October is National Bullying Prevention Month, this nationwide campaign was founded back in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. PACERS’s mission is to bring nationwide unity in raising awareness of bullying prevention, while conveying the message, “You are not alone.”

It is no secret that bullying has become increasingly rampant in our schools. Today, approximately 28 percent of students ranging from ages 12 to 18, have reported being bullied at school. Students who are targets of bullying are over 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide. This is unacceptable.

Bullying is commonly equated to physical behavior, however, it also includes emotional harm. It is repetitive and intentional; in-person and online. Certainly, we can’t forget about the cyberbullies who are eminently leaving their mark in the digital world.

It is every student’s right to walk the hallways of their school free from harassment and intimidation. It is every student’s right to feel safe on the playground during recess. And, it is the responsibility of the principal and his/her staff—not the parents—to ensure these rights are being protected while our children are in their care throughout the school day.

Many states have passed anti-bullying laws to keep our children feeling safe at school, but what is really being done—if anything—to enforce them? In many cases, nothing. Schools that are receiving federal funding are obligated to address and resolve such incidents. Failure to do so may result in direct violation of one or more civil right laws enforced by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

If incidents of bullying are being reported as they are supposed to, do you suppose these schools would still receive their funding? No. In fact, schools lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding every year due to students feeling so unsafe, they opt out of public school and either find an alternative or just not go at all.

Keeping that in mind, how many bullying incidents are going unreported and swept under the rug in order for these schools to continue to receive their funding? Some schools even receive funding specifically for anti-bullying efforts. How exactly are these funds being allocated? Anti-bullying efforts require a lot more than matching t-shirts.

Know Your Child’s Rights

· Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

· Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

· Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

· Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act

· Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

It is impossible to resolve a situation we are unaware of, which is why it is critical to keep the line of communication open with your children. Talk to them. Know what’s going on in their lives. Ingrain in them that they can talk to you. Bear in mind that even in doing so, they still may not tell you. They may fear retaliation from their aggressor. They might feel that no one will care. Or, they could be embarrassed. Being bullied is humiliating. Watch for sudden changes in their behavior.

Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied

· Slipping grades

· Loss of friends

· Skipping lunch at school

· Unexplained injuries

· Becoming withdrawn

· Personal property lost or stolen

· Hopelessness, depression

· Self-destructive behavior

On a Personal Note. . .

In early October, 2016, after several conversations with my son and his school, I elected to pull him out and enroll him in an online charter school. He had been a target of bullying for quite some time in the year prior, which had carried over to the following year. My son and I are close and talk about everything, but wouldn’t tell me. He hid it.

Every day when my son got home from school and I asked him how his day was, he said, “Fine.” Eventually I noticed a change in his mood. He wasn’t happy anymore. Then his grades started dropping significantly. I knew he wasn’t “fine.” After ongoing and unaddressed physical and emotional bullying, he said he didn’t feel safe going to school anymore. As a parent whose job it is to protect my child, there was no way I could knowingly or willingly send him to a place where he feared for his safety.

A week after my son was bullied out of school, his school’s social media page had the audacity to post a picture of students and staff proudly sporting matching orange t-shirts stating, “We Stand Up Against Bullies.” Where were you standing last week? Much to my disdain, I later found out that when students began to ask staff why my son left school, their response was, “He was having problems at home.” What else is under that rug?

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