With the start of the new school year, there is a lot of conversation about bullying. This type of aggression is not new, but it is different. And it calls for a different response.
While some adults find nothing wrong with bullying, 70 percent of students view it as a problem. And research suggests that young bullies may be charting a troubling course. A recent study revealed that 60 percent of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by the age of 24. There also is a significant connection between bullying and suicide. Last year’s suicide of a Rutgers University freshman led New Jersey lawmakers to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law.
Certainly parents play a key role in addressing and preventing bullying; however, research suggests that bullying may be indicative of a larger, societal problem. Studies confirm that among the risk factors for bullying are neighborhoods that are unsafe, violent and disorganized. Conversely, when young people live in safe, connected communities, they are less likely to engage in bullying.
This scholarship underscores the importance of the great work of organizations like 100 Black Men and Mothers in Charge, as well as the mentors, coaches, Scout leaders, teachers, school administrators, the church deacon, the lady on the porch who watches out, and others who are actively engaged in the lives of our children. A number of businesses, schools and faith-based organizations in Northwest Philadelphia have formed a partnership to help keep our children safe. The first initiative is the Safe Haven Program. Participants display a Safe Haven poster in the window of their establishments. The poster tells children traveling to and from school that the building is a refuge from danger.
In addition to these efforts, we need to learn different ways of responding to aggression. Jesus, for example, grabbed a whip and fought the money-changers in the temple. However, he retreated in Bethany in the face of those trying to stone him. And most important, he laid down His life for us at Calvary. Likewise, simply walking or running away may be the appropriate response in a particular situation. And that should not be viewed as weak. As an instructor in one of the martial arts disciplines, I help my students understand that fundamentally we fight because we’re scared or angry. When we are confident and balanced, however, there is no need to prove what we know to be true. Rather, we learn to operate from a position of strength and make the choice not to cause the aggressor harm although we have the ability and means to. Instead, we demonstrate our strength by walking away.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church hosted an anti-bullying workshop. We shared important information and strategies to address bullying. This was just one step in what I hope will be an ongoing effort to combat this problem. I look forward to your participation in upcoming events.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.