Four years ago, I was not a happy kid. I was bullied. Subjected to incessant humiliation and harassment at the hands of my relentless tormentors.
My low point came when, as a middle school nerd at an elite Miami private school, I was sat upon by a partially clothed gargantuan football player, not-so-fresh off the practice field, as two of my “friends” held me down. I retaliated by punching one of them in the back as he made his get-away, which resulted in a broken hand (mine) and a removal from the football team (definitely not mine). I tried to make light of such incidents, the truth is that it was painful and demoralizing; although I’ve always loved learning and school in general, I hated middle school.
In 2008, the “Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,” named for a public school student driven to suicide in 2005 by bullying, was passed by the Florida legislature. House Bill 669, the product of this act, mandates that all school districts, “Adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment”. The statute goes on to enumerate guidelines to which school districts must conform or risk losing Title I funds, according to Tamieka McLaughlin, Miami Beach Senior High T.R.U.S.T. Counselor.
Though individual districts are offered some liberty in the way that they execute the directive, each must provide consequences for students guilty of bullying or harassment, “a procedure for reporting”, a procedure for “prompt investigation”, and one for notifying both the victim’s and the perpetrator’s parents. The mandate also requires schools to educate students on the bullying problem and provide accessible, desirable solutions. At Beach High, this has resulted in a surge of presentations and classroom sessions on the danger and prevalence of bullying.
Under the new conditions, according to McLaughlin, “Every employee is a mandated reporter.” Therefore, if a student confides in a teacher, it is her obligation to report the matter to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Once a report is made, the incident must be investigated within 24 hours, and parents of both parties must be notified. The investigation is continued through the gathering of witnesses and testimonials, until a verdict is made. Punishments are determined case-by-case, and are under the jurisdiction of school principals.
Bullying is a serious problem. Counselors should teach students the social skills necessary to take on a bully, and should emphasize the integral role that bystanders can play. Implemented correctly, an effective anti-bullying protocol can alleviate a grave practice that, as we know, has resulted in the deaths of many kids across the country. If it takes money to move people into action then so be it.
Bullying is a serious problem. Counselors should teach students the social skills necessary to take on a bully, and should emphasize the integral role that bystanders can play.