Bullying: Can Restorative Justice be the Right Approach?

Author:La Touche, Deborah
Position:Special Section on Bullying Prevention

FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, I was taught to follow the 'Golden Rule'--treat others as you would like to be treated. That's what we teach our children at home and in school. It sounds simple enough, right? Yet the concept seems to be lost on just about every generation. Most will agree there seems to always be a mean kid in school or a crew of them that makes life miserable for the others. Pushing, name calling and spreading rumors are almost passe now with the advent of social media; bullying has now evolved to the next level garnering immediate support for the bully and their bad behavior through likes, shares and retweets giving rise to a "piling on" effect which occurs when pundits add to an already negative situation. With that kind of instantaneous support, it is of course no surprise that we are hearing about more and more incidents of bullying in our schools across the nation. What is unfortunately clear, is that the bullying culture is alive and well--and not just in schools. Quite frankly the bullying culture can develop in any context from school, family, to the workplace, and even politics. Once considered inevitable and in some cases even a rite of passage, bullying is now the subject of mass media attention, pundits and hundreds of state laws.

Bullying is a form of violence among children which encompasses a variety of negative acts that are carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. There are also several different types of bullying to include physical (taking belongings, spitting, kicking or hitting); verbal (name calling, taunting); and psychological (intimidation, spreading rumors, or engaging in social exclusion). (1) The effects of bullying can be emotional and have long range effects on the person bullied. The direct impacts can be as minor as simply acting out in class and skipping school to the more serious effects of depression, and in rare cases, the affected person may even commit suicide. Regarding the bully, studies show that they are more likely to drop out of school and engage in delinquent and criminal behavior. (2)

Bullying at school causes enormous stress, not only for the person being bullied, but also their families. It is a growing problem among kids and teens and research indicates that more than half of all school-aged children in the United States will be involved in bullying this...

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