By Brie Kishel, Contributor
School districts across New York State are scrambling to implement anti-bullying programs in order to conform to the “Dignity for All Students Act” (DASA). The legislation requires school districts to protect their students by prohibiting the harassment and discrimination of any student, reporting all bullying incidents that occur and enforcing swift and severe consequences for bullying behavior. As a result of this legislation, both students and staff are being taught or trained to recognize what constitutes “bullying” and how to proceed if they become a victim or witness bullying taking place in their school. Parents will also be receiving a wealth of information from the schools encouraging them to talk to their children and take part in the efforts of the school by reinforcing the Code of Conduct at home as well. It remains to be seen how receptive the students and teachers will be to the programs that are selected. Unfortunately, some of the more reputable programs are priced beyond the budget of many of the schools. At the same time, there are several schools that I have attended recently that have already implemented their own unique anti-bullying programs. Some of them are quite impressive and could potentially be shared with other districts.
Parents and siblings at home are going to play a significant role in the war on bullying. After all, it is a well-known fact that children tend to mimic the social interactions of their caregivers. It is time for us, as adults, to do some self-reflection in analyzing the way that we treat others and how that may be perceived by our children. Turn on the television and you will see “Housewives of New Jersey,” a classic example of female-to-female bullying, almost any of the children cartoons incorporate an antagonistic character that represents the bully in the show, and who can ignore the popularity of the colorful characters on the “Jersey Shore” series? Not exactly role model material for the anti-bullying campaign! Yes it’s true that parents should monitor their children’s viewing material, but everyone knows that the inappropriately – entertaining material that comprises these programs is available in many different forms and it would take a virtual superhero to block all of the cell phones, computers, kindles, iPads, etc. that find their way into the hands of young children. So then it falls back on us to model what is socially appropriate behavior.
So then what is the resolution to the bullying epidemic?
Will it be the “Dignity for All Students Act” that officially went into effect on July 1, 2012? Was it gaining public support in the form of almost $700,000.00 in donations to a bus aide who was being harassed by students? Is it playing on human emotions through the countless media stories of young children taking their own lives as a last resort to the torment they’ve experienced from their peers? It appears that there are many out there contributing to the hopeful demise, or at least decrease, of bullying incidents. But only time will tell which is the most effective approach to altering societal attitudes. Until that time comes it is up to each one of us, individually, to engage in the battle against bullying.