One of the most amazing thing about humans is how different we are. Humans come in all shapes, sizes and colors and we all have unique talents and abilities, as well as weaknesses. Those differences are part of what allows us to create meaningful relationships and develop original ideas. The ways in which we differ from one another can make us all stronger as a species.

Sadly, not everyone appreciates the beauty of differences and diversity. Some people, commonly called bullies, will target, abuse and harass others based solely on their differences. Anything from having an ethnic name to a physical condition that alters the appearance can make students targets for abusive bullies in school.

Bullying leads to social and emotional issues

Those who face the scrutiny and abuse of bullies often experience a host of side effects that last beyond the immediate sting and embarrassment of any given insult or threat. A constant barrage of insults can adversely impact an individual’s sense of self-worth. Bullying leaves victims feeling isolated and alone, unable to form healthy and meaningful relationships with others, which can result in stunted social development. Bullying can also prevent students from benefiting from networking with schoolmates in the future to help launch career trajectories.

Many kids who regularly face bullying require support and counseling to process the experience. Without adequate help, they can internalize those damaging messages. That can lead to low self-esteem and a lack of motivation to pursue their dreams. Years of therapy may be necessary for a full recovery.

Schools have an obligation to protect students

For far too long, administrators and teachers have turned a blind eye toward bullying. They may sympathize more with the students doing the bullying, finding their victims weird or visually unappealing. They may share the antiquated and dangerous belief that victimized students need to learn to stand up to the bullies on their own. This often leaves the weakest, poorest and most marginalized students in a miserable position for their entire school years.

These days, the attitude toward bullying has changed dramatically. So has the law. Missouri law requires that school workers and administrators step up to tackle bullying when it happens. The state’s definition includes acts that harm someone physically or mentally, damage someone’s property, create reasonable fear of harm or damage to property, cyberbullying and other forms of intimidation and harassment.

If you have asked the school to protect your child from bullies and they have not done so, you may have grounds for taking legal action. Be sure to document as much as you can about the bullying that is happening, as well as your attempts to address it with the school.