Bullying is a serious problem in Illinois schools. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois fact sheet on bill HB5707, half (52%) of Illinois students report that they have been verbally harassed and nearly 1 in 4 students report that they have been physically harassed or assaulted in school. Students targeted by bullying are more likely to consider, attempt, and commit suicide.
Bullying is not a new threat to youth across Chicago. The City of Chicago’s Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Healthy Chicago initiative highlights Bullying Prevention as one of its priorities. According to CDPH, there are about 160,000 children that miss school every day out of fear of being bullied. The 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement, conducted by National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows that 28% of students in grades 6-12 nationwide experience bullying. In 2011, the high school Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 19.3% of Illinois respondents reported being bullied at school and 16% reported being bullied electronically. The United States Department of Justice - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that bullying has long-term and short-term psychological effects on both those who bully and those who are bullied. OJJDP links bullying to other forms of antisocial behavior as well, such as vandalism, shoplifting, dropping out of school, fighting, and the use of drugs or alcohol.
Approaching bullying prevention through a public health lens, we must acknowledge that an individual’s bullying behavior does not exist in isolation. Rather, it is often a culmination of a variety of contributing factors, and may contribute to a path of generally antisocial and rule-breaking behavior that can extend into adulthood. As SCY’s Focus on Five insists, we must sustain investment in our youth.
According to stopbullying.gov, “bullying” is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both youth who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting consequences.
Bullying comes in many different forms. Stopbullying.gov identifies three major types of bullying: physical, verbal, and social. Within verbal bullying, teasing, name calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm are all examples of bullying. Social bullying may manifest as someone leaving someone else out on purpose, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possession. For example, hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, breaking or taking someone else’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures are all examples of bullying. Bullying can occur during or after school hours. “Cyber bullying” is often verbal or social and emotional bullying that happens through technology, email, or social media.
Stopbullying.gov further breaks down what each of us can do to reduce and prevent bullying, including recognizing warning signs, establishing a safe climate for youth, assessing bullying in schools and home communities, learning how we can be more than bystanders, and teaching and acting as role models for treating everyone with respect.
Today, SCY would like to highlight how as a community we can prevent and reduce bullying through political and systems changes.
The ACLU of Illinois fact sheet unveils that current Illinois law requires that school districts have bullying prevention policies but does not provide the guidance necessary to ensure that these policies and their implementation successfully combat bullying. HB5707 provides this guidance.
HB5707 would improve on current law by integrating the specific recommendations of the 2010 Illinois School Bullying Prevention Task Force, created by the Illinois State Board of Education, which determined that bullying policies that provide guidance to schools more effectively help them to prevent and address bullying.
• Defines bullying as contrary to State law and district policy
• Defines procedures regarding bullying, created by local school districts and local schools, for reporting (including anonymous reporting) bullying, investigating, and addressing bullying
• Elaborates on interventions, developed by local school districts and local schools, that can be taken to address bullying
• Illustrates procedures to posting and distributing
• Mandates data collection, providing ISBE with data related to school climate and the prevalence of bullying
• Provides schools the freedom to tailor their procedures to the unique needs of their school communities. Schools and school districts have total control over any anti-bullying related activities and speakers they choose to utilize.
These are reasons why SCY supports HB5707 and encourages you to do the same. House Bill 5707 is being heard in the Senate Education Committee today, May 6, at 1:01 pm. Click here to create a witness slip in favor of HB5707.
In an effort to create a safer, more prosperous environment for Chicago’s youth, SCY pushes in favor of HB5707 and looks forward to positive changes surrounding bullying prevention in Chicago’s present and future.