Bullying can happen during sports too

Most all sports require assertiveness, strength, strategy and the ability to impose one’s own will over someone else’s. When athletics are performed in a controlled environment, with supervision and on a fair and level playing field in conjunction with sportsmanship, there are many benefits for the players, coaches, parents and spectators.

Over the last three years there has been a huge increase in the number of high school and middle school basketball and football players attacking players, referee’s, coaches including their own and spectators! While physical attacks are clearly assaults, there is often a buildup of these explosive emotions caused by on court and on field posturing and bullying. When these behaviors go unchecked, the results are often shocking.

Clearly visible by anyone paying attention during a game, posturing and bullying have somehow become an accepted part of the sporting world. Social media has been the biggest catalyst for this bad behavior and each outburst can be immediately viewed on the various social media platforms. No one is suggesting violating the First Amendment however as long as there is an appetite for posturing and bullying video in athletics these antics and assaults will continue to happen. One solution, athletes should be ejected immediately for any conduct that is questionable. The quicker players are removed for bad behavior the quicker those offenders will learn to control themselves and pass on social media moments…..

Unchecked bullying in our schools needs to be addressed and stopped and everyone must be made aware that it is totally unacceptable in the classroom, basketball court and football field.

Bullying and Trauma

The effects of bullying are felt by everyone involved: the bullied, the bystanders who witness the bullying, and the bully themselves. Bullying is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as a result of an event, series of events, or circumstances that an individual experiences as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. These experiences have lasting effects.

Childhood traumatic stress occurs when traumatic events overwhelm a child’s or teenager’s ability to cope, such as:

·         Neglect and psychological, physical, or sexual abuse.

·         Domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

·         Violence in the community and at school (such as bullying).

·         Natural disasters, Terrorism, war, and refugee experiences.

·         Serious Accidents

·         Life Threatening illnesses

·         Sudden or violent loss of a loved one

·         Military stressors – such as parental deployment, loss, or injury

Even though every child reacts differently to trauma, parents, caregivers, and teachers may recognize some signs of traumatic stress. For instance, preschool children may experience nightmares or fear separation. Children in elementary school may feel ashamed or anxious or have difficulty concentrating. Children in middle and high school may display signs of depression or self-harm. Academic problems and involvement with child welfare and juvenile justice systems are more common among child trauma survivors.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), children and teens exposed to trauma and violence may be more likely to bully or be bullied. Trauma and bullying can result in strong feelings of distress in some children, whereas other children may appear desensitized to it. For example, a study on bullying and posttraumatic stress found that some children repress their emotions.

There is also a possibility that children experience intrusive thoughts, such as sudden flashbacks of their bullying experience, which results in numbness or loss of interest in activities.

What helps after bullying trauma? Parents, teachers, and other trusted adults can help children or teens who have experienced traumatic bullying-related stress.  As outlined in NCTSN’s Effective Treatments for Youth Trauma, some approaches that can help children and adolescents who have been traumatized, including bullying, are:

·         Making sure the child or teen is safe and preventing bullying in the future

·         To clear up misconceptions about their role in the traumatic event, talking about what happened and why.

·         Helping them cope with stress by teaching them relaxation techniques

The stress that children and teenagers experience due to bullying and other trauma may also require professional treatment.

Schools can help create a trauma-free environment by teaching staff how to recognize and respond to signs of traumatic stress. These skills help teachers provide support and services to students in need. Resources like the Trauma-Sensitive Schools Training Package from The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) can help schools adopt a trauma-informed approach to create safe and supportive learning environments.

These include: educating school staff about trauma and its effects, promoting physical and emotional safety in relationships and the environment reducing trauma-consistent triggers in the school environment considering trauma in all assessment and protocol behavior plans, ensuring students have voice, choice, and empowerment by adopting a trauma-informed approach, schools can help prevent bullying and its harmful effects. Parents, caregivers, teachers, and schools all play an important role in preventing and addressing bullying.

