Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Evaluating Research on Human Development, Anti-Bullying: Case Studies






Abstract

My focus is on two anti-bullying programs implemented in educational systems, as well as society: Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme: A Case Study within the Primary School Setting in Northern Ireland and Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. 

My argument is (1) To present a basic understanding of bullying and anti-bullying programs.  (2) To present the importance of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being in addition to legal action and implications in regards to bullying.


“To us, then, laws protecting innocent and defenseless children from dangers like exploitation at work, pornography, neglect, and abuse make sense. It seems inconceivable to us that the protection of innocent children is not a fundamental value in all societies, present and past.”  (David Newman. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Fifth Edition. Chapter 4).

Bullying is the use of predominant strength or influence to terrorize someone. This results in an ongoing destruction of the health and well-being of human beings, beginning in elementary school and progressing into adulthood. Bullying affects the children and families involved, in turn, affecting the community and educational system. Age and gender are not specific in regards to bullying; however, primary school children are by large, targeted. 


A primary school case study in Northern Ireland, Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme, focuses on the importance of the primary school bullying as being a subjective experience. For example, the importance of the bullied and those bullied addresses the understanding that both are subject to emotional and developmental health issues. There is scientific research cited in this case study that suggests, “Bullying is strongly associated with poorer mental health.” (Hawker & Boulton 2008).  Furthermore, they discovered an increase in suicide, depression and psychosomatic behavior between both the victim and victimizer.


In the Ireland case studies, a most integral aspect debates whether emotional, mental and physical illnesses arise from victimization or precede the onset of bullying. This factor asserts that children that have been bullied are more susceptible to further bullying, hence, carrying into adulthood. For example, some cases involving alcoholism, drug use, abuse, addiction, mental and emotional disorders, violence, and criminal activity can then be associated with low self-esteem as a child due to bullying.


Northern Ireland considered these diverse scientific studies and started an anti-bullying policy by securing a cross-departmental initiative titled, “Northern Ireland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Strategy.”  The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, funded by the Department of Education in 2006, placed a statutory duty on all schools to the development and implementation of anti-bullying policies. Since this policy, bullying persevered. This forced Ireland to enact the role of friendships and peer groups to join in the anti-bullying campaign. 

By exploring the social constructs and culture of bullying, in addition to a support network of friends, children were less likely to be isolated. The support system, started at school level by an instructor, involves children that volunteer for training in active listening and empathy. In turn, reducing prejudice by communication on how to deal with conflict constructively.


The scientific studies that resulted from this initiative provided the opportunity to chart progress within the school systems and the communities. This provided a systematic way of tracking events and cases by use of collecting data, analyzing information and reporting results. The scientific approach led to a better understanding of how the implementation of this program served Northern Ireland and reported findings in order to educate and train other school systems in starting this practice. 

The program was effective because children were directly involved, listened to and trained. Their opinions mattered.  In this program, the children are the ones consulted and they actively carry out their decisions on bullying situations. In Northern Ireland, they saw bullying as a systemic problem that needed a systemic solution. As a result, a whole school system involvement led to less bullying.


In September 2010, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after discovering his college roommate used a webcam to observe him during an intimate encounter with another man. (Norgard, Holly. (2014). Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Seton Hall Law Review). Tyler’s roommate posted this utterly private information on social media. 

This horrible incident woke the world up to the importance of cyber-bullying. Within weeks, New Jersey’s legislators founded the
New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. In addition to legislation, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was enacted that involved federal legislation that forced universities to implement stronger policies disallowing bullying and harassment on campus. This incident is a fine example of how bullying carries over into adulthood.


The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was tough to implement. The federal regulations are stern. This act plays upon universities and colleges receiving federal student financial aid. For example, matriculated students are prohibited by law to harass other students, faculty, and staff regarding race, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexual gender, orientation and identity. In addition, this act demands that colleges submit all anti-harassment policies to students and employees, even non-matriculated students focusing on strict adherence to the prohibition of cyber-bullying. While this looks good on paper, in practice it is difficult to achieve. 

