My view: NAACP endeavors to stop bullying

By Jeanetta Williams

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 16 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

The NAACP is concerned about safety for all children and seeks ways to combat bullying in schools. The problems of bullying and harassment are among the most prevalent and profound that schools face. Bullying continues to seriously disrupt school environment and affect the lives of millions of students every year, with major adverse academic and safety consequences.

Almost 30 percent of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying, either as a bully, a target of bullying or both. In a national survey of students in grades 6-10, 13 percent reported bullying others, 11 percent reported being targets of bullies, and another 6 percent said that they bullied others and were bullied themselves.

Bullying and harassment are widespread problems with significant adverse consequences affecting youth across the country. School bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, but all involve a person or a group wanting to have power over another person who is perceived to be weaker or more vulnerable. Bullying and harassing can involve direct attacks with hitting, threatening, intimidating, maliciously teasing, taunting, name-calling, making sexual remarks, stealing or damaging belongings. Bullying and harassment can be subtle, indirect attacks, spreading rumors and encouraging others to reject or exclude.

Bullying and harassment can lead teens that are the target of bullying and harassing to feel tense, anxious, and afraid. It can affect their concentration in school, and lead them to avoid school in some cases. This creates a large number of youth that drop out of school. Bullying and harassing affects a teen's self-esteem.

Bullying and harassment based on a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion must be recorded and acted upon by school officials as a responsibility.

Bullying and harassment can increase social isolation, leading them to become withdrawn, depressed, anxious and insecure. In extreme cases bullying and harassment can be devastating for teens. Some teens feel compelled to take drastic measures, such as carrying weapons for protection or seeking violent revenge. Others, in desperation, consider suicide or commit suicide when they have no place to report bullying and harassment.

The NAACP will work to ensure that no student is denied access to a quality education because of fear of degradation associated with bullying and harassment. NAACP Salt Lake Branch and units across the country are required to meet with state and local school districts and request information regarding anti-bullying policies and procedures in tandem with programs that promote community building, teach students how to negotiate differences and how to advocate for themselves and be allies to fellow students who are being bullied.

The NAACP recommends that:

All schools have effective anti-bullying and anti-harassment programs.

All schools implement anti-bullying training for all personnel. School officials should have students pledge not to bully or harass other students, to help students who are bullied or harassed, and to report all cases to school officials.

All school districts maintain and report data regarding all incidents of bullying and harassment.

All schools offer effective counseling for perpetrators and victims of bullying and harassment.

States and school districts submit statistical data regarding bullying incidents to the United States Department of Justice in order to develop effective federal, state, and local anti-bullying policies.

The NAACP calls upon schools to raise awareness regarding bullying and harassing, increase teacher and parent involvement and supervision, form clear rules and strong social norms against bullying and harassing, and provide support and protection for all students. This approach should involve teachers, principals, students and everyone associated with the school, including maintenance staff, food services staff, security guards, and crossing guards.

Bullying must be monitored and actions taken to stop it. The NAACP suggests these recommendations because of our desire to assure students that when they attend schools to learn, they will be safe and there will not be a need for them to be afraid of being bullied.

Jeanetta Williams is president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch and former member of the NAACP National Board of Directors.

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