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Bullying Federal Policy and Recommendations

Bullying Cases Among Students

Nowadays, there is a great problem with the increase of bullying cases among students. This problem is associated with extremely negative psychological and physical consequences for victims. Hence, there is a great need for addressing this challenge on the state level. Currently, there are some federal initiatives, but they are not addressing bullying only being also focused on a number of other problems, so that bullying is only one of the issues covered. Hence, the challenge of bullying has no separate federal funding. A similar situation is with federal legislation because there is no single clearly stated act that would define bullying as the human rights violation and explain the consequences of such behavior. Therefore, despite the fact that current policies and legislations have some advantages, the main limitation is absence of a separate law and funding. Hence, it is critical to develop a unified clear federal act that would provide protection to all people despite their class and status or other differences, as well as give a clear definition of the problem of bullying, express expectations regarding the appropriate norms of behavior and bullying consequences, and provide school staff training.

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Bullying among students has become an urgent educational, health and social problem provoking many debates in the policy and legislation areas. The focus on this social challenge increased over the last twelve years. Researchers define bullying as a repeated aggressive behavior pattern that involves the power imbalance and causing purposeful harm to the victim. Bullying can have various mechanisms and forms involving an indirect act of social aggression that is committed to damage the social standing or personal relationship of the victim or direct verbal or physical actions that cause emotional or physical distress of the victim. Especially difficult are the cases of bullying among students in schools. Moreover, due to technological progress bullying has reached a new level because of the development of social networking and communication. Cyberbullying is defined as the repeated and purposeful violence done with the use of phones, computers, and other electronic devices. Nowadays, there are some federal policies and laws that are directed towards the prevention of bullying among students and finding a solution to this problem. However, they have some limitations. Therefore, an efficient policy has to become a basis for single federal law implementation and should define bullying as a problem, providing clear instructions regarding appropriate behavior patterns and explaining bullying consequences. It should also include school staff training, and ensure protection of all people despite their status, class, religion, race, etc.

Culture’s Structure and Values Impact on Privilege and Power

Despite a number of positive changes, today’s society still faces great difficulties with handling structural barriers, including privilege and power. These two phenomena can be determined as the macro level issues that demand recognition the extent to which cultural values and structures can oppress, alienate, marginalize, enhance or develop power and privilege (Schriver, 2015). A similar concept is known as the institutional racism or the White supremacy. It can be realized as the legitimate hierarchy of power that negatively affects multiple institutions and normative values of people (Schriver, 2015). At the same time, the idea of prejudice in social norms and institutions is known as the White privilege (Schriver, 2015). This concept is found in the instances of sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism and other forms of discrimination based on stereotypes.

In general, power is a significant issue in all complex societies that can suffer from social position inequality. Therefore, power always provokes problems with oppression (Schriver, 2015). At the structural society level this phenomenon leads to discrimination against all disenfranchised groups of people in daily life of the mainstream society. People that are marginalized have less impact or control over certain areas of their life, including political, economic and social areas (Schriver, 2015). A bright example of discrimination and oppression can be bullying behavior among school students.

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Therefore, bullying is grounded on such three factors as power imbalance, repetition, and intentionality. It includes relational, verbal, and physical behavior where one side has the intention to repeatedly violate the wellbeing of the other side, while the victim is unable to protect him/herself (Downes & Cefai, 2016). It can be a group or individual action. Moreover, with the technological development, the problem of bullying penetrated social networking, blogs, chatting, emails, texting and other virtual communication forms. Bullying and its different forms and mechanisms are related to different academic, psychological and emotional problems (Downes & Cefai, 2016). The harmful impact on the victims of bullying is reflected in suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem (Downes & Cefai, 2016). Moreover, victimization is also connected with the low academic achievements and such behaviors as early school leaving, absenteeism and disengagement.

In general, students can face bullying at schools for different reasons. For instance, outcast, friendless and unpopular students or those with low self-esteem can become victims of bullying (Feder & McCallion, 2013). Additionally, some students with disabilities or those that are GLBT often face the problem of bullying. According to the statistical data, the bullying prevalence varies from 20% to almost 28%. Therefore, the prevalence of electronic bullying varies from 1.8% to 16.2% (Feder & McCallion, 2013). It was found that the youth is bullied via email messages, computer, pictures, and cell phones.

Moreover, it was discovered that bullying can take various forms. For instance, the research found that 4% of bullied individuals were forced to do something they did not want, 5% experienced exclusion from activities, 6% were threatened with harm, 11% were spit on or tripped, shoved, or pushed, 18% became subjects of rumors, and 21% were made fun of (Campbell & Smalling, 2013). Bullying problem is also quite challenging because victims often do not report it due to the unwillingness to be considered a snitch, fear that the act of bullying becomes known to the teacher, thinking that teachers’ and parents’ advice would make things worse, believing that nothing would change, fear of not being believed or worrying parents, feeling ashamed or retaliation fear. Hence, more than 66% of high and middle school students do not report bullying due to the inappropriate reaction of adults (Campbell & Smalling, 2013). Furthermore, bullying has a strong relation to the gender and race. It was found that males are being bullied more than females, while seventh graders are being abused more than eight graders. Also, the victimization is deeply grounded on such factors as race and ethnicity (Campbell & Smalling, 2013). Hence, bullying is a complex issue that has to be overcome on a state level.

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The Extent to which Federal Policy and its History Address Bullying

In 1999, two crucial events changed the situation with bullying from the legal perspective so that it became recognized as a critical societal challenge in the US. The shooting at Columbine High School is still considered one of the most horrible school attacks (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). In the same year, the US Supreme Court in the case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education concluded that schools could be responsible for their failure to stop sexual harassment among students (Cornell, & Limber, 2015).

The above case includes a “fifth-grade girl that was repeatedly harassed by the male classmate that made sexually suggestive gestures and statements and touched her inappropriately and during the harassment months, the girl was distressed and her grades declined and she wrote a suicide note” (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). Parents were shocked by the lack of school involvement and interest in finding a solution to this problem and went to the police for pressing charges. Moreover, the family sued the school. Nonetheless, the school staff was supported by lower courts and the family decided to appeal. After six years, the case reached the US Supreme Court and its decisions gave a monumental shift in the school legal obligations for student behavior (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). This decision was added to all lawsuits among states in relation to the bullying victims, just as the directive from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stating that particular forms of bullying are to be considered the civil rights violation.

For the first time, it started to be considered that sexual harassment among students is to be viewed as a discriminatory act. This case is often applied to bullying. A bright example is another case that also provoked passing of the anti-bullying legislature. In this case, a 12-years old boy committed a suicide after the years of verbal and physical bullying in the middle school (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). In Scruggs v. Meriden Board of Education, the plaintiff argued that the “boy experienced bullying due to his learning disabilities and the school failed to follow special education procedures and did not train staff appropriately and did not apply any anti-bullying policies” (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). Therefore, starting from 1999, all states gradually passed bullying legislation.

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In such a way, the progress in child protection from bullying is a historic step towards the children’s rights implementation. In the previous century, policies and laws regarding child labor, divorce, criminal protection, adoption, social welfare and child protection have improved the situation with children’s rights in the US (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). Such an improvement intersects with crucial human and civil rights concerns for people with disabilities, women, sexual minorities, ethnic and racial minorities and other categories of people that constitute the protected individuals’ class (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). Nonetheless, despite more than a decade of legislative and judicial activities, as well as a considerable increase of scientific research and various prevention programs development, policies and laws regarding bullying remain inconsistent and fragmented.

Current State of a Policy’s Implementation

Educational standards on bullying continue to emerge. For instance, the Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to schools with the aim of providing guidance regarding the issue of bullying behavior handling, which tends to reach the civil right violation level (Feder & McCallion, 2013). The main point is that school staff should not fail to recognize different forms of bullying, which is considered to be the discriminatory harassment according to the federal law. In 2013, “the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services provided guidance to school authorities that insist on the obligation to prevent the bullying of students with disabilities” (Feder & McCallion, 2013). The observation that all students have to be protected from bullying is quite obvious, but it is still not recognized by the federal law.

Nowadays, there exist some federal initiatives and policies directed at handling and preventing bullying behavior among school students. Nonetheless, many of them are not primarily or solely concentrated on the problem of student bullying, but rather provide some funds to be used for this purpose. The most involved agencies in addressing the bullying problem are the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Health and Human Service, and the US Department of Education (Feder & McCallion, 2013). In general, the federal government has been making more and more attempts to address the bullying problem. For instance, the year of 2004 marked the inception of the “Stop Bullying Now” campaign (Feder & McCallion, 2013). It is directed at the increase of the awareness, and spread of information regarding the ways of bullying prevention and partnership fostering. A great amount of free materials were developed in order to spread messaging regarding the problem involving DVD with fourteen cartoons, tool kits, public service announcements, tip sheets, brochures, as well as posters for youth leaders and adults.

In 2009, the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee was organized for the space formation with the informative environment, where federal agencies would have the ability to make it easier and more convenient to share and distribute information related to bullying among themselves and the public audience (Feder & McCallion, 2013). It was formed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, Agriculture, Interior, and Defense in cooperation with the White House Initiative in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Federal Trade Committee and National Council on Disability (Feder & McCallion, 2013). As a result, the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention took place. It resulted in creating the website Stop Bullying by the federal government as an attempt to establish a platform for obtaining resourceful information on the issue of responding to cases of bullying.

