How Christian Schools Can Defeat Bullying
Guest Post by Paul Coughlin
From the Publisher: Bullying is an evil scourge wreaking havoc in the lives of thousands of children each day. It is also relentless and difficult for school leaders to eliminate despite their best efforts.
There is hope. In this series of articles, Paul Coughlin of The Protectors provides practical information on how to understand and combat bullying in our schools.
Over the next several weeks I will post subsequent parts of this series. I will also provide a link to prior series in each subsequent post.
I am grateful to Mr. Coughlin for his work in helping educators effectively combat the scourge of bullying and for his support of the CSJ Blog. Dr. Mosbacker
Their letters are separated by zip code, but united through bewilderment and feelings of betrayal from the organizations they believed would protect their child from bullying—the leading form of child abuse in the nation, and the only form of abuse we tell the most vulnerable among us to “just ignore.”
Their pleadings are almost always composed by emotionally flailing mothers who witness a common but mystifying tailspin of their beloved child, a spiral born from intentional abuse that weds power to fear, making it formable, and due to its predatory nature impossible for Christian school teachers and faculty to effectively combat alone. One bewildered mother writes:
My 6th grade son has hemophilia. In 4th grade, he was bullied so bad by a child the school let in (after being kicked out of public schools) that he actually wrote a letter to his teacher stating he wished he were dead. He isolated himself and refused to eat. Was mad all the time and wouldn’t talk. This year he is being bullied verbally, emotionally, and now physically by the majority of students in his class. He has no self-esteem and doesn’t fight back. I worry constantly that he is going to kill himself. He sobbed to me for hours tonight and I still have not been able to get him to eat.
I refuse to go through the whole process over again of “let’s try and save the bully and worry about him”… This was the answer I received multiple times when I asked how exactly they were helping my son. In the process of “saving” or attempting to save the bully, they lost my son. I need him back. He is an amazing kid. I purposefully put him in a Christian private school so that the attention would be more focused on school, rather than sports, which he cannot do due to bleeding disorder.
Please, please lecture these students and make them understand not only the damage bullying causes, but also just how not Christian like that this is. I need someone to take this seriously. It is killing me watching my son so totally miserable.
As an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, FoxNews contributor as well as the founder of a freedom-from-bullying program used in public and private Christian schools, I have become a Moses to these bewildered parents, guardians and their bruised and sometimes bludgeoned children. For some, bullying is their first real experience with profound injustice, wickedness and in more extreme cases even evil. These beleaguered mothers are desperate for practical help and a sustaining hope.
Atop our list of freedom-from-bullying advice and insight to them is: Bullying pays in a youth culture (including Christian youth culture) where unkindness, meanness and even cruelty are currency, making it a cultural, not a school, problem. So if we are serious about fighting bullying like Christians, which is speaking and living the truth in love, then all of us—not just teachers—must labor to change this false currency. More so, parents (not teachers) are the front line of defense against such abuse for reasons explained later.
Much like our culture in general, such parents do not want to hear this. They want a quick and easy fix to their ongoing misery, and so do I. But having studied and battled this specific and greatly misunderstood form of abuse, I know an irritating truth: The right thing and the hard thing are usually the same thing.
Diminishing bullying is hard, but doable. And it starts in the home, not the classroom.
A recent study [Jan. 2013] from UCLA confirms this perverse maxim, which is confirmed by previous studies as well. Middle school “students who were named the coolest at one time were largely named the most aggressive the next time, and those considered the most aggressive were significantly more likely to be named the coolest the next time.”
The results indicate that both physical aggression and spreading rumors are rewarded by middle school peers.
“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "Pushing or shoving and gossiping worked the same for boys and girls.”
This perverse power transcends middle school. As more and more teachers attest during our teacher training sessions, this currency of cruelty that helps define bullying is being spent in the early elementary school years, throughout high school, and even further into college, a sobering and unprecedented expansion.
Educators didn’t hire lobbyists, consultants and ad agencies to convince the world that it’s cool and beneficial to be cruel toward others. But they are expected to get rid of it largely on their alone, an expectation that is as unrealistic and naive as it is unfair since cultural norms enter our schools each day like dirt on a student’s shoe. Still, this immature expectation persists, which educators must wrangle with the wisdom and shrewdness of serpents, pulling in parents and others of goodwill during each opportunity.
Stay tuned for part two in a future post: The Real World of Bullying…
Paul Coughlin is an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, a former newspaper editor, FoxNews contributor, and works with professional athletes to diminish bullying, such as the Baltimore Ravens. He is the author of numerous books, including Raising Bully-Proof Kids. He is a men’s conference speaker and Founder of The Protectors: Freedom From Bullying—Courage, Character & Leadership for Life (www.theprotectors.org), which provides both a faith-based and values-based solution to adolescent bullying in schools, summer camps, Sunday School, and other places where bullying can be prevalent. For parents struggling to defend their child from bullying, check out The Protectors unique resource, 4-Circles of Defense Against Bullying.