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Eliminating Bullying Is a Daunting Task

In the wake of a fatal stabbing by a student who said he was bullied by his classmates, the New York City Department of Education announced that it would create an online portal where families can report instances of bullying, harassment or discrimination ("City Announces $8 Million Plan to Prevent Bullying in Schools," The New York Times, Oct. 31).  In addition, schools will be required to design "individual student action plans" if several substantiated allegations of bullying against one child exist. Bullied students will also be able to request a transfer to a different school.

These steps are long overdue.  But whether they will be successful is another matter.  That's because in middle school and high school, not all bullied students are willing to identify the culprits.  They are reluctant to do so out of fear of retaliation or humiliation.  I think the prospects are better in elementary school because parents have greater control over their children when they are young.  By the time, students reach adolescence the ability of parents to have the same influence is not as great.

I think that bullying can be better addressed by the use of restorative practices.  If that doesn't work, then I support placing offenders in special classes, where they are removed from the overall student body.  If that still doesn't work, then I urge expulsion because bullying has led to tormented students taking their own lives. Bullying is not just something kids grow out of.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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