For several years, bullying has been a major concern for parents and the media. When one student (or a group of them) taunts, teases and belittles another student, it can have a profound impact on that child’s emotional, mental and social development.
No so long ago, most people dismissed bullying as a rite of passage and something that students should expect to encounter. People often advocated ignoring the bullying, as though that were even possible for the children trapped in a toxic environment.
People now recognize how bullying can cause all kinds of long-term issues. In some cases, it can derail a student’s future by destroying his or her self-esteem and making it impossible to learn. Other times, it can cross a line into harassment and physical abuse, which can often have consequences.
All too often, students facing abuse and bullying from their peers do not receive adequate support from teachers, coaches or administrators. In some cases, the very people who should defend or protect vulnerable students actively participate in their mistreatment. When that happens, parents may need to assert themselves to protect the children involved.
Teachers may choose to side with popular bullies over the bullied
It is commonly said that middle school and high school are like living in a popularity contest, where the winners have it easiest and the rest struggle for acknowledgment and a sense of place. Sadly, the need to appeal to those with the most social prestige doesn’t end when you graduate. Some people continue to seek the approval of popular individuals well into adulthood.
When teachers engage in this kind of behavior, vulnerable students often pay the price. Teachers may choose to ignore overt bullying, including cruel jokes targeting one student in class. Pranks, abuse or even the theft of school supplies could get overlooked, leaving the perpetrators empowered to repeat or even increase the behavior.
Sadly, some teachers even participate in bullying themselves. They may laugh at jokes targeting a student for unusual behavior or appearance. Some teachers could go so far as to make jokes themselves. Others could actively seek to discipline the student getting bullied if he or she attempts to stand up against the bullying. Those actions only empower bullies and further marginalize their victims.
Coaches often engage in bullying as part of their job
There are many ways to approach coaching. Sadly, a large number of coaches seem to prefer verbal abuse and insults over building up their players over time. Instead of helping student athletes develop skills, coaches may simply praise the already gifted and ignore or even publicly belittle less-advanced players.
That kind of behavior not only reinforces a culture of abuse and bullying, it makes team sports inaccessible to those who may most benefit from participating. For parents who witness this kind of bullying, it may become necessary to stick up for the children involved.