“As we have seen across the country, bullying is no longer just a matter for the school to address, but an issue that requires collaboration to overcome,” Radford wrote in an editorial for the Austin American-Statesman. “Society is ever changing and the way we deal with the issue of bullying must be ever changing.”
The biggest change, as Radford pointed out, is traditional bullying has evolved with smartphones and social media to become a problem that can plague students 24-hours a day, on or off school grounds.
He cited research that shows one in seven students in K-12 schools are involved in bullying, either as a victim or perpetrator, and an estimated 160,000 students skip school each day to avoid harassment. More than half of students witness bullying at least once a day, and about 35 percent face threats online, Radford wrote.
The impact on the victims, schools and families can be devastating. Suicides, extreme stress, diminished learning ability, physical illness, and mental scars lasting into adulthood are not uncommon.
Texas and other states have passed legislation to make it easier for students to report bullies and launched campaigns to encourage victims to speak out. In Texas, for example, laws mandate that schools must create policies to prohibit bullying and harassment, allow parents to transfer their kids when they’re bullied, and outlines discipline and interventions appropriate for various grade levels.
Parents play a key role, as well, Radford wrote.
“Parents need to continue to be active in monitoring the social media sites that their children are visiting, and what content is being posted on their social media sites,” he wrote. “Parents can have conversations with their children about these issues related to bullying and ensure they are not having any problems.”
If they are, students and parents can contact school or police officials to intervene, according to the police chief.
“Simply put, it is never acceptable to ignore bullying,” Radford wrote. “We must stop it or continue to deal with its aftermath.”
Radford’s call on adults throughout the community - from parents and guardians to police, school staff and lawmakers – to work together in the fight against bullying is a critical component of effective character education.
James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, pointed out the link between schools and the community in “The Content of Their Character,” which dissected how a variety of different high schools approach character education.
“How a school is organized, the course structure and classroom practices, the relationship between school and outside civic institutions – all of these matter in the moral and civic formation of the child,” Hunter wrote.
It’s a theme that’s also echoed by StopBullying.gov, a federal website devoted to bullying prevention.
“When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send a message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time,” according to the site.
“Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.”