October, like every other month of the year, has been packed like a Tokyo subway car with a crushing variety of issues upon which we are invited to focus our awareness.
In case you haven’t noticed, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Dwarfism Awareness Month, SIDS Awareness Month, 3D Ultrsound Awareness Month, National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Celiac Sprue Awareness Month, LGBT History Month, Black History Month, National Arts & Humanities Month, National Infertility Awareness Month and National Principals Month.
But that’s just a start. The list goes out the door and around the block, because requesting month declarations appears to be what members of Congress do in between driving the economy off a cliff.
Not that most, if not all of these issues, aren’t worthy of our attention. But there is one October designation with a particular local resonance, if only because we see the issue it addresses with increasing frequency.
National Bullying Awareness Month is unfolding as you read this and, in Sonoma over the past several weeks, we have either reported or been informed of several troubling incidents of bullying. And statistics suggest what is visible represents just the tip of the bullying iceberg because the vast majority of incidents go unreported.
Index-Tribune readers may recall the recent incident at Altimira Middle School in which a 12-year-old allegedly brandished a large knife at classmates. His excuse: He was the victim of prior bullying.
Bullying in one form or another is an implicit part of the human experience and no amount of public awareness will make it go away. It has been estimated that nearly 30 percent of teens in the United States (close to 6 million young people) are involved in school bullying as either a victim or a bully. Sometimes both. And according to the U.S. Department of Education, 160,000 children a day stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied.
But bullying rarely occurs in isolation and bullies seldom act alone, because bullying almost always requires an audience.
Which is where awareness comes into play. Anyone witnessing bullying, either physically, verbally or online, should consider appropriate ways to intervene. Experts argue that encouraging kids to “tattle to the teacher” can be an unwise course of action, since it may result in retaliation and increased bullying. A far better strategy may be for parents who are in close enough touch with their children to know when they are being bullied, or are doing the bullying, to communicate the problem to teachers or administrators directly.
The issue becomes infinitely more complicated, of course, when the bullying child comes from a bullying family, which is not uncommon and too frequently confirms the developmental law that children practice what they witness, that they become what they see around them.
So, invariably, one solution to what sometimes sounds like a bullying epidemic is for parents to model the behavior they want to see in their children.
We’re not sure that bullying in Sonoma Valley Schools is at crisis levels. But we think there is enough to demand our vigilant awareness.