Standing Up to Bullying: A Community-based Approach
For a long time, bullying in schools went largely unaddressed in America. Teachers would dismiss it as "kids being kids" and parents would justify it as a way to "toughen kids up for the real world." One of the leading bullying prevention advocacy groups ascribes historical sentiment for bullying as a "childhood rite of passage." And then, bullies discovered the Internet and a whole new word was forged: cyber-bullying. Because of this far-reaching platform, it soon became understood that bullying doesn't "toughen" kids, it tears them down.
Bullying is defined as "unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance [and] is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time." Bullying prevention started to gain national attention when the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center was established in 2006, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. PACER's most notable legacy has been its establishment of National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week in October 2006.
As one of his first effort to curb bullying, President Obama published a YouTube video for the "It Gets Better Project" during Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week in October 2010, offering comfort to LGBT youth who are usual targets of bullying.
The Obama administration, in 2011, took a much larger step forward in curbing the increasing incidence of bullying. The President and First Lady hosted a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and launched the website StopBullying.gov, among many other initiatives. This new website, in tandem with PACER's mission, provided educators with materials to address bullying in school and parents with information for identifying bullying when it isn't readily apparent.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education announced that incident rates for bullying amongst students aged 12 to 18 had dropped significantly. Since the statistic was first measured in 2005, school bullying remained around a "stubborn" 28%. For 2013, however, that number dropped to 21.5%.
While no single factor can completely explain the very welcome decline in school bullying, efforts by the White House and PACER have certainly played a large role. But, these organizations can only provide us with the tools to address bullying in our communities. It remains up to each of us individually to stand up to bullying when we see it.
For more information on how you can make a difference, check out these resources: