Is school bullying out of control?

CNN is reporting about the repercussions of bullying that has gotten out of control.

In a small Wisconsin town, the object of the bullying took things to a deadly extreme today.

A teenager who pried open his family’s gun cabinet brought two weapons to his rural school Friday and shot the principal to death after a struggle with adults and other students, authorities said.

I’m not excusing this kid’s actions at all, but the article mentions that this kid felt school administrators would not do anything to resolve the problem. When school officials do nothing to resolve the problem, things like this can happen. Now, I’m the parent of a teenager in high school as well, and I’d be damned if I let something like this go on without notice of the school administration. In fact, I have brought this exact issue up with my son’s former school. It took him stomping on a kid that took it too far for the bullying to stop. If the principal and guidance counselors and whoever else had taken the bullying reports seriously, the principal may still be alive this evening.

Another question I have about this is how involved were the parents? Was any plan put in place by the administration to address this issue? Knowing teenagers and kids in general, the bullying this kid experienced can’t have been isolated incidents. The article also mentions this kid as being a special-education student. During my high school years, these were the kids that were ALWAYS picked on. Were blind eyes turned toward this situation with the mindset of “kids will be kids?” Who knows. The only thing any of us knows at this point is there is a 49-year-old principal dead and a 15-year-old kid in jail being charged as an adult for murder.

What could have been done differently? In the post-Columbine era, you can’t allow bullying to go uncontrolled. If left unchecked, there is the potential for incidents such as this. In almost every case of school shootings we hear about, bullying is central to the situation. So what could have been done differently? In my hometown, we had an alternative high school for the kids with disciplinary problems. Unfortunately, in a community of only 300 people, that isn’t an option. What I would suggest is a 3-strikes rule:

  1. A student is accused of bullying. Student is brought to the office to be counselled, parents are immediately notified. Witnesses to the bullying are called in to corroborate accuser’s story.
  2. 2nd offense (assuming proof). The student accused speaks to a police liason to the school. Parents are again immediately notified. Student not allowed to return to school until a conference is held between parents, school officials and police. Guidance counselors also on hand if needed.
  3. 3rd offense (again assuming proof). The student accused is expelled/suspended for the remainder of semester, but no shorter than 4 school weeks. Student not allowed to return to school until an accredited counseling program for both parents and student successfully completed at the parents’ expense. Application for reinstatement must be submitted and approved by school officials and/or school board.

I don’t want to see any child be denied their right to an education, but neither should the bullied child be denied their right to a safe place to learn. Something needs to be done about bullying and it needs to be done now. My plan may not necessarily eradicate bullying from schools, but it’s definitely a start. What do you guys think? Am I off the mark on this?

UPDATE: In the comments, BadTux rightly takes me to task for my plan here. As a former teacher, he has a lot more experience on this matter than I do as a parent. My response was that I was mostly looking at this from an urban environment. That point of view would not work in a rural setting such as the one above for obvious reasons (lack of manpower, police presence, funding for counselors, etc.). Needless to say, bullying in the school is an issue that rarely receives the precedence it should by school officials. And thanks, BadTux, for your insight.

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