News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
8th October 2008

Putting school bullies out of business

posted in Just life, Youth, school committee |

Based on a comment I received to a recent post regarding “a disastrous and widespread bullying issue pervading the entire school system,” I thought I’d write about the issue, which profoundly impacted my own childhood and is a hot topic with the Lowell School Committee. (See safety subcommittee agenda for Thursday, Oct. 9.) There is no question that bullying happens in our schools, our playgrounds, and our sports fields. It also happens in our businesses, on our roads, and in all walks of life. If they don’t end up in prison, childhood bullies often grow up to be adult bullies. I have no doubt that bullying has impacted each one of us in some way. In my case, I was a silent witness to children being bullied on the bus and I never spoke up for fear the bully would turn on me. Later, as a seventh grader, I was the victim of bullying by a bunch of supposedly tough girls. I use tough loosely because I learned then and it remains true today that bullies are not tough, which is why taking a stand against bullying makes a difference.

In terms of Lowell, the culture and leadership at each of our schools have the greatest impact on reducing bullying, which is why the school committee continues to put time into establishing effective policies and procedures to make sure prevention and consequences are handled effectively district wide. My personal theory, based on anecdotal rather than actual statistical evidence, is that bullying is more vicious and prevalent in school communities where there is little diversity, where outsiders are so clearly marginalized because the general population is lily white and of a similar economic status. In Lowell schools, “everyone is different” to a certain extent and so there is more tolerance for being different. That said, bullies are out there, so we’re working hard to improve school culture and educate children and staff that bullying is not okay, and it will not be tolerated. (More on this in a later post.) In the meantime, think about your own experience with bullying and the impact it had on you. For me, standing up to those seventh grade girls changed my life.

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