children via the media or others means that may influence their child negatively is one part. Another part is for teachers to address bullying in their classrooms throughout the school year and being aware of what’s going on with their students while in school either by academic or behavioral performance. Thirdly, the student needs to armor themselves with the tools necessary to not become a victim or not to portray the behaviors of a bully.
Parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life. A child’s behavior reflects what is being taught at home. By censoring the media that children are exposed to at home, parents can prevent their children from becoming a bully or being a victim. Simple guidance to help interpret lyrics, music, and artists appropriately can help older children and teens to express themselves through music. Artists like Taylor Swift have incorporated empowering lyrics for youth to enjoy. In her song “Mean”, she addresses bullies, “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me,…(all bullies) ever gonna be is mean…” (Swift). Through this song she encourages the victims that bullying behaviors are simply cruel not cool. Small actions such as monitoring song lyrics can play a big part in preventing bullying. In addition parents must teach respect in their home. One parent Mark Nabarro has decided to use the theme “With Aloha” to parent his children whose ages range from 8, 6, and 4 years old. He feels he can make a difference by teaching his children to not be a bully or a part of the problem by just standing by. Nabarro helps his children to see that acting with Aloha is to be a friend to all by standing up for friends and reporting any bullying behaviors witnessed. Nabarro also states that checking in with your child daily is a must. Keeping up with small incidents can help monitor the events and situations experienced by your child to prevent it from escalating to bigger issues. School’s involvement is also important towards resolving the bullying issue in Hawaii.
Some schools in Hawaii seem to be taking preventive measures and implementing serious solutions about bullying while others aren’t. Teachers should be required to attend workshops and thereafter be mandated to include education about bullying involving role play, writing assignments, and confidence building exercises. Based on the statistics, the grade preceding the “problematic” grade should have in-class periodic lessons and activities addressing the issue of bullying embedded within the school year.
Students need to be accountable. Of course it helps to have support from home to have implemented values to live by, or from school to set structure and guidelines, but overall students must take responsibilities for their actions. Students need to armor themselves against bullying by reacting appropriately to insults and torments by following the STOP, WALK, and TALK rule. Schools in Hawaii have implemented and educated their students of the rule but ultimately it is up to the student to take the information given and to use it. Tapping into resources available to address anger issues that lead to bullying behaviors is again at the intention of the student. In the end you can bring the horse to the water but when it comes down to it the horse needs to decide to drink.
Bullying has become a national epidemic. It is apparent that large amounts of students nationally, are affected by bullying, even here in the islands. The truth of the matter is that the less action taken to resolve the issue of bullying the higher the risk of children taking their lives or losing their lives at the hand of other children. Hawaii has already battled one epidemic that hasn’t quite left the islands. Awareness is the first step to overcoming this problem, just as knowledge is power. Bullies and victims alike have their own set of challenges. Alongside DOE taking effective action by making amendments to the student code of conduct to include the proper terminology of “bullying” and “cyberbullying”, the state of Hawaii has taken the bullying issue seriously to protect Hawaii students. Although effective steps have already taken place here in Hawaii more improvements can be made. As suggested, parent, teachers, and students must work together in order to sufficiently resolve this issue. As the state of Aloha, Hawaii needs to act and teach our children to live “With Aloha”, so that resolving bullying is possible.
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