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Friday, June 22, 2012

Bullying Part V: Are We Riding on a Runaway Bus? Bullying Is the Symptom, Society is the Patient

A Segment from Bullying of Bus Monitor, Karen Klein
Thought for the Day: A 68 year old bus monitor was bullied to tears on Monday leading to a flood of reactions world wide on YouTube & in conventional media. It has lead to an outpouring of support for Karen Klein, the woman bullied on the bus including a fund to send her on vacation which has raised enough for her to consider retiring. There are stories all over the internet, but you can read one report here: Bullying of Bus Monitor My initial response was anger & I wondered why the bus driver was not alerted to the abuse. Why didn't they stop the bus? The more I think about it, the incident simply reinforces my belief that bullying is symptomatic of a societal illness. We, as a society are all riding on a runaway bus. We need to take back control. If we don't intervene, together, we are all responsible for the increase in bullying among children. I am working on developing ideas to help our society stop bullying & would love to hear your thoughts & suggestions. I need your support to help make a difference.

It is easier to point fingers at & blame the children, their parents or a single school system & pretend that this is just an isolated incident, but if we do, we will miss the mark. As I have been reporting in this series (Bullying Part I, Bullying Part IIBullying Part III , Bullying Part IV), bullying is an epidemic across the nation & around the world. Children are bullying children & teens to death. Some of the statistics include a Yale University  study which found bullied teens are 2 to nine times more likely to consider suicide. Bullied children are at times so angry that they are using firearms & attacking their classmates & teachers. Many youth have no respect for one another, adults or elders. The stories are always sensational. The media tells the story till the interest dies down. Often we react for a short time & feel the problem has been addressed.

When a child commits suicide, school systems bring in a team of therapists for a short period of time & then business goes back to usual. All too often, I see students, like Judy, (not her real name) in my private practice where brief "band-aid" solutions have occurred. Judy's best friend had died in a car accident. The school seemed to do all the right things. They held memorials, had therapists at school for the first week. Just a few months later, teachers had no patience for Judy when she was having trouble concentrating on her school work & her grades were slipping. They told her she should just get over it. Fortunately, her parents supported her request to see a therapist. Any intervention needs to be more comprehensive & last for at least a year. Teachers & students will need continued training to become more sensitive to their students needs following any traumatic event.

In family therapy, the family system is the patient. Often what psychologists call the "identified patient" or "IP" is seen as the the healthiest member of the family who recognizes that there is a problem & consciously or unconsciously, helps get the family into therapy. Their inappropriate behavior is symptomatic of the family's problems. Just as the whole family needs therapy in family systems models, the bully or bullying behavior is symptomatic of a societal problem. The interventions need to be with the society as a whole, not just a specific bully, victim & school system or town.

We all pay taxes which support our schools. Towns across the nation are cutting education budgets. Educators are forced to focus on the three R's & standardized test scores, while we are failing to teach our children to respect all human beings. Bullying is symptomatic of a society in need of comprehensive interventions. We need to get our priorities straight. If we do not speak up & demand that schools, parents, teachers & towns develop community wide programs to address this complex problem, we are all to blame & we will continue to see the rise in bullying & violence in our schools.

There are anti-bullying programs already being used successfully in some communities, but the scope needs to be broadened even more. The solutions need to come from people from all walks of life & varied professions. Both public & private, for profit corporations & non-profit organizations, film & media outlets, & all levels of educators from preschool to post graduate universities, parents, grandparents & childless couples need to join together creatively in efforts to heal an ailing society. If we put our resources together. it will take time, but we can make a difference.

We must take the wheel & be the drivers & monitors of society's runaway bus. Together we can stop it & get it moving in the right direction. I hope you become part of the solutions by sharing your comments.
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