Nonetheless, there is still no federal law, which would address the bullying problem. If the bullying behavior overlaps with discriminatory harassment, schools grounded on the federal financial support will be obligated to admit that this problem is the federal civil rights laws’ violation. In particular, “the Title VI and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination in public schools that gain federal funds on the basis of religious or national origins, ethnicity, and racial identities” (Feder & McCallion, 2013). Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1972 insists that no person can be denied, discriminated or excluded from any educational program or activities that are supported by the federal funding based on their gender. Moreover, to meet the needs of children with disabilities, there was enforced the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Feder & McCallion, 2013). These laws were enacted by the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice. Despite the behavior is labeled as teasing and bullying, higher learning institutions and schools are obligated to address the way of conduct that is persistent or severe, develops a hostile environment and is grounded on the victim’s disability, skin color, national origin, religion, gender or race. Therefore, currently, the situation with policy implementation is quite unsatisfactory. It is true that all states have already implemented anti-bullying laws and policies, but not a single federal legal action was applied.

In general, the policies regarding bullying are divided into reporting incidents of bullying, providing support and prevention services and implementing disciplinary policies. In case of the first policy, many states have implemented it through the laws in order to investigate and report cases of bullying. Consequently, in some states, the authorized representatives were obliged to investigate, document, and deal with every registered case of bullying (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). However, despite the purpose of helping victims such policies often impose an excessive burden on school staff without providing bullied victims with any real help.

Another widespread tool is the disciplinary policies which are reflected in the form of disciplinary measures for bullies. A great challenge in this case is a low level of tolerance, which may result in severe punishment of all violators, regardless of situation (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). However, sometimes it means that specific forms of misbehavior will not be ignored. As a rule, it is revealed in a specified form of punishment such as expulsion or long-term suspension, regardless of the seriousness of infraction and despite it being either intentional or not. Such attitude is highly criticized.

The final strategy is support and prevention services implementation, which seems to be more a good alternative. A great number of states nowadays not only require but also promote the bullying awareness, education and prevention programs implementation for students. Nonetheless, not many states encourage the implementation of such policies as the provision of counseling or other support services to bullied victims (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). There is a strong need for effective intervention and prevention services. This policy is quite efficient but its practical application is not easy. In particular, it is highly crucial to overcome the gap between popular programs, which are widely utilized in schools, and academic research that is meant to confirm their appropriateness and effectiveness, find ways to improve them or propose more efficient alternatives. In this way, school authorities acquire scientific evidence regarding the efficiency of the given program (Cornell, & Limber, 2015). Nonetheless, all these strategies are only part of some act and are not funded individually.

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A bright example is Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which is aimed to provide resources to the school district in order to implement policies and programs on violence prevention. The issue of bullying occupies only a small part in this act. The act was adopted in order to support programs aimed at the prevention of illegal drugs and violence use and promoting discipline and safety among students at all education levels. Programs are introduced by concluding agreements with other federal agencies (Feder & McCallion, 2013). In particular, under this act, there were funded programs aimed at bullying prevention among other things. They included Project SAVE, The Safe and Supportive School Initiative and Project ENDURE. These programs were aimed at helping truant youth achieving academic success in school with the help of the demonstration model integration that unites community, family, and school (Feder & McCallion, 2013). Furthermore, the attention was paid to the social skill training and anger management in order to prevent violent behavior. Additionally, the goal was to increase the awareness about interpersonal violence and raise community involvement. Nonetheless, the problem of bullying was not addressed as a separate challenge.

Policy Effectiveness

It is quite difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of federal policies and laws regarding bullying because there is still no unified legislative act devoted specifically to anti-bullying concerns. Federal policy has its own advantages because it can have an impact on the administrator, teacher and student behavior similar to school organizational practices. It promotes a specific attitude through establishing positive behavior expectations for students. Bullying policies impact organizational and individual behaviors. Thus, the research found that most educators believe that anti-bullying policies are efficient rather than the opposite (William, 2017). In particular, policies’ quality or presence is related to lowering bullying rates among students (William, 2017). It was found that schools following anti-bullying policies provide better protection of transgender, bisexual, gay and lesbian students (William, 2017). Therefore, anti-bullying policies are quite efficient in reducing bullying in case their content is based on evidence or theoretical background and in case they are associated with a high level of fidelity.

Despite strengths, the mentioned policies have some weaknesses and one of the greatest limitations is the absence of a single and clear anti-bullying federal act or law that would clearly define the problem of bullying as a human rights violation. All described anti-bullying strategies are included in the general policies so that they are not an independent variable in the US federal policies and legislation.

