There’s new legislation, requirements for schools and plenty of information out there–but not everyone knows how to best grapple with the ongoing problem that is childhood bullying.
Given that uncertainty, panelists from the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Trade Commission, New Jersey State Police, the NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association were on hand to lead discussions and answer questions at a wide-ranging forum at Rowan University hosted by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s office Tuesday night.
“Bullying is a terrible thing to have happen to anybody within a school campus, within friendship circles. What I want to do is make sure that we sound the word that bullying is not an acceptable thing at any university or college, or school that gets federal assistance,” said Lautenberg, in an opening video message.
Dr. Stuart Green, founder of the NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, and moderator for the forum, said his office takes calls daily on reports of bullying. On an average day they get about one complaint a day, but can get far more on a busy day.
“It’s those calls and contacts from parents that sustain this work for me. We’re still at the point in which raising awareness of the extent and nature of the problem of bullying is the key to creating change,” said Green. “Despite all the attention we seem to be paying to it these days, this is really a foundational problem in all human affairs and I believe that it’s much more important than we even regard it as.”
Deborah A. Temkin, Research Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools of the U.S. Dept. of Education spoke on the nature of safety in schools.
“We are the ones who keep the student safe. If a student isn’t safe, they cannot learn, period. It’s that simple,” said Temkin.
According to Temkin, almost three-quarters of all students are somehow involved in bullying, whether they are the bully or the victim. Temkin also noted that teachers and students, as well as bystanders make a great difference.
“When peers step in, bullying will stop,” said Temkin.
Derick Rill, a Congressional Specialist for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington D.C., focused on opportunities and consequences. Materials were provided to trigger conversations among parents or administrators and young people on topics of online bullying and responsible internet behavior.
Jennifer Keyes-Maloney, Assistant Director of Government Relations for NJSPA, focused on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights enacted earlier this year. She listed four essential ingredients to investigate harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB): Talent, Training, Team, and Timelines.
“Districts have a duty to step in and address it immediately,” said Keyes-Maloney.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams, a NJ State Police Officer and trained instructor and practitioner with the National Association of School Resource Officers led the discussion on law enforcement’s role in school bullying.
Margie Glick, Human Relations Commissioner for Gloucester County took to the microphone for the question and answer portion of the evening, and brought up concerns over the accurate reporting of bullying in districts. Keyes-Maloney replied that it will be up to the districts to report their findings. Glick also voiced her concern for biased courtrooms when justice is meant to be served.
Jaried Kimberley, a 2010 Gateway Regional High School graduate and current Rowan University theatre performance and education major, took his stand as someone who has seen bullying firsthand. He addressed to the panel his passion on the prevention, rather than just consequential response to bullying. His remarks led to applause by all attending.
Gloucester Township Police Department Chief W. Harry Earle said it’s important not to focus just on schools as the sole source of bullying.
“All these measures are being taken to prevent bullying in the school, which is fantastic, but we must acknowledge and have to understand that everywhere bullying is even occurring outside of the school,” said W. Harry Earle, Chief of Police for Gloucester Township Police. “And I think it’s so important that the schools and the police work together to prevent it from happening in the first place.”