The Garden City Telegram
12/13/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Bully bout

State policymakers should do more to target bullying.

Bullying used to be passed off as a fact of life, and a part of growing up.

In recent years, however, school violence and teen suicide have cast the act in a much different light, with physical or verbal harassment now taken much more seriously.

Counselors and teachers in Garden City USD 457, for example, have made strides with initiatives designed to teach problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. Students are urged to communicate, rather than retaliate.

Research has shown that young bullies who aren't corrected have a greater chance of becoming criminals as adults, and of being violent with their own families. It's both practical and sensible to implement intervention and policies in schools to stop bullying.

Educators can't go it alone, however. Parents, naturally, must teach their children to respect others.

Policymakers have a role, as well.

In Kansas, the hope is for state lawmakers to endorse a push to expand the definition of bullying and so-called cyber bullying — a move resisted by the Kansas Association of School Boards and debated during the 2012 legislative session because it would have required districts to spend more time working on bullying when they're short on staff and funds.

The proposal would require districts to investigate bullying reports in a short time frame, use state-mandated options for discipline and report incidents to the state. That seems reasonable, and not to pile on more work for school districts already doing their best, but to make sure all schools are doing their utmost.

Some parents in Kansas say bullying isn't always reported, unfortunately, and still being brushed off as kids being kids. That's dangerous.

Policies should be tough and reflect what's going on in society. While traditional bullying in face-to-face encounters is bad enough, the attacks and threats that come via social networking — especially when they're anonymous — have a viciousness that can hit home even harder, in a way that has led some youngsters to commit suicide.

No one should be satisfied until society views bullying for what it is — a growing threat that must be tackled from multiple angles, and with all the resources we can muster.