Bullying outside of school

At its most basic level, bullying is behavior that hurts or harms another person. It can be physical, emotional or psychological. It can occur between friends or within groups, either in-person or online. Bullying can be overt and direct, with physical behavior such as fighting, hitting or name-calling, or it can be covert, with social interactions such as gossip or exclusion. And it doesn’t just happen at school. As the summer break rapidly approaches and students try to enjoy their summer vacation there’s an uptick in cyberbullying which can be just as hurtful and bullying that occurs in person. 

Parents need to remain vigilant during the break and remain mindful of any signs of bullying. Many students attend summer school where bullying can sometimes more easily take place because teachers and faculty tend to have a lower awareness and a higher student to teacher ratio. All students deserve to be free of bullying and feel safe. If you think your child has been a victim of bullying seek help immediately, do not take a passive stance. If necessary, file a report with your local police department. 

The Definition of HIB

Harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) legislation revolves around preventing, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents that occur on school grounds and off school grounds under specified circumstances. Laws were adopted, in part, in response research on the incidence, prevalence and effects of HIB that has emerged since the adoption of the original HIB law in 2002.  Some of the main states that specifically define HIB in their legislation include New Jersey and Washington. 

While controversy exists whether such HIB laws and legislation actually reduce the number of incidents or improve things like school climate and safety, the laws are here to stay and its important to understand their implications.  It is becoming an important reality that schools must follow such laws or face potential legal consequences.  At the very least, HIB laws encourage schools to establish, implement, and assess bullying prevention programs and approaches designed to create school-wide conditions to prevent and address HIB.

No One Is Immune To Harassment and Bullying

Students are bullied for a number of reasons, which include but are not limited to race, religion, popularity, intelligence, vulnerability, isolation, physical characteristics, economic circumstances, disabilities and success. 

Some people argue that changing behaviors and appearances to mitigate bullying is the answer in reducing incidents; however the real answer is identifying, reporting and changing the behavior of the bully. Actions need to have consequences and without reporting, bullying situations tend to get worse; they do not magically get better without intervention.     

Although often over looked, successful students get targeted for bullying frequently and even when reported, school administrators tend to dismiss these incidents due to the perception that successful students can’t be bullied… because they are successful which somehow negates the bullying in the minds of these administrators. Nevertheless, it does happen and it happens far more than it is reported. There is a stigma attached to the successful students and it is that those students do not need help and they are expected to deal with the bullying on their own. This stereotyping by school administrations needs to be addressed and corrected. Often, the results of whom are being targeted and bullied are surprising to school officials.

Locker Room Hazing and Bullying

High school locker room bullying has been a “tradition” for many, many years and is usually referred to as hazing which has also led to many tragedies on college campuses across the country in the fraternity and sorority systems. Whether bullying or hazing takes place in high school or at college it is totally unacceptable and has ruined many lives.

According to one recent study three in five students in college experience some form of hazing and an alarming forty seven percent of students in high school sports experience bullying before entering college. Student athletes who receive hazing often suffer physical injuries hampering their ability to perform. These incidents are often mentally and emotionally harmful as well. The challenge goes beyond athletic teams and frat houses, fifty five percent of students involved in performing arts have experienced bullying or hazing so the challenge isn’t an isolated one.

How Can Parents and Schools Combat Bullying?

Because school is a common place for bullying, schools may have a variety of tactics for handling bullying among their students. Some schools may encourage students to speak up if they see bullying happening or are experiencing bullying while others may tell students to stay out of it and not get involved. Either way, it’s important for parents to work with their child’s school to effectively combat bullying.

If parents reach out to the school, or vise versa, open communication regarding bullying incidents is crucial. The parents of all children involved, those being bullied and those doing the bullying, should meet and openly discuss what is going on. All in all, talking about bullying, why it’s occurring, and how to stop it can go a long way. School staff should act quickly if they notice bullying occurring. Better yet, they should teach their students not to bully and what to do if they are being picked on. Seminars, presentations, and even talking with students individually about the negative impacts of bullying can go a long way.

There are programs, and even certain types of technology, schools can invest in to catch and prevent bullying. Bullying impacts children severely. From physical pain to emotional trauma, it’s important to help those who have experienced bullying. So whether you’re a parent, a student, or a school staff member, always do your best to look for warning signs of bullying and take action quickly.