Updated: Jul 1, 2019
The U.S. suicide rates are at the highest levels since World War II. The suicide rate has increased nearly 1% every year between 2000 and 2006 and increased on average 2% a year from 2006 through 2016. There are many causes for the mental health crisis facing America but the destructive powers of technology, be it in the form of social isolation or cyberbullying have been cited for the rising number of teens killing themselves. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).
Promoting and cultivating a learning environment that is safe for every student is the legal, and ethical responsibility of every school staff member, parent, and student, yet bullying and harassment affect millions of students in schools across America. More than a third of young people in middle and high school are directly involved in bullying situations, and nearly all are witnesses to these events (Nansel et al., 2001; Nishioka, Coe, Burke, Hanita, & Sprague, 2010; Swearer & Cary, 2003).
In many schools, harassment goes beyond race or ethnicity. In 2011, nearly half of students in grades 7–12 reported being a victim of sexual harassment that was hurtful (Hill & Kearl, 2011). Although more girls (56 percent) report problems, at least 25 percent of boys are also victims of sexual harassment. Victims reported being called derogatory names intended to label the young person as inferior. Some students have reported that hurtful rumors were spread about them verbally, or electronically. Still, other students reported being victimized by unwelcome touching, physical intimidation, and being forced by their classmates or a school employee to do something sexual (Hill & Kearl, 2011).
Harassment harms the self-esteem, physical safety, and emotional well-being of the students directly involved, as well as bystanders who witness these events. Both victims and perpetrators suffer the consequences of such interactions, experiencing trouble concentrating or participating in class, which can result in poor or failing grades. They are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and social problems with peers (Arseneault et al., 2006; DeVoe & Kaffenberger, 2005; Nansel et al., 2001). Tragically, many students have resorted to suicide or violence toward others as a direct result of harassment (Kim & Leventhal, 2008; Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007; Liu & Mustanski, 2012).
The effects of bullying and harassment pervade the everyday life of the victim and potentially are expressed as Feelings of confusion, powerlessness, anger, fear, shame, or guilt; Emotional problems such as anxiety, panic reactions, and low self-esteem; Social issues, insecurity, embarrassment, feelings of betrayal, isolation; Physical issues such as headaches, sleep problems, lethargy, somatic complaints; Self-harm and suicide; Absenteeism, withdrawal from school activities, problems concentrating, poor grades.
Most school districts use some school-wide bullying prevention program designed to bring awareness and consistency to reducing the prevalence of student to student bullying, but few provide for proper parent training so that bullying prevention extends into the community. Moreover, virtually no schools offer culturally centered bullying prevention models addressing underlying cultural issues. Many schools even struggle to define what bullying is resulting in under-reporting of harmful bullying episodes that escalate over time.
IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your students and staff members gain an understanding about one’s sense of self and what they deeply value while developing a shared definition about what bullying looks like and sounds like. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Adults can also be trained in antibullying strategies and techniques to build an inclusive climate. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment.