Together Against Bullying
By Whitney Brinson
School-aged youth often encounter obstacles and roadblocks while seeking an education. Bullying is increasingly being recognized as an important problem affecting the well-being and social functioning of school-aged youth. Bullying is no longer limited to name-calling, teasing, and rumors. New forms of bullying have ventured outside of school and are terrorizing youth. Bullying presents a potentially more serious threat to healthy youth development. In some cases students and their families have faced limited support from school officials. Children’s ability to do well in school correlates with their social life. When children have trouble making friends, are bullied, and overall lack acceptance from their peers, they “are unlikely to have the cognitive and emotional resources to be able to do well in school” (Juvonen & Graham, 2001, as cited in Graham, n.d.). Victims of bullying may also develop low self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety, and depression (Graham Bellmore, & Mize, 2006; Graham & Juvonen, 1998, as cited in Graham, n.d.). Currently, no federal law exists that addresses bullying and harassment. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1199) is a proposal that will force K-12 public schools nationwide to follow specific guidelines in relation to bullying cases. This legislation explores the implications from bullying and the actions that need to be made in order to alleviate this pressing issue.
The Gay Lesbian and Straight Network (2012) explains that The Safe Schools Improvement Act will give school officials grounds to suspend a pupil or recommend a pupil for expulsion for bullying, including, but not limited to, bullying by electronic act. Although bullying has been an ongoing issue for many years, it has recently increased in public attention. This rise has largely been generated by media attention reporting on cases where bullying resulted in many teen suicides and deaths (www.bullyingstatistics.org).
When considering the legislative process the bill is fairly in its beginning stages. So far the bill has been introduced and referred to the committee. The congressional committee will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The committee chair determines whether a bill will move past the committee. The bill is at a standstill and nothing has been done to move the bill along in the legislative process. There are a number of people that support H.R. 1199. A report from govtrack (2013) states, “there are 181 cosponsors and the bill is sponsored by Rep. Linda Sánchez of district 38” (p. 2). California officials Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer both support this bill. Also, the bill has bipartisan support and is increasingly becoming meaningful for politicians nationwide. Although there is political support for this bill there are very little grassroots efforts being made to push this bill forward.
Research has shown that bullying is causing a huge problem nationwide and is negatively impacting the safety of children. The nation is concerned with helping children meet their educational goals; children cannot succeed in school if they fear being threatened or harassed. Nansel (2001) explains that many people believe that schools should be responsible for addressing bullying since most bullying begins at school. The Gay Lesbian and Straight Network (2012) explains that despite the fact that more than eight out of 10 LGBT students are bullied in school each year because of their sexual orientation there is little discourse about this bill.
Unfortunately, bullying is not uncommon in schools. The prevalence of bullying can lead to detrimental outcomes. Nansel (2001) states, “bullying victims were two to nine more times likely to report suicidal thought than other children” (p. 23). Such an alarming consequence is an issue that greatly impacts the school system as well as the nation as a whole. Ultimately, if parents and children begin to think about the effects of bullying, and identifying it, the push from parents and schools can impact the movement of the bill. The Safe Schools Improvement Act can possibly prevent one child from being bullied or being pushed to the brink of committing suicide. Limiting child hardships caused by bullying is a success schools need. Awareness and activism will help to prove the importance of the implementation of this bullying prevention policy. The continuous enforcement of the importance of bullying prevention is needed in order to move the proposed bill H.R. 1199. By contacting elected officials The Safe Schools Improvement Act can gain attention and possibly move further in the lawmaking process.