By Mary Mcnulty
Bullying is not a new phenomenon; however the intensity in which it manifests itself is. Every neighborhood has been impacted and California students, parents, and school districts are creating a united front in an attempt to stop the hate.
Efforts began about a decade ago when two San Gabriel families felt first-hand the pain bullying can inflict. A suicide and a severe beating led the families to hit the streets and initiate a grassroots campaign.
Isela and Scott Bowles faced the pelleting of their daughter by rocks at a San Gabriel Middle School. In a 2010 interview they expressed disappointment in the action taken by the school district.
“I’m torn,” Isela Bowles said. “A school district that’s supposed to protect all the kids was not willing to protect our daughter.”
As catastrophic as the beating was for the entire community, bullying has led to an even more serious consequence of death. Project 51 was named after the football number of Jeremiah Lasater, a special needs student. In 2008, after being bullied Jeremiah went into the bathroom at Acton High School, pulled the trigger, and committed suicide.
“For the last 30 years, the school districts have told us how to raise our kids and the parents have taken the back seat,” Lasater said. “The parents are taking back control and the first step is to engage and know everything that’s going on at their children’s school.”
Unfortunately bullying is still occurring at a dramatic rate in our neighborhoods. In June 2015, a dispute over a restaurant bill led to a young girl being kicked, beaten, and burnt by cigarettes. The bullies were inhumane. One even stated that the beating should be slowed down so that it would last longer.
With such a long and deadly history, the state knew it had to step in and establish guidelines for school districts to deal with bullying.
“The long-term effects of bullying, cruelty, bias, and hate-motivated behavior can have a tremendous impact on student success – both for the victims and for the perpetrators,” wrote Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction.
In an effort to educate the communities, the state has created a number of resources that are directed at specific groups – parents, students, community service agencies, and educators.
California has established a number of online resources to help anyone involved in bullying. Students, parents, teachers, and district administrators have dedicated pages to identify and report any instances.
A template has been created to document the district’s policy on bullying and the procedure for handling such complaints. The policy states that “A student shall not intimidate, harass, or bully another student through words or actions. Such behavior includes: direct physical contact, such as hitting or shoving; verbal assaults, such as teasing or name-calling; and social isolation or manipulation.” Visit www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/samplepolicy.asp, to view the policy.
It is apparent the school districts alone have little impact on bullying. Only through working as a coalition with students and parents, can progress be made. The state has provided a number of online resources for the community in an effort to combat this epidemic, available at: www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/bullyres.asp.
Every student, parent, teacher, and administrator should familiarize themselves with the policies and procedures provided.