How Punishment And Disbelief Revictimizes Bullying Targets

The mother of a nine-year-old student alleged that her son was locked out of the school building after telling staff members he was being bullied. The boy was dressed in a short sleeve shirt and khaki pants when he was found outside the school. The weather forecast predicted a temperature high of only 46 degrees.

On the day he was locked out, the boy was involved in an incident with a classmate in which his classmate hit him. Both students were originally sent to the office but the classmate was allowed to return to class while the boy was sent to the principal. Surveillance footage revealed that the school's security officer grabbed the boy's wrist and lead him forcefully to another room. According to the lawsuit filed by the boy's mother, the security officer spoke to her son very aggressively and brought him to the principal who then shouted at him.

The lawsuit alleges that school administrators then dragged the boy outside the school and blocked the entrance so he could not return inside. The boy attempted to open several other doors and began crying and looking for a place to hide when he was unsuccessful.

While the student was outside, school administrators called police alleging that a student had run away from school. When a police officer found the boy outside he was hiding in the playground, visibly distressed, and had been outside for roughly 30 minutes. After the boy was brought inside, school staff maintained that he had run away.

For a month after the incident, the boy continued to report bullying to school staff but no actions were taken to protect him. He continues to suffer from emotional trauma stemming from the incident and has been transferred to another school. A spokesperson for the school stated that the security officer has been "removed from his position" following the incident and the principal's actions are under investigation. Minyvonne Burke "Mother sues Chicago school for putting her 9-year-old son outside in the cold" (Oct. 4, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Over 20 percent of students experience bullying at school. Thirty-three percent of students who report being bullied have experienced bullying once or twice a month.

Bullying behaviors reported include, but are not limited to, insults, spreading rumors, physically hurting others, and excluding classmates on purpose to subject them to ridicule. Female students are more likely to experience bullying at school but a higher percentage of male students are subjected to physical bullying.

When students are subjected to a high rate of bullying they are more likely to report it to school administrators. A study showed that forty-three percent of bullied students reported the incident to a safe adult at school.

The allegations in the article above, if true, show that the student was punished by school administrators for reporting bullying. When school staff react to bullying in this way, it is harmful to those being bullied. Students revealed that the most harmful things safe adults can do after bullying is reported are: encourage students to deal with the bully themselves, tell the student to act differently to avoid bullying, ignore the bullying behavior, and tell students to stop "tattling" on others.

Safe adults must be on the look-out for bullying and react appropriately when it is reported to them. What can they do to make stop bullying and keep students safe?

  • Take all reports of bullying seriously.
  • Investigate the incident fairly and do not discount a student's report of bullying.
  • Avoid telling bullied students to change their own behavior. The focus should be on addressing the behavior of the bully.
  • Encourage students to stand up for their peers when they witness bullying. Students report that the most helpful way to combat bullying is when another student stands up for them in front of the bully.
  • Do not tell bullied students to handle the bully on their own.
  • Listen to bullied students, check-in with them after they reported the incident, and follow-up to make sure the bullying has stopped.
  • Report incidents of bullying to a child's parent or guardian.
  • Train employees or volunteers about bullying and how to prevent it.
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