By Carly Reisman, CFCC Student Fellow 2012-2013
Last week during my Truancy Court Program (TCP) session at Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School I met a third grader who had recently been bullied. She said that a boy in her class had been teasing her lately and had even spit on her. She said that she told her teachers but that one of them did nothing. This immediately sparked anger inside of me. I thought back to the previous week when I had first met this elementary school student and remembered that she had been smiling and telling stories. Just one week later she was depressed and quiet.
Right after my TCP session I read the news about 15-year-old Amanda Todd, another teen who took her life after being bullied. The teen posted a YouTube video, “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm,” on September 7 and was found dead in her home town of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, just over a month later. Bullying also made headlines in Maryland this week when a 15-year-old in Frederick County was charged with assault after his act of bullying was caught on camera.
It is fitting that October, 2012, is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. It should be brought to everyone’s attention that studies have shown that children who have been identified as a bully by age eight are six times more likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24. Children who are bullies may continue to be bullies as adults, and are more prone to becoming child and spouse abusers. Thus, it becomes even more apparent that bullying needs to be stopped so that cycles like these can be stopped.
I hope by the time I see my third grader from TCP next week that her situation has been addressed and that the bullying has been stopped. Baltimore City schools do have a system in place for bullying; that is, the parent can first call and report it to the school verbally, followed by filing a Bullying & Harassment Form. If the parent is still unsatisfied, they can then contact the Office of Student Support through the Safety Hotline at 410-396-SAFE, which ensures that the incident is investigated within 2 school days.
Last week Baltimore held the Third Annual Bullying Prevention Conference where participants discussed the latest research and worked to develop solutions to tackle bullying in local schools. I hope that throughout this month communities all over the country meet to discuss how they can best address the issues that bullying presents. It may be helpful to look at the bullying situation through a therapeutic jurisprudence lens. TJ looks at the law itself as a social force that can produce therapeutic or anti-therapeutic consequences. By looking at bullying with a therapeutic jurisprudence perspective, insight might be shed on how to best implement anti-bullying tactics. That is, it may be helpful to look at the bullying policies and rules in different schools and see how each one affects the students and the rates of bullying. Through Therapeutic Jurisprudence it would be possible to analyze the different bullying laws utilized by each school and see how they may be affecting the children’s psyche in a negative or positive way, and how each rule effectively works to prevent bullying.