Elizabeth Smith collaborated on this article. She is the Social Media Consultant to Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis and Farhi LLP, and recieved her BA in English from Montclair State University.
Sayreville. What used to be known as a pastoral, central Jersey town has now been cast into the media spotlight; a looming ugly shadow surrounds its High School. While this seems like a rare and extreme case, there are many more cases in schools across the country that have gone unreported or been swept under the rug.
Bullying has been around for as long as there have been kids and schools. With the advent of social media, it’s become even easier for the abuse to continue after hours. According to the anti-bullying project Make Beats Not Beatdowns, it is estimated that American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million victims. It’s estimated that 160,000 children miss school every single day for fear of attack or intimidation by other students. 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school and even more upsettingly, 1 out of 20 students have seen a student with a gun at school.
Those are just the shocking statistics. Co-author and Social Media Consultant Liz Smith spoke with the parents of a child who was severely bullied at a New Jersey school. So severely, in fact, that they felt the best thing was to transfer him to a different school. They said that they were very lucky that their son was so open with them about the incident, and that he was not afraid to report the bullying. They weren’t pleased with the school’s handling of the problem and felt that it wasn’t being taken seriously. The school wanted to handle things “on their terms” and both parents felt as though they were being “jerked around” by the guidance counselor and the administration.
Having an attorney represent them, they stressed, was extremely crucial in getting the proper amount of time and effort put forth on the investigation. “The faster you get in on it, the better off you are”.
Fortunately, New Jersey has a law on the books. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights has a strong definition of bullying. In addition to defining bullying more clearly, the law requires that every public school, including colleges, report all cases of bullying or teasing to the state. Verbal reports must be given to principals on the day of an observed incident and a written report must be provided within 2 days. Families must be notified, as well as the superintendent of schools, and an investigation must take place within ten days of the incident. Schools must also have a plan that outlines how they will address bullying and all teachers and administrators must be trained to identify and respond to it. Finally, every public school must have an anti-bullying specialist and a school safety team. The bad news is that the law isn’t taken as seriously as it should by some school districts. And it doesn’t apply to private schools (but there are still possible remedies for students who go there).
As with everything else in education, a parent must be her or his child’s advocate. That includes having a relationship with teachers, guidance counselors and school staff. Monitoring social media is also very important. Peer pressure is tough for kids to overcome, so stress to your son or daughter that even though it may be hard, always report instances of bullying to a trusted adult.