This school year has been one where student’s mental health issues have been at the top of mind in cases in our office. Regrettably, this has been a period where calls from clients often involves bullying, threats of school violence, and bringing weapons to school. These are not neatly categorized since the client may be experiencing all three issues simultaneously.
The below fact pattern is an example of numerous cases that have presented themselves to our office in the past few months:
A middle-school student in anger informed a group of students at lunch that he was thinking of shooting up the school. This student had been repeatedly bullied over the last six months and teased because he was in special education. He had been knocked down at gym and called a gay slur. The student told a teacher who encouraged him to work it out with the other boys.
The student was embarrassed to tell his parents that this was happening. He became increasingly isolated and started to complain of stomach aches and illness on many mornings.
The student was pushed down at outdoor recess and kicked by one of the boys who had been bullying him all year. No adult witnessed this event. The next day he came to school with a knife in his backpack. He told another student that he was going to hurt someone if he was bullied again. That student reported this to the School Resource Officer who searched his backpack and locker. A knife was discovered in the pocket of his backpack. The student was suspended and faced expulsion.
This fact pattern is unfortunately not isolated and is part of a pattern that has been increasingly common this school year.
Despite much anti-bullying rhetoric from schools, it has been my experience that this is often a reactive statement but that little is done to address a culture of bullying and threats until it has reached a crisis.
What can parents do:
- Talk to their children and model behavior.
- If your child is the victim of bullying put your concerns in writing and insist on a plan of action from the school. (For example, implementation of a written safety plan).
- If your child is accused of bullying insist on a meeting with the school to discuss the concerns and allegations.
- Determine if the school has a written anti-bullying policy.
- Request a bullying investigation in writing.
ISBE: Student Care (217)-785-5585
Bullying Illinois School Code 105 ILCS 5/27-23.7
- October – National Bullying Prevention Month
- The Choose Kindness Project
- Learning for Justice
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Suicide Prevention
- U.S. Department of Education Issues New Guidance to support educators in fighting bullying
- Welcoming Schools Web Site
- Center for PBIS: Bullying Prevention
- Equip for Equality
- Safe2Help Illinois
Safe2Help Illinois offers students and families a safe, confidential way in which to share information that might help prevent suicides, bullying, school violence or other threats to school safety. This program is not intended to suspend, expel, or punish students. Rather, the goal is to get students to “Seek Help Before Harm.” Safe2Help Illinois will also develop an educational curriculum aimed at changing the culture in Illinois schools while also providing the resources to help parents and educators reinforce the components of this program.
Safe2Help Illinois is a 24/7 program where students can use a free app, text/phone, website, and other social media platforms to report school safety issues in a confidential environment. Once vetted, the tips will immediately be shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement, depending on the nature of the tip. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate resources to intervene and help students before they harm themselves or others. Visit their website to learn more.Share on Facebook