By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
Maybe you remember that mean kid in grade school who knocked you down on the schoolyard and took your lunch money. Or perhaps it was the cruel gossip who made fun of your looks, hair and clothes.
Bullying, in all its forms, is still with us, but contemporary educators are viewing the problem seriously, and taking steps to defend the victims, who might turn out to become educators themselves one day.
Bao Nguyen, a member of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education, said that he is no stranger to the issue.
“When I was a student in school there were occasions when I was being bullied,” said Nguyen.
Bullying is an issue that has received increased attention in recent years, as the advent of digital communication has taken some of the sting out of the schoolyard and moved it to the Internet.
“It isn’t necessarily the case that those being bullied are not accepted by their peers. It may be that bullies are not accepted by their peers. I believe that each individual has something unique to offer, and different students have different things to offer in creating a community,” said Nguyen.
“Students may not realize how to accept their own uniqueness, let alone how to accept the uniqueness of their peers. Everyone can be a part of fostering a safe learning environment where understanding of oneself and others is cultivated.”
“We have a zero tolerance policy, as I’m sure it should always be,” said Superintendent Laura Schwalm.
According to Sarah Westcott, the assistant superintendent of elementary education, “Each school has a Straight Talk counselor to whom we can refer students who are experiencing challenges. In addition, we teach an anti-bullying curriculum to all second graders.”
Westcott said that even with zero tolerance, that each case is treated in accordance to the factors involved, such as age, offense category and whether or not there have been repeat offenses.
Lynda Randall, professor of secondary education at CSU Fullerton, studied the impact of bullying on children and teenagers all over the United States and uses her findings to educate college aged teaching students on how to handle bully situations.
“There are varied forms, [of bullying] There’s what we call indirect bullying that’s the kind that is not so easy to see; gossip, spreading rumors, isolating kids, texting in school, even texting to someone in the class during class. Cyberbullying is a strong force now, especially with the use of Facebook,” said Randall.
Randall found that boys are more likely be involved in direct bullying, which would consist of physical confrontation, however, that norm changes depending of which part of the country you are in.
Randall said that some of the results of being bullied are increased likelihood of depression, school truancy, changes in sleeping patterns and anxiety that can persist into adulthood.
Four weeks ago, Bob Tucker, GGUSD personnel commissioner and his partner, Kwan Nguyen, spoke about the Fair Education Act, which mandates that the contributions of gay men and lesbian women and those who are disabled be integrated into history education in schools.
Kwan gave an impassioned speech, telling the board about how he was bullied as a young man for something that he didn’t understand, that the bullying stuck with him and hurt him for much of his life, he said as he broke into tears.
Randall said that she has had some of her college students break down in the classroom during portions of bullying education.
“One girl burst into tears after a class. I did the only thing I could, I gave her a hug and told her it was going to be ok,” said Randall, “This poor girl, even eight to 10 years after she had been tormented in school, was still feeling the effects.”