Survey provides new statistics, uncovers old problem of bullying on campusSunday, October 31, 2010 By Alsion Sale Granite Bay HS
Granite Bay High School senior Laura Smith is a victim of bullying. She is one of the estimated 25 percent of students who are affected by bullying at some point during their school career, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. “It doesn’t make sense why you would break someone down to the point of (causing them to) act violently or wanting to disappear altogether,” Smith said. Smith admits that she has bullied others as a result of being bullied – every force has an equal and opposite reaction. “It was an act of lashing out because (I was) angry and sad,” Smith said. “ “Personally I didn’t want them to suffer or anything, I just wanted them to know what they had done. Sometimes that realization doesn’t hit them until it’s done to them, which I didn’t want to happen. It shouldn’t be a domino force, back and forth, because that just leaves you both on the ground.” The issue of bullying – in the form of physical and verbal assaults, social exclusion and assaults on social networking sites – is a rather new issue on Granite Bay High School’s radar. The results from a School Climate Survey, completed by 1,401 GBHS students, were published in late August. GBHS is indeed part of the national average in regards to bullying. In some cases, higher statistics have been reported – 32 percent of students said that they had seen or heard of another student being verbally bullied and/or harassed, while 28 percent reported social bullying and/or harassment. GBHS Principal Mike McGuire initiated a committee last year comprised of administrators, teachers and parents to combat the issue through education and prevention. The committee is titled Creating Unlimited Learning Through Unity, Respect and Equity (C.U.L.T.U.R.E.) “We’ve learned (from the school shooting at) Columbine High School that (the phrase) ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is totally ineffective,” McGuire said. “We’ve known that for a long, long time – what we still haven’t cracked is the code of silence.” McGuire believes the “code of silence,” or reluctance to tell an administrator about bullying, prevents GBHS from having the best-possible school climate. Smith agrees: “The administration can do a lot, but only if they’re asked to intervene." According to the NASP, “Bullying occurs when a student is repeatedly harmed, psychologically and/or physically, by another student or group of students.” GBHS psychologist Angela Sanchez typically finds that bullies want to feel dominant and more powerful, so they select victims that seem weak. She advises the “weak” students to stand up for themselves, or stand up to the bully with a group of friends, because the bully will be the minority and regret the action. Sanchez thinks that if the victims of these situations actually stood up and challenged these bullies, the social norm will gradually change so that bullying is not acceptable. However, if the victim doesn’t have a support group, Sanchez strongly suggests confiding in a supportive adult on campus. "A lot of the students I’ve talked to don’t tell anyone. Then it builds, and builds and builds until they can’t handle it anymore,” Sanchez said. “If it’s to the point where (a victim is) getting emotional about it – it’s making them feel upset, sad and maybe they don’t want to go to school or social events anymore – that should be the red flag (to seek an adult).” Smith has additional advice: realize that the bully’s judgment is false because they don’t understand the victim’s past experiences. “It’s not like they’re God and they’re telling you, ‘You’re a horrible person’,” Smith said. “They’re not (God); they don’t know anything (about you). So why should they be able to affect your life so badly?” This is a concept GBHS senior Alyssa Anthony has dealt with also. “(Bullying) definitely did affect me a lot when I was younger – it put me in tears,” Anthony said. “You have this alone feeling, and you feel like the world – not just that one person who is bullying you – is out to get you.” Anthony suffered from a common form of bullying at GBHS: cyberbullying. “I (understand why) people get really depressed from (bullying) because … I’ve (had) dirty rumors posted on the internet about me, where the whole, entire world can see,” Anthony said. Sanchez believes that because social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are open to the public, cyberbullying can be more powerful than one-on-one name calling or social exclusion, which are two other common forms of bullying at GBHS. “If it’s Facebook, everyone sees (the comments,)” Sanchez said. “When all of these other people are brought in, that can be really detrimental and make the student feel really isolated and not know what to do.” Many steps can be taken to prevent these instances in the first place. GBHS English teacher Judi Daniels is one of the teachers on the C.U.L.T.U.R.E. committee because she felt strongly about bullying for personal reasons. “My niece … committed suicide a year ago as a result of cyberbullying, so this is a very personal situation,” Daniels said. “I decided that I had to do something here (at GBHS) to work out my own issues. I did some research, found (out) about Point Break and followed through with that.” Point Break is a day-long workshop that breaks down barriers and creates connections among students through a variety of activities and discussions. Daniels worked with GBHS English teacher Katrina Wachs to bring it to GBHS last year. In order to support Point Break, Daniels started a club, Campus Connections, in which 60 students joined after Point Break to promote a more positive student campus and fight bullying. Daniels is also teaming up with Wachs to teach a bullying unit in their English classes, after Daniels realized the expository reading and writing course she is teaching includes a bullying unit. “I am absolutely convinced that I have both bullies and victims in (my) class – absolutely convinced,” Daniels said.