SCHOOLS: Getting a Grip on Bullies (Riverside News/PE.com)
Published by Riverside News / The Press-Enterprise
Dec. 20, 2013
Article by Dayna Straehley
Last year, two boys at Riverview Elementary School in Norco repeatedly shoved and hit then sixth-grader Jimmy Linton. They cursed at him and taunted him daily about his weight.
“They were mean to everybody, but I was really their target,” Jimmy said.
The bullies frequently pulled his chair out from under him and deleted his work from his computer in class, he said. His grades slipped. He hated going to school.
Schools have been trying to discourage bullying — in classroom lessons, in sessions with counselors and in school assemblies — by raising awareness and teaching students to be kind, to believe in themselves and to recognize and report bullying.
“I am not bullied at all (now). It’s nice to go to school and feel like I’m safe.” –Jimmy Linton, 13, of Norco, Who transferred to a new school after enduring abuse from bullies
Schools also are disciplining bullies — about 2,300 students were expelled, suspended or faced some other punishment at public schools in 2011-12 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Wayne Sakamoto, safe school director for Murrieta Valley Unified School District, said bullying prevention programs are effective in the long run and reduce the frequency and severity. He sees former bullies learn to stop their mean behavior.
“But we know some kids will bully,” he said.
Jimmy, now 13, said he did not want to report the boys who harassed him, partly because he was afraid they would find out.
“If I told on them, they would get mad at me,” he said. “After they got in trouble, they would come after me.”
His tormentors were expelled before they completed sixth grade. But they were scheduled to return in late October and, like Jimmy, would be attending seventh grade at Norco Intermediate School.
Regina Linton, Jimmy’s mother, didn’t wait to see if the boys’ behavior had improved. She enrolled him in a different district, at the Riverside school where she teaches.
Even before her son was harassed, Regina Linton made bullying prevention a priority. She said she talks to her students every month about bullying. She and all the teachers at the school routinely stand in their doorways between classes to prevent bullying or fighting in the hallways.
Linton’s approach — regular conversations and constant monitoring — is the most effective way to prevent bullying, school safety experts say.
The need to discourage bullying has escalated amid tragic events. Children have killed themselves after being bullied on the Internet. The shooters at Sandy Hook last year and Columbine in 1999 had been targets of bullying.
Those are extreme examples, Sakamoto said.
Students who have been targets of bullying are more likely to suffer health consequences such as headaches, abdominal pain, sleep problems and depression.
And research has found that school bullies