Bullying on the Rise: Should Federal Government Enact Federal-Bullying Laws?

The definition of Bullying

Pitney and Cole define bullying as any explicit actions by a student or a group of students that aim to harass, scorn or threaten another student while at class, school bus or school grounds (3). There are various forms of bullying. For example, verbal bullying entail: sarcasm; intimidation; name-calling; and intimidation.

Physical bullying involves: shoving; fighting; hitting; and kicking. Psychological bullying may entail humiliating, tormenting or socially segregating a student from a group. Sexual bully may encompass rude comments, unwarranted physical contact or homophobic cruelty (Pitney and Cole 3). This paper will thus use both primary and secondary data to discuss the prevalence of bullying in schools and whether the federal govern should enact federal laws to curb the social vice at school.

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Bullying is a social crime that has drawn a sizeable amount of domestic and international awareness. Legal scholars, organizational sociologists and psychologists have classified and assessed the personal and communal costs that arise from bullying (Harthill 1). According to my research findings, bullying is a common problem in many schools.

For example, over 60% of the students I interviewed reported that they had been bullied at school (Figure 1). Children who are bullied at school may fail to tell their parent about the incident for fear of the repercussions from the bully. It is thus crucial for teachers and parents to be aware of the signs of bullying.

Some of these signs are: reluctant to go to school; keeping away from the usual school route; avoiding the school bus; arriving home from school hungry since they failed to take lunch; low self-worth; attempts to commit suicide (Pitney and Cole 4). It is thus vital that parents discuss with their children about school and whether they have witnessed other children being harassed. For instance, my research findings revealed that over 70% of students have seen another student being bullied at school (Figure 2).

During the 2006-2007 academic years, over 8, 000, 000 students aged between 12 years and 18 years in the US, or about 31.6% of all students claimed that they were bullied at school. In addition, 3.6% or about 935, 000 of these students claimed that they were cyberbullied during this period.

This information was retrieved from the 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey and School Crime Supplement (SCS) which showed the extent of bullying and cyberbullying in schools (DeVoe and Murphy 1). The data presented in the appendix was developed from the 2007 SCS and NCSV which contained statistic on students and attributes associated to student bullying on a national level (DeVoe and Murphy 2).

According to Alison M. Smith, the federal and state governments have enacted several laws to protect children from criminal victimization (see table). However, the internet has created a medium, via social networking sites, that is used to harass minors. The internet bullying offers new challenges for federal and state lawmakers who are mandated to define and prosecute criminal use. Internet harassment is a new term that denotes cyber-harassment, cyber-stalking, or cyber-bullying.

When these activities are directed against the minors, they are likely to cause emotional damage. There are recent cases where teens have committed suicide as a result of internet harassment. Given the current situation, the federal and state governments are face with a dilemma of how to handle cyber harassment (Smith 1). Although internet is a new phenomenon, some people are already using to harass others.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is defined as harassment that occurs among teens and students via the online platform. Teenagers usually use social networking online sites to chat with strangers. Internet bullying is worse than the traditional one since the targeted ridicule hurts much when it is made public knowledge, written and permanent than when murmured in a school bus.

Thus, Cyber bullying entails making sexual explicit or insulting illustrations of other students on internet (Smith 8). The gravity of Cyber bullying is illustrated by a recent teen suicide. For example, the media reported that Ryan Patrick Halligan, a Vermont teenager, received numerous instant messages from his fellow students who queried his sexuality.

Moreover, Ryan was taunted, intimidated, and repeated insulted via internet. He eventually committed suicide. The Vermont’s government enacted an anti-Cyber bullying act in 2004 following this event. According to this law, all schools within the Vermont state must develop disciplinary programs to curb bullying within and outside the school. The act further provide a wide description of bullying-which include any form of online misconduct (Smith 9).

A number of other states have also ratified laws that give consent to schools to implement cyber-bullying policies. For instance, cyber bullying was incorporated to the anti-bullying policies of all schools in Arkansas. These policies created avenues for disciplinary measures to be taken against students who practiced any form of bullying (including cyber bullying) both within and outside the schools’ precinct.

The school’s program must also make a follow-up on the bullies to make sure that they adjust their behaviors. Most important, the victims (bullied students) should be offered protection and support to enable them focus on their studies (Pitney and Cole 7).

There is an urgent need for the federal government to enact anti-bullying laws as a number of the state policies on this social vice cannot be used effectively. For example, the anti-bullying policies used in Washington D.C. can only be used when the act occurs during the day and within the precinct of school. This means that these policies cannot punish non-state bullies. Moreover, these policies cannot punish grown-up individuals who cyber-bully or pester student (Smith 9).

Consequences of cyber bullying

The need for a federal anti-bullying law cannot be understated given the rising number of cyber bullying incidences involving adult and minors. For example, in 2008, a grand jury accused a woman from Missouri for her suspected role in a MySpace prank against a teenage girl.

The woman was accused of creating a fake identity on MySpace, a social networking site, to get information from a teenage girl named Megan. The woman used this information to harass, torment, embarrass and humiliate Megan. The bogus identity used by the woman belonged to Josh Evans, aged 16 years.

Thus, “communication ensued between “Josh” and Megan for a period of time. The media reported that Megan committed suicide after she got a nasty message from “Josh.” The state prosecutor could not take legal action against this cyber bullying activity since the woman’s action did not qualify as criminal activities according to the state laws on harassment, stalking and child endangerment (Smith 10).

It is vital to note that the woman could not be punished for harassing Megan since there was no specific law to address the matter. The only federal law broken by the woman was the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

According to this Act, a person is liable for imprisonment up to five years if he deliberately accesses a computer and thereby acquires private information without prior consent from the owner. Thus, the only crime committed by the woman who that she used a fictitious name (an act that breached MySpace terms of use) to access MySpace (Smith 10).

Research Findings

I used a sample of 20 students, aged between 9years and 18 years in my study. The study aimed to find out the prevalence of bullying within the schools and whether the school has any remedial measures curb the vice. My study revealed that about 60% of the students interviewed were bullied at school (Figure 1).

At least 70% of the students reported that they witnessed another student being bullied at school (Figure 2). The participants in the study also gave a variety of reasons to explain why some students bullied others. For example, 70% of the participants said some students bullied others for fun; 10% said the reason was to “show off” to their friends while 10% said the bullies were bigger and stronger (Figure 3).

When asked whether an older person had talked to them about bullying at school, 70% of the responded admitted to having regular discussions about bullying while 20% said they never had such discussions. It seems the efforts by teachers and parents are not enough to reduce incidences of bullying at school.

For example, over 90% participants in the study agreed that the government should create laws to prevent widespread bullying at school. In addition, the participants suggested other measures to stop bullying at school. Some recommendations were: police supervision within the school; expulsion of bullies from school; reporting the matter to parents and teachers; and teaching students about the adverse effects of bullying others at school.

As noted above, children who are bullied at school may suffer from physical injuries and emotional ones as well. In some worst cases, bullying (especially cyber bullying) has led to teenage suicides (Smith 10). My research findings revealed that majority of students (about 60%) have been bullied at school.

While some states have adopted a number of anti-bullying laws to curb the behavior, such laws cannot be used to punish a bully from other states. According to my research findings, over 90% of the respondents stated that the only recourse to the problem is the enactment of anti-bullying laws by the federal government to curb both the traditional bullying and cyber bullying.

Works Cited

DeVoe, Jill, and Murphy, Christina. Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Washington DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2011.

Harthill, Susan. The Need For A Revitalized Regulatory Scheme To Address Workplace Bullying In The United States: Strengthening the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Jacksonville, Florida: Florida Coastal School of Law, 2008.

Pitney, Day and Cole Robinson. “Bullying 101: The Law and Your Child.” Connecticut Appleseed. N.d. Web. 12 July 2011.

Smith, M. Alison. “Protection of Children Online: Federal and State Laws Addressing Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment, and Cyberbullying.” Congregation Research Service. 19 Oct 2009. Web. 12 July 2011.

Appendix

Figure 1: Percentage of students bullied at school

Figure 2: The number of times students saw someone else being bullied

Figure 3: Reasons why some kids are bullies

Table showing number and percentage distribution of students aged between 12 and 18 who claimed being bullied at school and cyberbullying (2006-2007)

Type of bullyingNumber of studentsPercentage of students
Total bullied8, 000, 00031.6
Threatened with harm1,486, 0005.7
Pushed, tripped or shoved2, 818, 00010.9
Subjected to rumors4, 635, 00017.9
Total cyberbullied939, 0003.7
Cruel message on internet407, 9001.5
Unwanted contact via instant message537,0002.0
Unwanted contact via text message447, 0001.6

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