Today’s world is very different from the world that many of us grew up in. Young people today spend more time online, in school-sponsored activities, and with their friends than previous generations. However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed, and that is the all-too-negative consequences of bullying.
The recent deaths of Amanda Diane Cummings and Joel Morales drive home these consequences in a very drastic and truly tragic way. Be it cyberbullying on social networking sites, or physical and verbal tormenting in the schoolyard, the consequence for these two young people serve as a constant reminder the harm that can come to a child.
But on July 1, New York State takes a firm step to protect our children and grandchildren. The Dignity Act, which was passed in 2010 and signed by then-Governor David Paterson, will, for the first time, require that all employees of a public school be trained to recognize bullying or harassing behavior, and appropriately intervene. Schools across Long Island will now have to include expanded codes of conduct to include specific, age-appropriate language on bullying, and protect all students including those facing harassment based on weight, gender and sexual orientation. Students also will be required to participate in classroom lessons on civility and tolerance.
Many of our schools already take a proactive approach to prevent bullying, and school faculty and administration are not the only ones who should be on the lookout for signs of bullying. It is important that parents, pastors, and other responsible adults be ever aware of a child’s changing moods or behavior. Watch for signs of depression and withdrawal, and be sure to keep lines of communication open with your kids so that they feel comfortable discussing with you the issues they are facing. And most importantly, if your child is being bullied, talk about the problem with his or her school administrators.
If we all work together, we can help keep our kids safe.