One of the risk factors
of a child or teenager engaging in violent acts is a history of
being bullied or of bullying others. Boys are often bullied physically,
whereas girls are more often bullied with verbal putdowns about
their appearance, clothing, culture and background. However, both
sexes can be bullied both physically and verbally.
Parents can be an instrumental force in preventing
future acts of violence by youth, and there are several small ways
in which they can help keep schools safe.
Parents should set time aside every day to talk
to their children about what is going on at school, and how they
are being treated by their peers and teachers. Children should feel
that their parents will listen to them with a non-judgmental attitude.
Parents do not have to insist that they will maintain confidentiality
if it is a matter that seems to warrant adult intervention and communication
with the school staff, but they can reassure their children that
they are there for them and will help protect them.
Being a victim of bullying can have serious psychological
consequences. Some kids may develop symptoms of anxiety or depression.
They may have trouble sleeping and eating, lose interest in things
they previously enjoyed, and even entertain thoughts of wanting
to die. They may constantly worry about something happening to themselves
or their family, dread going to school, and sometimes voice physical
complaints, such as stomach pain and headaches, to get out of going.
Parents should also look for signs that their children
might be participating in bullying. If a child has a low tolerance
for frustration, angers easily, seems irritable and appears to be
in the company of other “bullies,” he or she may be
at risk for becoming a bully.
Parents should intervene if they notice any of
these signs. Intervention could be in the form of getting their
child counseling, speaking to a mental health professional to educate
themselves about what course of action to take, and keeping in touch
with the school regarding what they’ve observed, making sure
members of the staff intervene if the child is being bullied or
engaging in bullying.
Parents can work with the school to develop a zero-tolerance
policy on bullying or support ways of improving the policy if one
already exists. A zero-tolerance policy means that bullying will
not be tolerated under any circumstances, and if any staff or student
witnesses bullying, the perpetrators may face serious consequences,
including expulsion. Staff should be vigilant in addressing any
early signs of bullying and administer consequences immediately.
This can help maintain a safe environment for children at school.
Parents can ask school officials about the safety
and security measures the school has in place to prevent someone
from bringing in a weapon or to prevent random individuals from
entering the school. Parents can also work with local mental health
groups on educating schools to identify and screen children for
symptoms of mental illness to help with early intervention when
needed–before a tragedy occurs.