School Bullying

Stumbled upon this interesting article today by Liz Dwyer:

The Insidious, Old-School Bullying That American Classrooms Can’t Seem To Shake

Images Credit: https://www.flexininmycomplexion.com/home-thorne

A 10-year old girl named Kheris Rogers who was being teased by her classmates for her dark skin complexion went viral on social media after her older sister posted a photo of her all dressed up from a fashion show with the hashtag “#flexininhercomplexion”. It was shared all over social media and caught the attention of a business entrepreneur, who eventually helped the young girl and her mother launch her T-shirt line inspired by the hashtag title called Flexin’ In My Complexion that has since sold out its merchandise. Hearing about youth being targeted or teased for various reasons has always made me want to do more to help them overcome their current struggles and shield them from its potentially harmful short- and long-term effects.

One recent research project of mine deals with bullying victimization of youth with special needs. Having dug into the bullying research literature, I was amazed to find that there was not a lot of work done in this area and that it is currently under-explored. The whole bullying phenomenon was not really considered an issue until the past 20 or so years when people began paying closer attention to increased suicide or gun violence rates on the school setting. Overwhelmingly, the general population considered bullying a typical developmental experience that arises during youth and as something that one eventually overcomes and goes away. But more recent studies say otherwise, and there may actually be negative longstanding effects to bullying experiences during youth (e.g., increased risk for depression, anxiety, poor academic achievement). For school-aged individuals with special needs, the reported rates of bullying victimization is typically as high as 70% in the current academic school year.

There seems to be some growing interest in the research topic of bullying and how it impacts individuals in a more long-term fashion, but it is crucial that we pay greater attention to this moving forward. With today’s increasingly negative and polarizing political climate, we should not forget that the children are watching it all happen alongside us, albeit with varying degrees of awareness about specific political issues. I’ve definitely come across children in my work environment who have expressed growing anxiety and other concerns related to the Presidential election (e.g., worries about family and friends being deported, increased teasing/bullying related to ethnic background/religious affiliations, general feelings of being unsafe), and it is hard to assuage their feelings because it is as real for them as it is for the adults around them (see the APA Stress in America survey for more info). In November 2016, the American Psychological Association made bullying prevention one of its top priorities to address in the current year and is awaiting final resolution from the US federal government on the matter. Moving forward, I hope there are more resilient youth and individuals like Kheris who can find a way to rise against their bullies and turn lemons into some money-making lemonade.

Some helpful resources on bullying prevention:

  1. StopBullying.gov – information on bullying, risk factors, prevention, and how to respond
  2. Cyberbullying Research Center – information about cyberbullying, resources, and state-specific laws in the US regarding bullying

 

Let us know if you have additional resources to recommend!

 

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