In order to establish a more conducive environment for learning, diverse educational institutions, especially K-12 schools, have adopted different strategies and rules to address school bullying. School bullying has adversely affected the lives of millions of individuals all over the United States (US). In a study conducted by John D. Grant, it was explained that around 15% to 20% of American students have been adversely affected by school bullying (Grant 418). It should be noted that Grant’s study was conducted way back in 2001; there have been diverse efforts to quell school bullying since that year, interestingly, the problem still persist, prompting experts in the field of social science and other related fields to conduct studies that try to understand the different factors that make anti bullying initiatives highly effective. Upon a careful consideration of the findings of such scientific studies, this essay argues that, contrary to the common belief that heavier penalties will inevitably lead to the decrease in the occurrence of bullying, the main components that make anti bullying initiatives really work are empathy and consistency.
It is tempting to hastily infer that heavier penalties against bullying will surely address the issue. This perception is based on the idea that fear is a very important factor in quelling crimes or inappropriate behaviors. Interestingly, it has been proven time and again, that inflicting fear on “would be” assailants does not reduce crime rate significantly; this is the case with the concept of preventing heinous crimes by imposing death penalty (Brandt and Kovandzic 1).
Diverse studies have shown that this approach does not work at all. While bullying and heinous crimes are different, the idea that inflicting fear for prevention does not work on the former, as well. In fact, in a study conducted by John C. LeBlanc, it was revealed that children who were raised from families that impose harsh discipline, which intends to impose more fear towards the subject, tend to have higher propensity of become school bullies. The same observations were made on students who were brought up on single parent homes, and homes with low cohesion (LeBlanc 411).
Note that these findings by LeBlanc suggest that bullies are victims of adverse social environments in their respective homes. As victims, they should also receive help. Thus, it is not surprising to learn that, what is shown to work effectively against bullying is helping bullies develop empathy towards their victims rather them coercing them through fear.
In a study conducted by Claire F. Garandeau and her fellow researchers, it was shown that empathy arousal shows better results in preventing future bullying incidents compared to condemning or blaming the perpetrator. One of the most effective ways to arouse the bully’s empathy is make them realize the pains that they have caused to their victims. The study particularly pertained to the fear felt by the bully’s victim as one of the causes that anti-bullying school officials should let the bully know in order to arouse empathy (Garandeau et al. 1036).
Another important finding in previous studies that prove the thesis of this paper is shown in a study conducted by Stephanie L. Ayers and her fellow researchers. The study has investigated the impact of sanctions and rules approach in bullying, buy reviewing the records of more than 1, 200 K-12 students in the US. Results of their study revealed that there is not empirical evidence to prove that this approach significantly reduces bullying incidents or improve school safety. What was proven, however, is that schools that tend to implement their rules consistently tend to have lower bullying rates compared to those that are not consistent, and those that focus more on the “zero-tolerance” policies (Ayers et al. 540).
The idea of advocating empathy and consistency instead of heavier or more serious penalties to inflict fear and prevent the occurrence of school bullying is based on the assumption that all school children – spectators, bullies, and victims, included – need help in ensuring their positive youth development and not on finding faults and punishing them. In other words, the proposed approach assumes that spectators, bullies, and victims are all victims of bullying who need help from school officials (LeBlanc 411). Thus bullying can only be efficiently reduced, if not totally stopped, not through coercion but through persuasion (Hui et al. 2266).
What appears to be commonsensical is not always the best solution for many social issues like school bullying. For example, it is easy to infer that fear deters bad behaviors; however, diverse scientific studies prove that such is rarely the case. Bullying is far more complex than what it seems; it is caused by diverse factors such as bully’s bad experiences at home. Thus it is important to understand and acknowledge that bully’s need help as much as the victims of bullying. Such help can be given by helping the former learn and develop empathy through the heartfelt and consistent implementation of anti bullying rules and laws within the school environment.
Ayers, Stephanie L. et al. “Examining school-based bullying interventions using multilevel discrete time hazard modeling” Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research vol. 13,5 (2012): 539-50.
Brandt, Patrick T. and Tomislav V. Kovandzic. “Messing Up Texas?: A Re-Analysis of the Effects of Executions on Homicides” PloS one vol. 10,9 e0138143. 23 Sep. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138143
Garandeau, Claire F. et al. “School Bullies’ Intention to Change Behavior Following Teacher Interventions: Effects of Empathy Arousal, Condemning of Bullying, and Blaming of the Perpetrator” Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research vol. 17,8 (2016): 1034-1043.
Grant, John D. “Schoolyard bullying: It needs to be addressed” Paediatrics & child health vol. 6,7 (2001): 418-20.
Hui, Eadaoin K. P. et al. “Combating school bullying through developmental guidance for positive youth development and promoting harmonious school culture” TheScientificWorldJournal vol. 11 (2011): 2266-77.
LeBlanc, John C. “Bullying: It’s not just a school problem” Paediatrics & child health vol. 6,7 (2001): 411-413.
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