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Bullying often goes unnoticed

A variety of factors at work in the issue

Posted: October 23, 2008 10:05 p.m.
Updated: December 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Fingers are being pointed everywhere in the case of Jeremiah Lasater, the 14-year-old Vasquez High School freshmen who committed suicide in a boys' bathroom Monday.

"From what I heard, Lasater was picked on a lot, and even that day (he committed suicide) he had food thrown at him," said Derek Randel, a former teacher who authored "Stopping School Violence."

"How come no one sees this? As a teacher, I never had any training at all on how to handle these situations, or on what's the difference between bullying and horseplay."

Teachers, students, parents and administrators are responsible for working together to stop bullying behavior before it gets out of hand, according to Randel and Ari Levy, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the Santa Clarita Child and Family Center.

"The most effective programs are those that enlist the cooperation of the entire school," Levy said.

"He should have talked to somebody. ‘He didn't tell us,' said the parents. Teachers should have done more. Why didn't students step in?"

"Every child is different," Levy said. "Sometimes a child might become quieter than usual and appear more down, sad, or perhaps withdrawn because things are occurring. Sometimes the child might become more animated, active, or even act out, out of frustration and anger."

Tumbling grades or a troubled home life can also be factors, according to Levy.

Even if a child is not bleeding or bruised or doesn't complain about bullying, it is important for parents to watch for signs.

"Does your child not want to go to school in the morning? Is he/she coming home hungry because someone has stolen their lunch? Is he/she eager to use the bathroom when they return home? Randel said. "(Bullying) almost always starts verbally. You can't ignore the small things because that's where the big things come from."

"I don't think there's one kind of bully," Levy said. "There's all sorts. Those who have been bullied, those who are experiencing difficulties at home, and those who come from normal households and think they're having fun."

Whatever the case, it is important for administrators and teachers to respond with appropriate consequences.

"When a student acts up you do not give them an out-of-school suspension," Randel said. "I recommend in-school suspensions. Bullying students usually don't want to be in school in the first place."

But before anyone can punish a bully, that person needs to determine where the bullying behavior comes from.

"The focus needs to be on the bullying behavior," Levy said. "But if you do not have a training program in place, it may very well be the case the given event or behavior is not going to come to the attention of the school because others haven't been told and trained in reporting what they see."

Levy said there are successful programs used across the country that enlist cooperation of the entire school in response to bullying behavior.


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