School bullying has become rampant in present days. It is viewed as an urgent education, health, and social concern that is at the forefront of public debate on policies and legislations. Today, school officials as well as members of the school community view bullying as a serious issue faced by the youth and local systems that is neglected. The focus on bullying in schools has amplified over the last 12 years. Bullying is often termed as a catalyzed reaction to violence in schools. The 1999 high school shooting in Columbia is one of the many highly ranked occurrences of violent behavior at school that implicated bullying as a primary cause (Gini 493). The occurrence stimulated a wave of novel legislative actions within state legislatures that were meant to curb bullying behavior in schools, as well as alleviate its effects. The Columbia high school shooting was followed by numerous suicides amongst adolescents and school age children that were connected to severe bullying, hence attracting worldwide attention to the issue. The increased visibility corresponds to the expansion of research insight identifying various serious and long-term impacts related to the act of bullying including substance abuse, intensified depression, school truancy and aggressive impulses. The factors combined have continuously exerted pressure on the school systems and governments to find solutions to effectively curtail and mitigate bullying in schools.
Bullying is represented in a range of forms including direct verbal or physical actions that result into harm, emotional or physical distress, or indirect acts of social belligerence that are meant to cause harm or damage to the personal relationships or social standing of the victim. Though bullying can happen to a person at any age, literature indicates that there is high prevalence of direct physical forms of bullying escalating in both middle and elementary schools (Allen 200). Further, the research shows that the prevalence declines as students enter high school, while verbal and indirect bullying increases in adolescence. In this regard, the current paper discusses whether the state or federal government needs to put laws into place to prevent bullying. The paper supports the enactment of anti-bullying laws both by the state and federal government.
Why the State or Federal Government Should Put Laws into Place to Prevent Bullying?
According to studies, researchers traditionally defined bullying as a recurrent pattern of hostile behavior that comprises of power imbalance and deliberately causes harm to the victim of bully (Allen 202). Today, bullying is defined as the use of threat, coercion or force to intimidate, abuse or belligerently dominate over others. Similar to traditional bullying, the behavior is habitual, and there is the perception of social or physical power imbalance. The detrimental impacts of bullying indicate that the federal government should enact laws to curtail it. Though the estimates of the prevalence of school bullying vary across studies, the surveys measuring the experiences schools have had while managing bullying related to disciplinary issues report that the problem is rampant (Neiman 39).
In a recent national survey, data about student safety and school violence has been found in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the frequency with which school administrators deal with disciplinary issues linked to bullying in their schools has been discussed. The survey reported that around 39% of administrators in middle school and 20% of administrators in high school and elementary school recounted that bullying took place either daily or weekly (Neiman 42). Besides, 19% of middle schools and 18% of high schools stated that cyber bullying either within or outside the school took place either on a daily or weekly basis (Neiman 45).
Researchers associate bullying with various long-term damages to the students who bully and the victims of bullying. The first studies of the prevalence of bullying in schools in the US indicated a link between bullying victimization and poor psychosocial correction exhibited in the difficulty of students to make friends, increased sense of loneliness and poor relationships with friends (Wang, Yueyan, and Guadalupe 152). Victims also exhibit high levels of anxiety and psychosomatic symptoms (Gini 492). Moreover, they experience high rates of eating disorders and violent impulsive behavior problems. Bullied youth is also known to be at a higher risk of developing depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideations and suicidal attempts. Lastly, chronic bullying victims perform poorly in schools and have a poorer connection with the school as well as increased rates of absenteeism and disciplinary problems (Gastic 391). Besides the negative effects experienced by bullying victims, students who participate in the bullying acts are at a higher risk of suffering from pro-longed physical and socio-emotional health effects as compared to the youths who do not participate in bullying.
The negative academic, health and socio-emotional effects have attracted public concern. The ability of schools to offer favorable atmosphere for learning, and the measures they are taking to deal with bullying has been questioned by the public, parents, and pundits. It has created amplified pressure for the government to take actions regarding the issue. The demand of stringent school responses as well as policies aimed at alleviating bullying are evidenced in the creation of anticipated legislation both at the federal and state level (Gini 496). Numerous court cases have been filed in search of lawful solutions for the victims of bullying. Considering the severity of some of the cases, some of which have resulted in suicide, the state or federal government should put in place anti-bullying laws to prevent further harm to students.
