The CDC reported that “nearly 14% of public schools report that bullying is a discipline problem occurring daily or at least once a week.” Reports of “unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths” are highest in middle school, although incidents also occur in primary schools and high schools. Icia Ragsdale, a licensed therapist in Maryland, provided information about bullying during National Bullying Awareness Month.
Q: What are some signs that a child may be experiencing bullying at school?
A: Children who are bullied, usually, but not always show signs through depression/sadness, isolation from peers, changes in their sleeping or eating patterns, [and/or] increase in health complaints such as stomach aches or headaches. They perform lower in school, refuse to participate in extracurricular activities, exhibit higher levels of anxiety or worry, are at a higher risk level to engage in substance/alcohol abuse and may even threaten suicide or make attempts. This [list] is not exhaustive, but the main thing is to look for changes in behavior with your children and keep the door open for communication.
Q: What are examples of appropriate responses to the child and school officials?
A: Appropriate responses to the child (victim) should be affirming their experience, expressing displeasure for the abuse that is taking place, reassuring them they are safe when they are with you and that you will work with them in a way that is comfortable for them to help them navigate their way through the experience. Parents and adults can also role play with their kids to teach them how to respond to a bully and monitor/set boundaries with their access to social media.
To officials, the appropriate response is informing them of the issue and offering to partner with them to find a resolution. It is important to make it clear that you don’t want and will not accept the issue to be swept under the rug, but that you are willing to partner to ensure the solution is found. Also, it is important to ensure that what you are calling bullying is in line with what the school system calls bullying. They send it [information] out [or they are supposed to] along with the handbook that covers behavior.
Q: What typically should happen legally in school settings?
A: In the school setting, there are levels and processes that are supposed to be followed when bullying is reported. Schools have a zero tolerance towards bullying. The process begins when a report of the incident is filed. After the report is filed, there is supposed to be an investigation conducted within two days. The principal of the school is supposed to communicate with the parent/guardian within two days and follow up with the district office with the outcome. Throughout the process, the parent and principal should be in communication about next steps and how they can work together to keep the child safe in the school environment. However, if anyone is not accepting of the outcome of the incident, one can contact Baltimore City’s CEO Ombudsman at 443-984-2020. All forms can be found at https://www.baltimorecityschools.org/bullying.
Q: What can parents do to keep their children safe from bullies at home or at school?
A: Parents can monitor and limit their child’s time on social media; create a safe environment at home where they are practicing affirmations; teach about bullying and safety; and model appropriate ways to address and resolve conflict safely. Also, parents can create an environment where the child feels safe enough to tell the parent anything that is important.
Q: What are a few must-have resources for children or parents?
A: The best resources for a parent to have are: 1.) access to a therapist or counselor for their child; 2.) https://www.stopbullying.gov/ ; 3.) access to Maryland State Department of Education’s Bullying Prevention Policies (https://marylandpublicschools.org/about/Pages/DSFSS/SSSP/Bullying/index.aspx ); 4.) access to the PACER program (https://www.pacer.org/bullying/ ); 5.) access to the Family Online Safety Institute (https://www.fosi.org/); 6.) and “Purpose, Bold & Free,” a children’s book that I wrote.
Locate Ragsdale’s book via https://www.amazon.com/Purpose-Bold-Free-Book-ebook/dp/B08DBK616N. Details about the expert are available via https://iamdesigned4purpose.com/.