Recently, a number of concerned parents have called my office to talk about a serious problem – bullying.
Emotional, verbal, physical or cyber – bullying affects one in every four children. States throughout the nation are recognizing this detriment to a child’s well-being and development. At last check, there were 45 states with bullying laws.
Act 214 (2011) was enacted to require the Hawaii State Board of Education to establish reporting requirements for the Department of Education (DOE) related to administrative rules governing bullying. Alvin Shima, DOE Maui Complex Area Superintendent, monitors reporting and advises school principals on DOE rules related to bullying.
Some people question whether the half-page legislation adequately addresses bully-related harassment, safety, violence and destruction of property.
The statute could be strengthened to require school personnel who witness bullying to submit written reports of incidents to the Board of Education, and to mandate schools to launch investigations. The statute could identify specific notification and disciplinary measures.
Though schools have begun to institute disciplinary and bullying-prevention programs, parents and teachers are divided whether disciplinary action should be limited to parents and schools or should be processed through the juvenile court system.
While legislation is important to address impacts of social behavior, awareness is the key to preventing a child from becoming the victim of bullying. Three major elements in bullying are imbalance of power, intent to cause harm and repetition. Children taught to recognize these behaviors might avoid being bullied.
One of the greatest things about the Maui Nui community is that help is available to those who seek it.
The County does not have jurisdiction over the education system, but County officials can take action through legislative proposals.
I encourage the public to speak up on these important issues so that the community is compelled to find solutions to address bullying. That’s what those concerned parents did when they contacted my office.
Nonprofit organizations, such as Friends of the Children’s Justice Center, provide support, prevention and awareness programs to educate families about child abuse and bullying.
The Governor’s Maui liaison Joann Inamasu encourages people to report bullying incidents to www.hawaii.gov/gov.
There is help available, starting with family and friends. But help cannot be given to those who remain silent. Let us have a voice at the state and a voice here in the county. Most importantly, let us encourage our children to speak out against bullying.
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