Reports of bullying in schools, particularly race-based bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students, are widespread in the wake of the recent Presidential election. While there is merit to discussing why these incidents are occurring, it is important not to lose focus on how to protect the victims and put a stop to the behavior.
A serious problem
School bullying and harassment take a terrible toll on victims. It is nearly impossible to succeed in a school where you don’t feel safe. The victims of school bullying often suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse problems, academic problems and, in the most serious cases, self-injury. The severity of the problem should be enough to convince school administrators and boards to take action, but that is not always the case.
Addressing school bullying
At this point, there is no excuse for schools that do not have established policies regarding bullying. Still, many schools refuse to take the problem seriously or investigate complaints of bullying and harassment. There are still schools acting as though bullying is a natural, or even necessary, part of getting an education. Other schools acknowledge the problem, but refuse to enforce their policies or address bullying that occurs anywhere but on school grounds. That is simply not acceptable.
School boards and administrators must be held accountable for their response to bullying and harassment. They owe their students a duty to protect them from:
- Sexual harassment
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Ethnicity or national origin harassment
- Other forms of abuse
If students have somehow formed the opinion that it is acceptable to harass people because of their gender or gender orientation, race, nation of origin or physical disability, it is up to administrators and school boards to disabuse them of that notion. Schools must take action to stop the mistreatment. The failure to do so is a form of discrimination.