A Coordinated Public Response to School Bullying
Douglas E. Abrams
University of Missouri School of Law
OUR PROMISE: ACHIEVING EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY FOR AMERICA'S CHILDREN, Carolina Academic Press, 2009
University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-21
This paper outlines a coordinated public response to bullying, including cyber bullying, in the nation's public schools. Pediatric professionals have long recognized bullying as a form of child abuse, perpetrated by other children rather than by adults. With recent national surveys confirming that bullying in school has reached epidemic proportions, the American Medical Association and the National Institutes of Health now identify it as a public health crisis.
An effective response to bullying summons all components of the pediatric safety system, the public network charged with protecting children from physical and emotional harm. The network extends primarily to the schools, the juvenile and criminal courts, the child protective agency and perhaps the mental health agency, and law enforcement.
The new frontier is cyber bullying, which pediatric professionals now identify as a risk factor contributing to childhood and adolescent suicide. News headlines reporting suicides show that a few keystrokes can inflict hurt even more severe than fists or playground confrontations because Internet postings can hound the victim around the clock and off the campus.
After measuring the devastating immediate and lasting damage that school bullying can inflict on its participants (the bullied, the bystanders and the bullies themselves), this paper stresses the need for effective bullying prevention programs in the schools. The paper describes the reported effectiveness of rigorously evaluated programs, and analyzes the shortcomings in state legislation that requires schools to maintain anti-bullying policies.
Finally, the paper explores the central roles that the various members of the pediatric safety system play, consistent with First Amendment constraints, in the effort to prevent bullying and react firmly to incidents that occur. The paper presents public strategies that comply with constitutional guidelines.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: bullying, school bullying, educational equality, children, cyber bullying
Date posted: May 31, 2008 ; Last revised: June 21, 2010