Bullying: Underreported or overrated?

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By Asha Johnson
The Lansing Star

LANSING — Bullying isn’t taken lightly in the Lansing School District, but according to Dr. M.J. Garcia, there have been some misunderstandings of what bullying is and what it isn’t.

Garcia is a recently retired educator who taught middle and high school in the Lansing School District and also taught at the college level. He said that when it comes to bullying, there is nothing new under the sun.

“After having 30 years of education up under my belt, I have seen all types of bullying, so believe me when I say bullying isn’t overrated because there are so many forms of it,” said Garcia.

There are several levels of consequences that students in the Lansing schools have to undergo if they are accused of bullying, but people differ in their opinions of what the word bullying really means.

A question that arose several times at the Lansing School Board meeting on Oct. 16 was how to differentiate between someone being bullied and someone being over-sensitive.

“It is said that often times students don’t report that they are bullied because they are afraid, but that is no longer my concern,” said Lansing’s Board of Education Vice President Myra Ford. “My concern is for the students who may joke around with others and become labeled as a bully for something that wasn’t intended to do any harm.”

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Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul and President Peter Spadafore at a recent Lansing School Board meeting. Photo by Asha Johnson.

Bullying, Garcia said, is situational and conditional. If a friend comes up to you and pushes you, you might think he or she is joking around, but it’s different if someone who you aren’t well acquainted with shoves you to the ground. They are the same action but one is bullying and one is not, depending on the interpretation and/or circumstance.

“You must be completely clear on the reaction of the recipient and intent of the giver when it comes to bullying,” said Garcia in a phone interview.

Student Services Director Susan Land explained that although bullying is thrown around too lightly is some cases, it isn’t nearly reported as it should be because it has now become embarrassing to do so.

“It is to my knowledge that bullying isn’t at all reported as much as it occurs,” said Land. “It is surprisingly under-reported because students are afraid that people either won’t believe them, or that the bully will find out and retaliate.”

In the Oct. 16 School Board meeting, the three most frequently reported categories of bullying were identified by Assistant Superintendent Diana Rouse as verbal, gender and race bullying.

“We ought to handle bullying how we handle rape and sexism because they are all undesired, unexpected and uninvited,” Rouse said.

Rouse explained that the ultimate goal of discussing bullying at the School Board Meeting was to make others aware of its seriousness and to bring it to a cease so that student achievement will increase. They are planning to continue allowing students to have in school suspensions instead of being sent home so that they wont miss school. They are also planning to not only have better school counselors for the students but also for the parents of the alleged bullies.

“If a child is happy, they’ll be more productive,” said Rouse.

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