Recommendations

Possible anti-bullying policy or legislation can be analyzed based on the socio-economic theory. This theory is focused on the fact that economic activities are in strong relation with the social processes because they affect and shape each other. A great role is played by the socioeconomic status of a person in the society. Status is the position in the social structure and a part of the social differentiation in the society. Socioeconomic status can become a serious background for the problem of bullying. Hence, according to the research, it is considered that children that are more likely to be victimized at school if they have low socioeconomic backgrounds, because the fact of being different from one’s peer seems to be the major victimization stimulus (Tippett & Wolke, 2014).

Therefore, it is critical to adopt an anti-bullying policy based on the theoretical background and academic research and evidence. According to the socioeconomic theory, socioeconomic status defines the role of a person in the society. Hence, bullying among children can be grounded on this issue, while policy has to take into account all the factors that can affect its effectiveness. Current policies have a common and significant limitation revealed in being a part of some other programs and initiatives. It means that the anti-bullying policy has to be divided into a separate unit and should be focused only on its main goal, which is the prevention of bullying among students. The best solution would be launching a policy that would cover the problem of bullying at all levels.

First of all, it is crucial to make schools apply the codes of conduct that forbid harassment and bullying and to improve the process of reporting data on bullying to the US Department of Education. Also, parents have to be notified about bullying by the school staff through annual notices regarding unacceptable behavior of students. The most crucial is the fact that current federal policies are focused mostly on the educational agencies that get federal funding. However, the policy has to be applied to all schools and anti-bullying measures in schools have to be taken on all the state level. Such attitude will help to develop the national standard baseline practices directed at the prohibition and prevention of bullying behavior in schools.

Moreover, it is critical to clearly define the bullying phenomenon and analyze the potential consequences of the acts of bullying. The school staff has to be involved in the specific training directed at teaching how to recognize and prevent bullying behavior in the most effective way. Additionally, people of all statuses and classes have to be protected (Cantone et al., 2015). Despite the specific conditions, any person should be protected from bullying.

Recommendations Justification and Implementation

Some people believe that bullying is not a real problem being assured that bullying incidents are standing apart from increasing cases of unacceptable behavior in schools. A great number of children are bullied and similarly, a great number of young people experience drastic physical and psychological consequences of bullying. Therefore, a single and clearly defined federal act has to be created and should be devoted only to the bullying problem, because already existing acts provide even more difficulties regarding the prevention of bullying. The absence of a single law provokes negative consequences in terms of measurement and application.

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Also, the definition of bullying has to be developed and included in the law, because currently there is no clear definition of bullying so that every person perceives bullying in one’s own way. It leads to the failure to recognize certain behavior as bullying and prevent possible negative consequences. Besides, it leads to the diversity of how policies and legislations on bullying behavior will be applied. Hence, a crucial task is to provide a clear definition of bullying on a federal level, which will serve as a tool or guideline aimed at preventing bullying behavior.

Additionally, it is critical to clearly define the appropriateness of certain behavior patterns, because only by expressing clear expectations regarding student behavior and providing explanations regarding the consequences of the bullying acts, it is possible to develop a positive environment. It helps to make students realize that bullying will not be accepted and any bullying act will be punished. At the same time, it is also critical to organize staff training, because without it even the most effective policy or legislation will not be possible to put in practice appropriately. Any policy on bullying must include the above elements in order to avoid confusion and promote guidance on how to handle bullying behavior.

These recommendations can be applied through launching the legal act that would cover all the above-mentioned issues. Hence, the mechanism for the policy implementation includes the federal legislation that will need to be transformed into the law. For it to be implemented successfully, the recommendations have to be provided at the state level and administrated by the educational agencies. At the same time, it is critical to provide an evaluation plan in order to control and determine the level of the recommendations application among students. Moreover, it is critical to control the implemented policies through the technological development and changing environment in order to adapt to these changes. Therefore, based on these steps, it will be possible to put the mentioned recommendations into practice.

Conclusion

In general, bullying is a complex, challenging and serious problem faced by students. In response to this problem, it is critical to implement the federal law that would address the anti-bullying policies with its respective procedures. Nowadays, there are several federal initiatives regarding bullying. However, none of them is focused on the problem of bullying only but instead refers to this issue as one of many other problems. A similar situation is with laws because there is no federal law that addresses specifically the problem of bullying. Therefore, it is critical to implement a single clearly defined federal act that would provide protection to all people despite their class, social status, or other differences, along with making a clear definition of the problem of bullying, expressing expectations regarding the appropriate behavior patterns and the consequences of bullying, and organizing school staff training.

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