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The problem with bullies: for teens all over the U.S., bullying has become a serious health crisis.

By sixth grade, Karen had experienced her share of hardships. She had just been adopted by a family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, after spending six years in foster care. Naturally shy and quiet, Karen also struggled with a slight speech impediment. She had only one good friend.

All this made Karen (not her real name) an easy target for a bully. Her tormentor, a popular girl at school, loved to taunt Karen about the way she spoke and about her home life.

"She made fun of the fact that I was a foster kid and that my mother didn't take care of me," says Karen.

Sometimes the abuse was physical. The bully might shove Karen or throw one of her shoes in a toilet. Even after the other girl received several suspensions and detentions for her bullying, she refused to give Karen a break.

Millions of U.S. teens understand what Karen went through. A 2001 study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that more than 16 percent of students in grades 6-12 said they had been bullied. Nineteen percent said they had been bullies themselves.

It's not just the victims who are hurt by bullying. Another study found that 60 percent of bullies in grades 6 through 9 will be convicted of a criminal act by age 24!

At one time, bullying was considered just a natural part of growing up. Today, authorities see it as a serious health crisis. It is estimated that bullying keeps 160,000 U.S. students out of school each day.

WHAT IS BULLYING?

Bullying takes many forms: gossip, snubbing, put-downs, threats, and violent attacks. Its roots lie in the difference of power between the bullies and their victims. Bullies tend to be confident, impulsive (acting on the spur of the moment), and popular. Victims tend to be withdrawn and have few friends. Many bullies come from homes where they are neglected or abused. Bullying allows them to exercise power that's denied to them at home.

Boys and girls bully differently. Boys tend to use threats and physical violence. Girl bullies rely more on backbiting (cruel comments), social exclusion, and spreading false rumors. Cyberbullying, a new form of harassment, allows a bully to humiliate his or her peers with email and blog postings.

For victims, being bullied damages self-esteem. Bullying expert Marlene Snyder says that fear of bullies also makes class time much more trying for the victims. "They're sitting there trying to survive, not able to really learn," she says.

Karen, now a 14-year-old eighth-grader, says that was her experience. "I hated going to school," she told JS.

Karen's frequent complaints about the bullying finally brought her some relief. She and her tormentor were given separate class schedules for eighth grade.

Karen believes the other girl may also have been threatened with expulsion. Whatever happened, the bully now ignores Karen. Life is easier to handle. And yet the bullying has left its mark.

"School's still stressful," Karen says. "I'm always on the watch to see who's coming toward me."

STOPPING BULLIES

Is there bullying at your school? If so, here are some tips to help with the problem:

1. Talk to a trusted adult. Don't be ashamed to ask for help when you or someone you know is being bullied.

2. Realize that you don't deserve to be bullied. Nobody deserves to be put down or pushed around. Never directly confront a bully, but do something that can help resolve the problem.

3. Step in when an individual is being bullied. Kids can't watch others get hurt and teased and do nothing about it.

In recent years, many schools have implemented effective anti-bullying programs. Denny Middle School in Seattle, Washington, launched such a program last September. Already there have been signs of progress. Last December, Craig Little, 13, saw a new student being taunted by a group of fellow seventh-graders. The lead bully wouldn't let the boy pass.

Instead of standing by, Craig acted. He said, "You guys leave him a alone, and let him go." Craig then escorted the boy away from the group. The lead bully and the new student have since made up. "I talked to both of them [later], and they're all fight with each other," Craig told JS. "They're kind of becoming friends."

Your Turn

THINK ABOUT IT

What would you do if you saw a kid bullying someone at your school?

LESSON PLANS

OBJECTIVES

Students should understand

* Bullying is viewed as a serious health crisis in many schools and affects both the victim and the aggressor.

TEACHING STRATEGY

Encourage students to share any experience they or someone they know has had with bullying. How was the situation resolved?

BACKGROUND

According to the Indiana Education Policy Center, most incidents of bullying occur in places with little adult supervision. Studies show that a well-designed in-school prevention program can reduce or eliminate bullying. These programs can also help reduce incidents of vandalism, fighting, and truancy.

THINKING SKILLS

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: What are the differences between boy and girl bullies? (According to' research, boys tend to use threats and physical violence, while girls bully through social exclusion and the spreading of false rumors.)

MAKING INFERENCES: Why is bullying no longer considered to be a natural part of growing up? (Education and health authorities consider bullying to be a serious health concern. According to statistics, about 160,000 students skip school each day to avoid being bullied. Bullying in school affects learning, damages the self-esteem of its victims, and can lead to greater acts of violence.)

DISCUSS: Do you agree with the suggestion that other students should intervene and try to stop an act of bullying? Would you? Why or why not?

ACTIVITY

BULLY PREVENTION: Divide the class into small groups or pairs. Instruct each group to create bully-prevention posters or to perform a skit illustrating antibullying measures.

STANDARDS

SOCIAL STUDIES, GRADES 5-8

* Individual development and identity: Understanding the motivations behind bullying and the responsibility of each individual to try to stop it.

* Civic ideals and practices. How adults and students can create clear rules in order to effectively deal with bullying.

RESOURCES

PRINT

* Beane, Allan, The Bully Free Classroom: Over 100 Tips and Strategies for Teachers K-8 (Free Spirit Publishing, 1999). Grades 5-8.

* Olweus, Dan, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do (Blackwell Publishers, 1894). Grades 5-8.

WEBSITES

* Bully Prevention www.safechild.org/bullies.htm

* Stop Bullying Now! www.stopbullyingnow.com
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Author:Price, Sean
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 9, 2004
Words:1078
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