The issue of bullying in schools has attracted the interest of many people including experts and celebrities. The gravity of the matter is evidenced in the cases of suicide committed by teens who are exposed to bullying at some point in their life. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), what results in suicide is not bullying, but its aftermath (Gini 497). Bullying is associated with depression, and is the main factor that has made youths to contemplate about or commit suicide. The development of social media has played a key role in the amplification of bullying. It has allowed bullying to be extended at home in the form of cyber-bullying. It is done through emails, text messages, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
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Experiencing bullying both at school and at home has affected bullied students in a negative way. It is connected with death cases such as the one that took place in Florida in 2013. This was the case of Rebecca Sedwick, aged 12 years, who committed suicide as a result of the harassment and tormenting she received from her peers (Taurino par. 1). She was orally and physically maltreated by over 15 girls both online and at school (Taurino par. 2). In spite of her mother’s efforts to transfer Rebecca to another school, the bullying continued. The incident resulted in the commencement of a movement demanding the passing of new anti-bullying laws. If passed, the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2013 would be the initial federal law in US aimed at fighting bullying (Taurino par. 6).
In response to these cases as well as public demand, some states have passed laws containing detailed bullying cases in the current time. The 46 states include Washington, South Carolina, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Florida among others. State legislatures have commissioned research to be carried out to investigate the effect of bullying laws. However, the findings are not promising as they have generated mixed outcomes concerning the assurance of the laws to mitigate bullying cases in schools. In 2008, a formal research was carried out in different schools in Washington. The purpose of the research was to explore the extent of bullying. The results indicated that in spite of the existence of the bullying legislation passed in 2002, there was lack of consistency among schools in addressing the issue (Alley and Limber 77). In addition, evidence showed that bullying had not reduced to a large extent as anticipated during the passing of the legislation. In response to the research findings, state legislature responded in 2010 by enacting additional expansive and strict laws. The aim was to toughen bullying related measures in state schools. The Safe School Climate Act enacted in South Carolina proved to be ineffective in improving schools’ climate (Allen 199). It was associated with insufficient execution of its provisions. Four US states have not yet enacted bullying laws. They include South Dakota, Michigan, Hawaii, and Montana.
Anti-bullying statutes put in place by various states are in controversy. It is due to financial as well as administrative burdens experienced by schools. State laws necessitate schools to implement anti-bullying programs and methods which are deemed inefficient. For example, the anti-bullying legislation of Massachusetts proved to be inefficient as it lacked monitoring. The statute fails to hold individuals accountable for the implementation of procedures, guidelines, and policies. Additionally, the majority of school districts are incapable of abiding the legislation due to the lack of resources. According to a report provided by the US Department of Education in 2011, most states fail to make use of the best practices in mitigating the issue (Neiman 70). There is a need for efficient bullying legislation that outlines the kinds of behaviors and circumstances associated with bullying. It should pay attention to cyber bullying, which has risen in the current time due to the development of social media.
It is clear that enacting legislation is not enough, as the existing ones have contributed little to reducing bullying. In this case, state governments should focus on passing more strict statutes, as this is the only way school learning climate can be enhanced (Allen 203). The provisions should focus on the measures taken by schools to mitigate bullying, and make certain that instructors are trained to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to such cases when they arise. Compulsory training options should be developed, while mechanisms should be put in place to monitor conformity. Considering that most state anti-bullying statutes have been ineffective, it is time for the federal government to pass bullying legislation. The legislation should cover various aspects including definitions, responsibility, authority and funding. By doing so, a successful national anti-bullying statute would be put in place.
It is clear that the state and federal government should enact laws to prevent bullying. The analysis has shown that bullying is extremely frequent in schools, and has resulted in detrimental consequences ranging from depression to suicide. Although almost all the states in the US have put laws in place to address bullying, these laws have not been effective. It is evidenced by their failure to reduce or prevent bullying from the time of their enactment. In this case, some states have passed more strict laws to address the issue. School districts have also failed to abide by state statutes due to lack of resources. In this case, solving the issue of bullying in order to prevent more tragedies requires more stringent statutes. The federal government should enact a countrywide legislation that would cover various aspects such as accountability, definitions, as well as source of funding to ensure effectiveness.