Sunday, December 16, 2012

What are we really doing?

“Bullying can negatively affect a victims brain says Ottawa researcher.” Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention at the University of Ottawa. She is also a professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University. Her research was published in the journal Elsevier in 2011. We all know that being at the receiving end of stalking, harassment and assault can have immediate negative responses by anyone. Dr. Vaillancourt’s research suggests prolonged torment and abuse could severely affect a child’s development. Could it be for this reason that our young are becoming depressed with suicidal thoughts and clinical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? It all has to do with the hormone we all produce called cortisol. When we are severely stressed out, like children who are bullied, we overproduce this hormone. The end result is that this has a negative structural affect on our brains. This is of great concern in children as they develop emotionally and socially. On December 11, 2012, Global Edmonton reported that bullying is linked to lower performance in 4th grade reading. The findings of this report can be found in The PIRLS Canada in Context report which states that students bullied the most tend to have lower performances. “Students who are struggling more in school are probably less comfortable, and are probably more subject to those kinds of unpleasant circumstances,” ...... “And equally, being subject to those would further depress achievement.” Does this make struggling students an “evocative victim”? I have a child whose torment lasted for three school years - grades 8, 9 and 10. He was academically successful, and then his learning became extremely depressed. To corroborate Dr. Vaillancourt’s research, as a result of his three years of torment he was diagnosed with PTSD, and became suicidal. He started college at the age of 20 and did not handle the stress of that very well in his first year. Very interesting findings, but is anyone listening? There is an over abundance of expert reports that provide us with all kinds of information. Our school boards are just as privy to this information as you or I are, yet children are still taking their lives. So I need to ask....when bullying gets out of hand at the school level, what degree of responsibility is placed on the school system? In the USA, “Alabama and Georgia are urging the federal court to rule that school districts not be held financially liable for harassment in a student’s disability if school officials took appropriate steps to stop it.” Who determines what appropriate steps are? If it is reported to the school, and the aggression is taking place at the school level, and it doesn’t stop regardless of the steps taken while our children are in their care, then some onus must be placed on the system. It can’t abscond itself of 100% responsibility when we place our children in the duty of their care. That question now leads me to the Town of Hanna in the Province of Alberta and their recently implemented bully by-law. RCMP approached the town as they were frustrated with how prevalent bullying was in their community. They also expressed the frustrations of parents, and were concerned about situations escalating to the point of criminal offenses. While some may believe this kind of by-law to be draconian in nature, the main reason for the request came as a result of the gray areas at the school level when dealing with bullying. Nothing else is working at the community, provincial and federal levels.