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Bully rankings: Would they work?

May 30, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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While the concept of bullying is far from new, it seems that in recent years the media has amped up the coverage of suicides as a result of bullying and also of anti-bullying efforts. Besides the “traditional” bullying in schools, kids also have to worry about being “cyber-bullied” while they’re in the comfort of their own home, and teenage girls run the risk of being tormented after attending social gatherings with their friends.

Are schools doing anything to combat bullying? I suppose it’s hard to make an overall statement. Some schools have anti-bullying assemblies explaining how to report bullying and the disciplinary actions that will be taken. Other schools tend to blame the victim and not handle bullying accusations seriously, if they do handle them at all.

I recently came across an article in which an Australian child and adolescent psychiatrist, James Scott, makes comments about bullying in schools and suggests a new way to combat bullying. His idea: Just as schools are ranked for their literacy, test scores, etc., they should also be ranked on bullying.

With a system such as that in place, parents would know prior to sending their child to school how likely it is that he or she will be the target of a bully. He suggests students would be required to take a short survey that would basically gauge if they had been bullied in the past 90 days. The risk, of course, is that students may not always be truthful and therefore the ratings would not be a truthful reflection of the school’s culture.

The main goal would be that schools, in hopes to keep their numbers low, would put in more effort to take bullying accusations more seriously. Why the school wouldn’t want to keep their bullying down in the first place is beside me, but I agree with Dr. Scott on the logic.

Most organizations are about numbers, especially schools and communities. No community wants to have a high crime rating or a high percentage of unemployment. Schools are no different—they want to keep up their test scores, have a fairly low teacher-to-student ratio, and have a good enrollment number. Here’s another number to commit to.

Keeping bullying down will decrease the many issues that follow a bullying experience. Students who are bullied may suffer from depression, long-term anxiety, low self-esteem, or the worst of it all, suicide. Those who saw the bullying happen but were too afraid to say something may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if the bullied student ends their life as a result.

Since this conversation is happening in Australia, I’m extremely curious what you think about it here in the states. Is this something you see as possible in the schools here? Do you think it would help? Would you feel more comfortable sending your kids to school if there was a “bully ranking”?

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Shannon Brys