In 2008, a small group of Sappo School’s 11th and 12th graders submitted a proposal which would allow the formation of a new committee that was to be called “Sappo’s Anti-Bully Committee”. The passionate plea identified the need for legislative intervention in an area that had long been neglected. The proposal stated, “…other states have laws against bullying, but, not New York.” These students were once victimized by bullies, or had been paralyzed by fear to become guilt-ridden bystanders. Now, nurtured and strengthened within a safe educative environment, these students believed for the first time that they could fight back the best way possible, that is, through the legal system. With Government teacher, Mr. Sauer, this newly formed Committee set out to see to it that an adequate law was finally passed. Sappo’s Anti-Bully Committee gained support of the entire school and from many in the community.
Sappo students become well-trained Anti-Bullyists through an in-depth lesson plan that includes valuable self-preserving strategies. Students are taught to identify bullying in all identifiable forms, while gaining skills needed to promote healthy and appropriate responses. Bullies have no voice at Sappo School. Rather, the kind and considerate student has everything to say and they are empowered to take control of his or her own life both in and out of school.
Bullying is a serious form of abuse that involves attempts to exert power over another person or group. The bully lacks empathy for the victim, or target. Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse, emotional, verbal, and physical. Researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.” He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways”. Bullies may feel the need to be perceived as popular or tough or may be attention seeking. They may bully out of jealousy or as a reaction to their own victimization by bullies.
The USA National Center for Education Statistics identifies two types of bullying, direct or physical bullying, and indirect or social bullying. Direct bullying involves “physical aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping, choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, biting, scraping and pinching. Social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by threatening or forcing the victim into social isolation, which can include giving the victim the silent treatment. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim’s manner of dress, etc. (Ross, 1998). Emotional bullying involves any purposeful act that causes another person emotional pain. For a child attending school, the most common forms of emotional bullying may be difficult to detect. These more subtle forms of bullying can erroneously seem benign in comparison to direct bullying, often preventing the victim from getting the help he or she needs to feel safe. Psychological manipulation is also common among school age children.
There are numerous manipulative techniques that fall into the emotional bullying category. The bully, acting out as a manipulator, most often refuses to admit that he or she has done something wrong. This may disorient the target or victim, causing them to doubt their own reality, even wondering if they may be the cause in some way of their own victimization. If the bully identifies the victim as the one at fault, and the professionals are not saying otherwise, a sense of lowered self-worth and guilt, along with the confusion and frustration borne along by the disorientation, can lead a victim toward desperate measures. Avoidance can lead to isolation, and in more serious cases, to suicide.
Cyberbullying is on the rise and this form of social bullying can be as life threatening as physical bullying, as seen in the case of Rutgers’ freshman, Tyler Clementi. The National Crime Prevention Council reports that cyberbullying affects half of all American teens. The effects of cyberbullying can have an extreme and negative impact on victims, because of these several factors:
It is perceived as inescapable as long as children are using computers. You can avoid a bully you may meet in person, but it is harder to avoid the cyber-bully.
The Making of the Bystander
Sappo’s Anti-Bully program removes the power from the bully and un-victimizes the victim.