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From the Desk of Dr. Ellenmorris Tiegerman

Beware of Bullying

A pervasive problem that has been receiving a great deal of attention involves the increase in school violence. One type of school violence is referred to as bullying which is student-on-student harassment. Bullying includes one student’s physical and/or verbal abuse of another. One dynamic of bullying is that peers often watch without intervening in support of the student who is being targeted. Often bullying occurs over a long period of time with the victim remaining silent either because of social pressure, shame or grave concern about increased victimization. The problem is so extensive in the public schools that several incidents have resulted in student suicide and/or hospitalization. Students with disabilities have historically been subjected to teasing, harassment, and other forms of victimization. With the increase in school violence, students with disabilities may have even a greater likelihood of being bullied than their non-disabled peers.

For parents of students with disabilities, they need to become proactive about what is happening within the school environment. Schools on Long Island and in New York City should have policies and procedures about student bullying and harassment. Parents should access information on these policies by looking either on the school’s web site or within the student handbook. Parents need to read the policies and procedures so that they understand what safeguards have been put in place to protect children. It is also important to discuss this issue at PTA meetings not only to express any individual concerns but also to determine if other parents are aware of incidents occurring in schools. School districts are required by the New York State Education Department to document incidents of violence and report those incidents either within a school report card or within a document which is submitted to the Department.

For parents who are interested in this information, these documents can be obtained by means of a Freedom of Information Request (FOIL Request). Parents should speak to school counselors if they have any questions about the school’s policies and procedures.