Monday, October 12, 2009

Teasing and Bullying

A newsletter from a terrific group operating on Long Island, Child Abuse Prevention Services -- CAPS -- reminded us of the harm that can be done to children who are the victims of teasing and bullying.

The frequent target of such behaviors is the child who is a bit different from her classmates, who may march to his own drummer. He or she may have low self esteem or poor social skills. Sometimes, the same issues that make a child a target of bullying will make it more likely that a particular child can be "egged on" by classmates to take the role of bully, rather than victim. A good discussion of the impact of bullying on children with learning and attention differences by Marlene Snyder, Ph.D., discusses the damage bullying causes for both victim and aggressor.

We recently learned that a student who had visited the Yellin Center was the victim of repetitive teasing by classmates. The student's mother explained that when she brought this hurtful behavior to the attention of her child's school, she was advised that the school had a strong policy against teasing and bullying and that the students who had targeted her child would soon find the tide of their classmates' opinion turning against them. We wonder how long the victim would need to suffer for the social system in that competitive school to "solve" the problem.

CAPS firmly believes that bullying, constant criticism, threats, and other similar sustained and repetitive patterns of behavior that hurt a child's emotional development or sense of self worth are forms of emotional abuse. It notes, on its website, that national figures indicate that, one in 10 students in grades six through 10 report being bullied "sometimes" or "weekly" and that in the average classroom of 20 students or more, two to three students spend every day in fear of being bullied, harassed or worse.

CAPS brings educational programs on child abuse and bullying into local schools by means of volunteer educators and offers programs for parents and educators on issues ranging from child abuse to internet safety. Long Island parents should learn more about these programs.

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