By Nicholas Roddy
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Forty-eight states now have anti-bullying laws, and most require public school districts to have a policy on bullying. Bullying does not happen only at public schools, though.
There are more than 33,000 private schools in the United States. About 5.5 million students attend those schools. However, state laws do not cover private schools. It is up to private school administrations to create and enforce policies on bullying.
Parents now send their children to private schools to avoid bullying, according to OurKids.net. At private schools, there are generally more teachers per student and that would lead to a higher probability of bullying being detected. Private schools also have more resources and programs to help students stay out of trouble. Studies by the National Center for Education Statistics show that bullying is less prevalent in private schools than in public schools.
Private schools are not immune to scandals involving bullying, though. In May 2011, a story came out about an eighth grader that was told to “man up” by her advisor when she was harassed at the Seattle Girls’ School. The girl was a frequent recipient of name-calling. The bullies even started having meetings in the bathroom to talk about her while she was in the bathroom stall. The bullying caused the girl to leave the school, and the girl’s parents sued the school.
The girl, who wanted to be known by her first name Olivia, said that each grade singled out a different girl every year to bully. In a Seattle Post Intelligencer article about the situation, Olivia’s mother said that the school tolerated the bullies because it did not want to jeopardize funding from their parents. The school was started in 2000 with a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant and tuition was about $15,000.
The Seattle Girls’ School is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, an association aimed at being the national voice of independent schools. Patrick Bassett, President of the NAIS, said that they “are very serious about (bullying) because it is so damaging.”
In a phone interview, he said “most of our schools have an anti-bullying curriculum just like they have an anti-racism curriculum.” As far as whose responsibility it is to stop bullying, Bassett said it is up to the students, teacher and parents. “Adults have to be conscious and intervene quickly and dramatically, but by the time a kid becomes a bully, there is already something else going on in his life.”
The reason independent schools are so effective in combating bullying, Bassett said, is because of the “contractual relationship the schools have with the kids and parents that says they have to be good citizens both inside and outside of school. If there is bullying outside of school, it is still under the jurisdiction of the school.”