With the new school year beginning this month, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is offering help to parents and students to deal with a troubling trend in Florida: bullying.
Advice for parents:
Talk with and Listen to Your Children Everyday: Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents about these matters before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.
Spend time at School and Recess: Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during "free" time like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with peers aside from their best friends.
Be a Good Example: When you get angry at waiters, other drivers or others, model effective communication techniques. As Education.com puts it, "Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you're teaching your child that bullying is ok."
Create Healthy Anti-Bullying Habits: Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both what not to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) as well as what to do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away and ignore the bully).
Make Sure Your Child Understands Bullying: Explicitly explain what it is and that it's not normal or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:?
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
How does a family identify if their child is a bully (symptoms)
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Bullies can be subject to serious consequences, says Florida's Office of the Attorney General:
- Bullies can be suspended, transferred, or even expelled from the school district
- Bullies can face legal charges from their actions, especially if they constitute stalking, physical violence, or harassment
- Students identified as bullies must attend counseling, according to Florida Schools policy
What should they do about it (resources for families) –
- Hillsborough County has an Anti-Bullying Advisory Council that is currently working on a town meeting and flyers regarding warning signs and how to get help.
- Read the HCSB Policy on Bullying at http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/list/bully-prevention/about/125-516/ .
- They can report to any school official.
- HCSB has a form online ?to appropriately identify, report, investigate, and respond to situations of bullying and harassment. It can be found on the school board website for a online form. ? http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/395/bully-prevention/documents-forms/bullyprevention-form/
- They can call 2-1-1.
The District has also identified some websites located on the resource section of the bullying page for more information.