In this instance, legislature was quick to act in passing federal law without addressing the underlying root cause of bullying. This act is referred to the “toughest law in the country” due to the impossibility of every single college and university being able to comply with regulations laid forth by legislation. Six months after this law was put into place, a study of 12 New Jersey schools showed over 1,000 instances of bullying. The numbers of bullying incidents also increased from 2011-2012.


Developmentalists assume that the process of development persists throughout every part of people’s lives, beginning with the moment of conception and continuing until death.” (Robert S. Feldman. Development Across the Lifespan. Chapter 1, Pages 4-5).


One failure of The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act is lack of scientific theory. This is where lifespan development, a field of study that examines growth and behavior over an entire lifespan, needs utilization. With this method, there is immense focus on human development. Lifespan development is about growth and change in people. As seen in the instance between Tyler and his roommate, one can easily deduce that both adults carried into adulthood bullying instances experienced in childhood. Whether each was the victim or victimized, both Tyler and his roommate exhibited patterns of behavior that did not heal. 

Researching the stability of the environments of each student involved is yet another way this act can gain momentum with implementation. An example of this is to study the reported bullying instances only instead of passing law on all schools and affiliates. This way, discovery of root cause is present, specific students and faculty get help; this act will then prove to be sustainable, lessen the impact of all people, and focus on those guilty or involved.


A secondary failure of this act is it does not specifically cover cyber-bullying or any action taken off campus. In this age of technology, anyone anywhere can post, in seconds, anything on several social media sites at once. There is not enough labor or money to begin to monitor such behavior, let alone this sort of monitoring breaking law already present in amendments in the United States Constitution. 

While the two acts, New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act are necessary, there is no scientific basis behind each act. Legislation simply passed law without understanding bullying or cyber-bullying.


The positive impact of this law is it brought to the forefront, internationally, and defined, gravely, bullying and cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, it took the death of a human being to accomplish this. Furthermore, specifically in New Jersey, numerous deaths and suicides were found after this act passed. 

It causes me to wonder how long people have been bullied, victimized, asked for help and never received it or were too scared to say anything at all. It also makes me wonder how many lives could have been saved if bullying and cyber-bullying were taught earlier to grade schoolchildren, families, community and staff. 

In my own experience in regards to bullying, I have been the victim and the victimizer. As an overweight child with an dark skinned best friend in an all-white Catholic school, every grade school day of our lives was filled with being called “fatty” and “nigger.” There was no inclusion in gym or social activities in and outside of school. The pushing around and name calling was not that bad, it was after repeated instances of my best friend having bubblegum put in her long beautiful black hair until eventually, she had to have it all cut off that she transferred schools. I stayed. 

An interesting turn of events occurred when I became severely ill with scarlet fever in sixth grade that resulted in hospitalization and extreme weight loss. Upon return to the new school year, seventh grade, everyone wanted to be my friend. I absolutely rebelled. I wanted nothing to do with that. It was a scarring experience. The teachers and institution did not care, there was nothing implemented, let alone taught, in school or in community about bullying. You just dealt with it, stood up for yourself the best you could and got on with life. 


The most I was able to do before seventh grade, was tell my older sisters and they showed up at school anytime someone was truly threatening. As a direct result of victimization, my friend and I then victimized others. Nothing as severe as our experiences, briefly explained above, however, we were indeed acting out. That did not progress into adulthood, thankfully, a fleeting experience.


In conclusion, all aspects of bullying, cyber-bullying, regardless of the age of the person doing the bullying, is imperative to be addressed in early childhood.  Whether this is taught in school as a course, in the community as a workshop, or in the home by parents, the importance of knowing if you are being bullied or you are the one doing the bullying, is integral in creating healthy human beings.


It is my belief via research and personal experience, that in our present world, these aspects of development are not sufficiently taught. Education is forefront in eradicating bullying and if needed, legislation can then step in and pass necessary law. As seen with the instances in Northern Ireland, action, education and scientific method came first and was a success. 

In New Jersey, laws passed without education, scientific method, correct action, and failed. We all must be vigilant, with our own children, children we know, as educators, parents, family members and professionals, to be able to recognize, address and educate ourselves and others on how to recognize bullying and properly address it. While laws are necessary, they are not always the answer. Action, education and scientific fact must all be the first and foremost things considered when dealing with victimization.

Further Education:



 


Post a Comment