Most experts will agree that bullying that occurs in schools is at an epidemic level. According to www.stopbullying.gov, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. There is a litany of research telling us that a child who has been bullied not only struggles while the bullying occurs, but it can also lead to complications later in life.
Probably the most frightening outcome of bullying is a child taking their life. It is not uncommon. I have met a number of these heartbroken parents. It is not fair to say that bullying causes a child to choose suicide however there are compelling statistics that should be mentioned.
- Nearly one-quarter of tenth graders who reported being bullied also reported having made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to a Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.
- Half of the 12th graders who reported being bullied also reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row, according to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.
- Among 15- to 24-year-olds, suicide is one of the leading causes of death, according to Suicide Awareness Voices for Education. Additionally, 16 percent of students consider suicide; 13 percent create a plan; and 8 percent have made a serious attempt.
- Cyberbullying caused kids to consider suicide more than traditional bullying according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics
Furthermore, the statistics about youth suicide in Colorado paint an alarming picture. According to the September 17, 2019 CPR News, the following statements are worth noting.
- The rate of teen suicide in Colorado has increased by 58% in the last three years making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths.
- Colorado has the highest increase in the teen suicide rate in the US since 2016.
- In the past three years, teen suicide in Colorado rose from 12.9 to 20.4 deaths per 100,000 adolescents ages 15-19.
With these things in mind, Bullying Recovery Resource Center and Rick Padilla have joined forces with other concerned parties to propose “Jack’s Law.” Jack Padilla was a freshman at Cherry Creek High School when he died by suicide on February 14, 2019 where bullying was a contributing factor.
Rick formed JackStrong and is taking a stand against bullying and teen suicide. We are honored to be working side by side with such a courageous advocate of teen mental health.
We cannot continue to allow so many of our Colorado youth to be relentlessly bullied and to contemplate and commit suicide. It is time to put some real foundations in place in Colorado to help protect our youth. The following is our desired outcomes that we are proposing to Colorado State Representative Lisa Cutter who desires to be the sponsor of the bill (firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-866-2582):
- Schools would be required (not just “encouraged) to create policy that elevates bullying complaints and investigations to the same existing timelines, standards, due process, internal appeal procedures as complaints of discrimination or harassment.
- Intentional false reports of bullying shall constitute bullying.
- An anti-bullying team must be established, and it must include at least 2 parents and an external anti-bullying expert.
- Parents of students involved in a bullying incident would be entitled to receive a written finding about the requisite investigation, and the school shall affirmatively outreach to and meet with the bullying victim and his/her parents within 20 school days to confirm that the bullying has ceased.
- When a school learns that a student is the alleged victim of bullying, the school must immediately assess whether the student is at risk of self-harm and provide appropriate resources to the bullied child.
- Parents shall have the right to appeal the School District’s decision related to bullying findings to the Colorado Department of Education.
- Bullying directed toward a victim under age 18 with the intent to provoke suicide or self-harm would be considered a criminal offense.
The time is now. Our children and their families deserve fundamental laws in place to protect children who are targets of bullying. These proposals will not stop bullying; however, they will give parents and targeted children the attention they need and deserve. This law will help provide more transparency and methods of dealing with
“In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Every child, in fact every adult has been a bystander at some time. A bystander is someone who witnesses bullying and doesn’t get involved. Being a bystander is easy – they aren’t the perpetrator and they are not the one being outwardly harmed or the target of the attack.
Bystanders can take on various roles in the act of bullying:
- Henchmen – Take an active part but do not plan or start the bullying
- Active supporters – Cheer on the bully and seek social or material gain
- Passive supporters – Enjoy the bullying but do not show open support
- Disengaged Onlookers – Observe and act as if it’s none of my business and may even turn away
- Potential witnesses – Oppose the bullying and know they ought to help yet do not act
Even though bystanders are not the aggressor, or the main aggressor, their actions and lack of actions have devastating effects on the target of the bully. The child being harmed feels alone and feels like those not aiding him or her don’t care.
Witnessing bullying is upsetting and affects the bystander too. Statistics say that even though most bystanders don’t like to watch bullying, less than 20% try to stop it. This happens because they don’t know what to do or there is fear around taking action. The bystander may be afraid of retaliation or becoming the target of bullying themselves. There may be worry that getting involved could have negative social consequences.
Bullying stops in less than 10 seconds, 57% of the time when someone intervenes on behalf of the victim.
So, what can a child do? It takes courage to be an upstander. Upstanders are kids who do something that prevents or reduces the bullying they see. An upstander comes to the aid of another child who is being bullied by showing them kindness. Moving from being a bystander to becoming an upstander may not happen overnight. It may start with becoming more aware of the bullying behavior and how it is affecting the lives of the victims. Upstanders are able to see the pain the target experiences and take action.
Stompoutbullying.com offers ways to bridge behavior to becoming an upstander:
- Don’t laugh
- Don’t encourage the bully in any way
- Don’t participate
- Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
- Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
- Reach out in friendship
- Help the victim in any way you can
- Support the victim in private
- If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
- Include the victim in some of your activities
- Tell an adult
We can model and speak to our children about upstander behavior. Doing nothing about bullying sends a message to the bully that their behavior is acceptable.
Talk to your children about what it means to be an upstander. Ask them if they have witnessed bullying. Brainstorm ideas about how they might engage the next time they see someone in need of an upstander. When we all feel empowered to take action – even a small one – we build a world of upstanders.