by Sudarshan Kapoor, PhD.
Note: We are celebrating India’s 68th Independence Day in Fresno. It is a time for joyful celebration but it is also a time for all of us to address the challenges that we and our children face in the United States. One of those challenges is the problem of bullying experienced by our children in schools. Hence, this article for your perusal.
Bullying is apparently an age old problem. It has been rampant in all societies and cultures. Its presence in our schools is a growing concern for parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders. With all the media coverage about school violence and educational emphasis on safe schools, addressing the problem of bullying in schools deserves our attention, resources and commitment.
According to one study 86% of the students said that they turn to lethal violence because of being bullied. Almost the same percentage said that the school shootings are motivated by a desire to get back at those who have hurt them.
Some authorities feel that bullying can be categorized as an epidemic in our society.
What is Bullying? According to Wikipedia, bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.
Behavioral Characteristics: Researchers have identified four major behavioral characteristics associated with bullying. These are:
• Intentional—Children can hurt other children by accident. Bullying, however, is always intentional and meant to cause some sort of harm, whether it is physical or verbal. This behavior may persist even after the victim has asked the bully to stop.
• Repetitive—In most cases, bullying happens repeatedly. Bullies often target children who they know will not do anything about the behavior, so they can continue bullying as long as they like.
• Hurtful—Bullying is a negative behavior that may include physical or verbal harm. The types of hurtful behavior that qualify as bullying are varied, but they all cause harm of some sort to the victim.
• Imbalance of power—If two children hold an equal amount of power, one cannot bully the other. This imbalance of power can come from different sources, including age, size, strength, and social status.
Bullying and Indian children: From time to time, many Indian parents and their children have shared stories of children being bullied in schools, but we do not have a systematic and authentic study on the nature and extent of bullying problem faced by Indian children in schools until recently when the national Sikh Coalition came out with a report on bullying being experienced by Sikh children. Based on the findings of this report and the coverage about the problem in the local press, I wrote an article which appeared in Fresno Bee on April 17, 2014. Below is the article which i would like to share with members of our community.
We all must fight bullying of Sikh children, Fresno Bee, April 17, 2014
Recent media coverage (Fresno Bee, 3/13/2014 and 3/30/2014) of bullying of Sikh children in schools has brought the issue under spotlight. Bullying of Sikh children has been known in the community for quite sometime, but the report released by the Sikh Coalition has heightened the much needed awareness about the harassment, discrimination and prejudice experienced by the Sikh children in our schools. Sikh children who look different because of their attire particularly the male children who wear turban become victims of harassment and ridicule. They wear turban as mandated by their faith. Incidents of violence (bullying) against Sikh children have increased over the years. According to the recent survey conducted by Sikh Coalition, majority of the Sikh children, just over 50% endure school bullying. Over 67% of turbaned Sikh children reported being bullied in schools nationally. To our great chagrin, Fresno came second highest (54.5%) after Indianapolis (55.8%) in terms of Sikh students being bullied in schools. This is quite serious. It reflects sorry state of affairs in our schools. Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are largely responsible for the violence, hate crimes and discrimination against the Sikhs and their children who wear turbans. It is the total ignorance and the mistaken identity about the Sikhs that contribute to misunderstanding, violence and stereotypes experienced by the Sikhs. Sikhs who hail from Punjab, India have lived in the United State more than a century and have contributed significantly to the social, cultural and economic life of our communities. It is the time to acknowledge their contribution and reverse the cycle of discrimination and prejudice. Though some school districts have policies and programs in place for the prevention and reduction of bullying, it is felt that these are not adequate particularly to address the harassment experienced by the Sikh children. We know that bullying is a very complex phenomenon. We also know from our experience what a damage bullying does to the emotional, mental and physical health of the child. It devastates the life of some children. It is estimated that 160,000 children skip school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by bullies. 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied in our schools. It is the time to adopt constructive measures, if not already taken, by our school boards, administrators, teachers, parents and community leaders to address this problem. Here are a few suggestions for consideration: (1) School boards, administrators and teachers in our valley should study the report ‘ GO HOME TERRORIST’- A Report on Bullying Against Sikh American Children. Seven recommendations should be examined carefully for implementation. (2) Anti-bullying policies, programs and procedures, if not developed, be spelled out carefully and shared with parents during the orientation and with advocacy groups. (3) Sikh awareness day celebration should be encouraged on the campuses in the month of November, officially designated month in California. Such celebrations should be part of the diversity celebration plan and will be very appropriate where there is significant Sikh population. (4) In addition, empathy building activities and prejudice reduction workshops and exercises should be considered. This will help in building a culture of peace and acceptance on our school campuses. (5) School boards and administrators should consider recruiting Sikh personnel on their staff. This will help in building bridges of understanding and cooperation with the community. (6) Where there is a significant Sikh population, the community should seriously consider electing members to the school boards and committees in order to influence policies and procedures. (7) A concerted effort by the leaders of the Sikh community along with other community groups and supporters should be launched to reach out the MEDIA which plays a major role in shaping up the image of an ethnic group or community and its leaders.
— Over all, we all have a responsibility in creating safe schools for our children so that they could learn and pursue their dreams to the best of their abilities and without fear and violence.