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Bullying: Not Just a Social Issue

11/1/2010 10:40 AM -  

With countless barriers to success already facing our nation’s youth, recent findings from UCLA psychologists that students who are bullied suffer academically is disheartening, to say the least.

According to a study involving 2,300 students in 11 Los Angeles-area public schools, bullying, especially high levels of it, correlated with lower grades. Researchers found that many areas of a student’s performance are affected when they are bullied—physically, verbally and as the subject of nasty rumors—including test scores, classroom participation, and completion of homework.

"We cannot address low achievement in school while ignoring bullying, because the two are frequently linked," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. Some students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied. Teachers can misinterpret their silence, thinking that these students are not motivated to learn.”

An article published in the Philadelphia Examiner also points to the increase in cases of cyberbullying, a relatively new phenomenon defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”  In an earlier study performed by Juvonen, nearly three out of four teens experienced cyberbullying over the course of a year, yet only one in ten reported it to adults.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has recognized bullying as a public health problem, and it is estimated that a total of 160,000 children stay home from school each day because they fear being bullied. The problem has recently been thrust into the media spotlight in the wake of several suicides by young people who were bullied or taunted for being gay, with even President Obama getting behind initiatives aimed at stemming this troubling trend.

“We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” Obama said.

            At present, one student drops out of high school every 26 seconds, totaling more than 1.2 million each year. Thirty percent of our nation’s children do not graduate on time, and overall, only 72 percent earn their secondary education diploma. With factors such as race, socioeconomic status, access to quality institutions, teachers and curriculum, and parental involvement already affecting the next generation’s chances of academic success, we simply cannot allow bullying to add to this list.

            The Harris Foundation (THF) empowers underserved youth and their communities to positively impact education and ultimately America's workforce. Through innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, health and wealth programs, we expose students and their communities to new ideas and help them cultivate their untapped potential so that their future is one of infinite possibilities.

We stand behind all initiatives that help our children excel academically, and hope that as a nation, we can curtail the problem of bullying in our schools before it worsens. Our Dare to Dream program is currently working with eleven area schools on character development and crime prevention in an effort to lower local bullying rates and help children make better choices. We also recognize the importance of raising awareness about this issue nationally and encouraging discussion is the first step in devising concrete solutions. We welcome your comments and feedback, and hope that you will join us here on our blog each week, as well as on Facebook and Twitter to affect positive change for America’s youth. You can also sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, which will launch December 2010, by clicking here, for updates on THF events, press and national highlights.

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