I was in grade 6. Pretty much every day this one kid in grade 8 made it a priority to make my life miserable. He would spit on me, punch me and throw my coat over my head and push me to the ground calling me names. I was so furious and felt powerless as I was always told at home that if I got into trouble at school I’d get into more trouble when I got home. So I took it. Until this one great day that seemed to change things.
When he started again on me, I think it was a Monday but not sure, I just went after him arms flailing. I didn’t care what anyone said I was going to fight back. It didn’t end well as he was skilled at street fighting and quickly it was over. But he never bothered me again. About 50 years later I actually saw him in a grocery store and I smiled at him still remembering that eventful recess. He looked away likely having no clue who I was and that was fine. I didn’t need anything from him. I actually felt sorry for him as he wasn’t looking well with regard to health or how he was taking care of himself.
Well-meaning school administrators some years ago instituted a policy of Zero tolerance for fighting at school. At the time I wrote a blog like this one calling it “Zero Intelligence” after which a school superintendent wanted to have lunch to talk about my attitude. I was as right then as I am now. This new policy did little to help those being targeted by bullies. It empowered them to prey on children even more.
With the new policy it didn’t matter who you were or why you were fighting if you got caught you would be going home on a suspension. Bullies are very good at terrorizing children without getting caught. They’ve had a lot of practice. The targets of their actions often never fight so when they finally try to fix the problem (as I did some 53 years ago) they are obvious and are quickly sent to the office where they are dealt with. The bullies could care less about being suspended as it's like paid vacation. For the target of the assaults being suspended for fighting back destroys them even further.
Children need to be empowered to protect themselves and to fight back. It may need to be physically in the early grades, but certainly through litigation with the bully, their parents and the School Boards held accountable in high school. Empowering targets of bullies with tools to fight back is what we all need to support. It worked 53 years ago and I’m thinking we need to revisit it again today.
You stop bullying and child assaults at schools by empowering those in charge to make the decisions needed to stop it. Expel bullies from regular school and require them to attend an alternative school to learn new skills. All children need to be empowered to help other children on the playground by providing evidence, testifying in court and setting an example that speaking up for others being handed an injustice is an obligation not a choice. The Tattle Tale idea is outdated and cowardly. Empower all children to speak up.
Inviting Community Police to be part of the school culture is also part of the solution. Children who are targets of bullies need more opportunity to talk to the police on school grounds to provide them with the psychological and physical safety they need to be able to learn, grow and thrive.
We don’t need more research or studies to understand this problem. We need to start taking action and common sense solutions to protect all children.
Dr. Henry J. Svec is the author of Don’t be a Wimp Raise a Strong Leader: Parenting Strategies from Conception to Late Adulthood. He is also the author of The ADHD Fix and the online training tool www.adhdsuccessu.com both books available on Amazon.ca He is a Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice at www.osrclinics.com