Signed into law in Sept. 2010, the Dignity for All Students Act – or DASA – was established to promote a safe and supportive learning environment in all public schools, free from harassment and discrimination from other students and adults.
DASA includes, but is not limited to acts of discrimination and harassment based on a student’s race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, sexual orientation, gender (defined to include gender identity or expression), or sex. The law explicitly states that bullying, taunting and intimidation are all forms of harassment.
What is bullying?
Bullying can take many forms. Here are some of the more common characteristics of bullying:
•Physical: Hitting, kicking,
tripping, shoving, stealing, or damaging one’s personal property.
•Verbal: Using words to hurt, humiliate or ridicule someone, such as name calling or insults.
•Relational: Spreading rumors, rejecting a person from a peer group, manipulating friends and relationships (i.e., posting rude or embarrassing comments or pictures on social networking sites for all “friends” to see, making suggestions via e-mail or text message to “de-friend” someone.)
•Prejudicial: Making racial slurs, making fun of cultural, religious or other differences.
•Sexual harassment: Using suggestive words or inappropriate touch, e-mailing or texting inappropriate pictures of self or someone else.
Characteristics of bullying
Bullying usually occurs between individuals who are not friends. The bully may be bigger, tougher or have the power to exclude others from their social group. Lots of kids joke around with their friends, which might include innocent name-calling or rough-housing but these incidents are not necessarily bullying. Bullying has three characteristics that set it apart:
•There is a power difference between the bully
and the victim.
•The bully intends to hurt, embarrass or humiliate the other person.
•The behavior is repeated—with others or with the same person over time.
The National School Safety Center explains that boys and girls tend to bully in different ways. Boys are more direct or inclined to physically and verbally abuse others. Girls are more indirect—typically focusing on relationships or ruining another’s reputation. Whether the bullying is direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is that the physical or psychological intimidation occurs repeatedly over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.
Noticing the signs of being bullied
Included in the district’s code of conduct and various anti-bullying initiatives are materials and training exercises for students and staff to help them more easily recognize the signs of bullying. Here are a few ways to tell if a child is being bullied:
•Subtle changes in behavior, such as being
withdrawn, anxious, preoccupied, having a loss of interest in school
or in a favorite pastime.
•Coming home with bruises and scratches, torn or dirtied clothing, or missing or damaged school or personal items (i.e., books, cell phones, new sneakers).
•A loss of appetite.
•Excessive trips to the school nurse or faking sickness to stay home from school.
•Loss of sleep, bad dreams, crying in his sleep.
•Afraid or reluctant to go to school in the morning.
•Sensitive or withdrawn when asked about his or her day at school.
(Adapted from the National PTA, http://www.pta.org).
Bullying prevention requires collaboration
The district needs not only faculty and staff, but parents and students to make this a bully-free environment by speaking up when they see bullying taking place.
Anyone who feels that he or she has been bullied or harassed, or wants to report an incident of someone being bullied is encouraged to contact the appropriate school-level Dignity Act Coordinator (see sidebar on right). All complaints are confidential, and will be promptly investigated.
An on-line bullying incident form is also available, once submitted the form will automatically be directed to the DASA Coordinator and prompt action will be taken.
Encouraging others to take a stand against bullying
Traditionally, bullying prevention programs were focused on the bully and the victim. However, new approaches now shine a light on the important role a witness or bystander can play in stopping bullies in their tracks. Bystanders can be just as harmed by watching bullying as they are by being bullied. Witnesses often feel powerless and may experience fear, sadness, anger, guilt or shame at not being able to stop the incident. However, standing up for others can take a lot of courage. Here are some ways that you can help further encourage your children to take a stand against bullying without being afraid:
•Talk with your children about bullying. Ask them
about what they witness. Keep the lines of communication open so that
you will likely be the one they confide in.
•Let your children know it is OK to report bullying. Make it safe for your children to tell you and other adults about things they have seen and what bothers them. Listen carefully to what they are saying and guide your child in seeing how dangerous bullying can be if not stopped.
•Help your child empathize with the victim. It’s much easier for children to ignore a situation if the person being bullied is not a friend. Talk with your children about how they would feel if they or one of their close friends were in the victim’s shoes. Work with your child to develop strategies to help those being bullied. For instance, if rumors are being spread about someone, you can counsel your children to counter it with the truth. Help the victim stick up for him or herself by providing support.
•Enlist the help of others. Bystanders far outnumber the bullies. With children who are reluctant to help stop bullying, the aid of a sympathetic friend or two might make the difference.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying is the act of abusing another person through the use of web-related avenues of communication, such as social networking sites and blogs. As new avenues of communication develop to bring people closer together, there are always going to be bullies out there to take advantage of those avenues for nefarious purposes. By understanding some important cyber bullying statistics, you can more easily find ways to avoid cyber bullying and keep you or your loved ones safe on the Internet. Learn more about cyber bullying statistics, here.
Additional Anti-Bullying & Cyber Bullying Resources