TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (CBS 2) — A packed, full-day conference in Tarrytown Thursday took aim at a singular issue: bullying.
Teachers, school psychologists and guidance counselors are trying to toughen up the response to bullying among students. It’s become a serious problem for children, and it’s more prevalent in schools, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, whose office hosted the first-ever regional bullying conference, said the law must be used as an efficient deterrent, and a weapon against childhood bullying.
Part of the reason that the bullying problem has gotten so bad is that students just aren’t reporting the incidents. Why? Just ask any student.
“If you’re sort of scared of that bully and he knows that you did it, then he’ll probably go after you next,” sixth grade student Hunter Martin said. “Or you’re built up inside and you’re too nervous, and you just don’t want to tell anyone.”
District Attorney DiFiore told the students and educators in attendance in Tarrytown that both the bully and victim are better off if law enforcement is called early.
“Of course people are reluctant to call the police on children, and I can understand that, but what I’m trying to do is raise people’s confidence level,” DiFiore said. “You should pick the telephone and call and let the experts be the judge of that.”
The problem is complicated by the fact that many bullies are bright, otherwise attractive kids, and their victims are often the outcasts.
“They’ve just been awkward and can’t really help it,” eighth grader Devon Lawrence said. “They get picked on.”
“There’s been kids who’ve gotten bullied by other kids, like in fights,” seventh grade student Dawson Lawrence said. “Some people [watch], some people go away. [You should] go tell a teacher.”
Often, though, even the adults are no help.
“Sometimes what happens is they’ll just try to minimize things,” guidance counselor JoAnn Silverman said. “In some cases, kids feel that the way they’re thinking might be a little exaggerated.”
D.A. Difiore added parents were also accountable for a young bully’s actions. “Certainly parents are responsible for educating their children and counseling their children to grow and develop into cooperative and responsible members of a broader community,” she said.
Not all bullying escalates to criminal behavior, but psychologists say all bullying is negative – it can lead to learning problems for the victims, and behavior problems – and even a drift into criminality – for the bullies themselves.
Prosecutors have a variety of tools for dealing with bullying cases, including youth courts, counseling and reparations to victims.