New strategies needed for dealing with bullies

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

The saddest stories I’ve heard recently are about children who have killed themselves because they are being bullied by other children. I suppose it’s fair to say that, in some cases, schools bear some of the responsibility. Still, it is an unfortunate reality that some teachers spend so much time disciplining their students that they don’t have much time to teach.

Of course, it is the parents' job to instruct their kids in the rules of fair play and about treating others with the same respect with which they wish to be treated. They should point out the absolute cruelty of picking on their schoolmates. But let’s face it: A lot of children will never learn these things because in many cases this is the behavior they learn from their parents. Some of them hear their fathers bullying players at sports events; some of them hear their mothers bullying players at soccer practice. So, how are they ever going to learn? Probably some won’t learn until somebody bigger and older begins to pick on them, and the world just gets nastier after that.

I remember the big bully in my elementary school class. Oh yes, we have always had them. The difference was in those days if they got caught they were punished for that action and so they had to be careful to see that they weren’t caught. I learned later that the young man had been abandoned by his parents at an early age and had been brought up with a distant relative who had a houseful of kids of her own. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to meet him again when we were adults and I let him know in no uncertain terms what a hell he had made of many of our school days.

I think school boards should address the matter of bullies with new strategies. They should have a set of disciplines especially designed to deal with these culprits. School administrators, staffs and teachers should be alerted that the school district takes bullying as a serious offense and there should be definite guidelines on how to deal with them.

Too many kids learn intolerance from their parents. In some households, children are told they should avoid certain schoolmates for racial, sexual or religious differences. This leads to all kinds of immature bigotry. The little bigot surrounded by a like-minded group of friends can create all kinds of havoc. On the other hand, some kids are just mean and enjoy making others miserable. In any case, teachers, when they have an opportunity, should keep a sharp eye out for this kind of behavior.

I really don’t think any of us these days can give too many examples of the unfortunate consequences of bullying. Whether somebody dies, becomes ill or becomes involved in dangerous practices as a result of being bullied, it’s too high a price to pay. As Americans, we're going to have to take precautions to be sure our freedoms do not extend themselves into tyrannical behavior.

As much as can be said for our free education system, we have to work very hard to stay on top of the many problems that come with the territory. Unlike private and parochial schools, public school students are not expected to share or display a collective set of values. They, like the general population, come from various backgrounds and cultural groups. And their values are not always commonly held. There have to be standardized rules and regulations that apply to all and they have to be enforced; otherwise, things can easily dissolve into chaos.

Many of the kinds of crimes and ludicrous activities that go on around us make it obvious that many people have to have the differences between appropriate and inappropriate behavior spelled out to them. In some ways, technology has advanced so fast that it has overwhelmed people and some have lost their way.

No mater how much we dislike it, if we are to maintain a civilized society we are going to have to get into the habit of establishing rules and regulations in every area of our lives. Things have truly gotten out of hand. We’ll have to either rein them in or settle for living as barbarians.

Right now, we have to make a choice.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at



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Greg Collins May 13, 2009 | 8:47 a.m.

Why should teachers and the school system be burdened? Why not start attacking this problem at its cause - the dysfunctional parenting skills of one or both parents. Throw the unruly kids out of school until they figure it out or if necessary, haul the parents to court to explain it to a judge.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 13, 2009 | 10:29 a.m.

@Greg Collins:
I agree with your posting in response to Ms. Nolan's article. "Time Outs" for violent physical behavior and patterns of bullying, (which needs to be clearly defined by the administrators), should really be "Time Away" with corrective intervention.
Parent/Guardian involvement and accountability is important during this process. Unfortunately, many parents do not see the benefit of also holding their own children responsible and accountable for these behaviors. When the parent becomes overprotective of his/her child, the school becomes the "bad" guy. It is important that the school administrators and parents have a united front regarding the expected behaviors of the student.
I also think it is important for there to be intervention at schools for the victims of bullying. Here. too, parent involvement, and perhaps "crime victim counseling," would be appropriate.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 13, 2009 | 12:08 p.m.

Do we consider that public schools are primarily vehicles for education or do we regard them as a tax paid baby sitting service, with some of the "babies" being hard core juvenile delinquents?

There are reasons why the exodus of students from public to private schools continues, and may indeed accelerate. It is not over certain well publicized issues such as school prayer; it's first and foremost over the complete and total lack of discipline in many public schools.

(Report Comment)
Bill Moyes May 13, 2009 | 1:38 p.m.

Yes, isn't it ironic in our society that you have to take a test and get a license to drive a car, but we let anybody make babies? No skills necessary, huh?

In a dysfunctional family, the children are more likely to become dysfunctional parents themselves as they have no positive role models for good parenting. Kicking a "bad" kid out of school may temporarily solve the problem for the school, but just transfers the problem into the community for law enforcement to deal with. Law enforcement does more to punish bad behavior with less education on how to behave well. At least in school there is a chance to be taught how to be good.

And with absentee parents, many troubled youths spend more hours of the day in school than they do at home with their parents. If we assume, as Mr. Collins does, that bad parenting skills are the cause of bad behavior, that's probably a good thing, and just another reason why they should stay in school.

These days, the teachers are more limited on what they can do to control unruly students. In Columbia middle schools, teachers can't give an after-school detention because the student will miss their bus and have no way home. That's why some middle school administrators drive students home after their school detentions. Yes, that really occurs on a regular basis. If the parent can't/won't pick up the student, the principal takes them home in his/her own car. What does the student learn from that?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 13, 2009 | 2:03 p.m.

@Bill Moyes;
Perhaps some of these "at-risk" children should be taken out of these homes and become ward's of the state.
These parents might become more attentive and responsive if the possibility of a decreased family-size will affect the amount of TANF or other kind of assistance they might be getting for having children.
Perhaps mandatory parenting workshop classes would help. Maybe, school principals should be required to facilitate meaningful Parent-Teacher-Student Associations from K-High School.
Also, if a school official is stuck with a child "abandoned" by the parent, maybe instead of chauffering the child back to the residence, dropping the kid off to the police station or child protection services, might be more effective in getting the parent's attention.

(Report Comment)
Wendy Archer July 27, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.

There are some problems with anti-bully policies and laws. First, most bullying doesn't happen where adults can see it. Second, laws and policies and school based anti-bully programs DO NOT WORK. Do the research- in some cases, they made the problems worse by driving the abuse deeper underground.

My son was getting picked on in 4th grade- teasing, name calling, shoving, etc. I taught him some simple strategies that are explained in The Total Bully Solution and the harassment disappeared virtually overnight. Adam Blum's program gets my strongest recommendation.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 27, 2009 | 3:29 a.m.

@Ms. Archer:
This article is from May 13th.
Just tried to look up some more info on that advertisement spot you pushed on the Missourian regarding that home program course which isn't even available yet.
I did notice however that your name pops up on other articles on bullies where you seem to advertise this, as of yet unavailable/soon to be released program.
If you are legit on this Ms. Archer, how did you get this unavailable program which seems, to me, to be nothing but a "tickler campaign?"
If it's so great, why not tell us how to get a "free" copy?

Also from New York City's July 9th CBS article on bullying:

by WendyArcher July 24, 2009 12:23 PM EDT
Dr. Taylor brings up some great points about bullying, social agression, bossy behavior and character development in children. Her suggestions about how to positively channel certian personality traits is very valuable. On the other side, for parents of children who tend to be more passive and sensitive, learning stratagies to deflect agression and make friends is essential. Adam Blum, the world's foremost anti-bully authority, has written extensively on this subject and provides sound guidance for parents can teach their kids at a very early age.

I recommend that if it's that great then don't tease us with its availability. It is either available or not.
At least extend some truth in your manner of advertising for this product....

(Report Comment)

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