In an unprecedented collaboration with the County Commissioners, District Attorney’s office and Bucks County School Superintendents, The Peace Center established the Bullying Resource and Call Center to address bullying and cyberbullying cases throughout Bucks County. The Call Center’s comprehensive approach draws from The Peace Center’s long standing work bridging schools and community through peace education. This initiative allows The Peace Center to support schools, families, police, targets, and bullies/abusers to prevent, intervene or seek support creating a safe environment of acceptance and tolerance within the community.
The rapid advancement of technology has created an infinite space for a new form of bullying that is difficult to monitor and supervise. Bullying now extends beyond the schoolyard and has been augmented by 24 hour online harassment. While parents, school districts, and even local police want to help when cyberbullying is brought to their attention, the modern dynamics of this behavior can make intervention difficult. Schools struggle with their role when the cyberbullying occurs, parents struggle with their role when the bullying affects their child’s school attendance or performance, and police struggle with determining when bullying crosses into criminal behavior.
With a more integrated approach, the Bullying Resource and Call Center can help schools, families, and police determine the best course of action necessary to help the target deal with bystanders and address the bully’s behavior so the problem does not continue. The Peace Center has vast experience working with students, teachers, administrators, the DA’s office, police and the community to address this problem and is uniquely qualified to provide assistance.
The Peace Center Bullying Resource and Call Center is not a hot line, but operates during normal hours of operation, from 9–6 on weekdays. Our website is being set up so that the public can report incidents online. (www.thepeacecenter.org) Phone and email messages will be checked during holidays, weekends and closures.
Bullying is an aggressive, repeated behavior that involves a person or persons trying to harm another person physically and/or emotionally. It can be as direct as physical assaults, name calling, taunting and teasing or more insidious such as the spreading of rumors or the ostracizing of an individual. The use of technology (texting and the Internet) has taken this practice to a much more damaging level, known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can have a detrimental impact on an individual or group of people because of the ability to engage a larger audience through different modes of technology. Cyber harassment is often incessant and can follow the target throughout their day and night, making it difficult for them to escape the trauma.
While bullying is often attributed to the ‘normal’ process of growing up for most, it is, in fact, very damaging to our children, leaving them feeling tense, afraid and suffering from trauma. When students do not feel safe at school, they are unable to concentrate, it affects their attachment to school and therefore, bullying has a negative impact on their academic achievement. Research has shown that both the target and the bully suffer from depression and anxiety 10-20 years later. In more serious situations, cyberbullied teens react violently towards others and themselves – and in the most extreme case they resort to taking their own lives. Tragically, this has happened across the country with students as young as 9 years old.
Modern youth have no escape from cyberbullying unless they completely withdraw from use of social networking, emails, and cell phones. Often a teen or child who has been the target of bullying will, themselves, begin to bully and in today’s environment, that usually includes some form of cyberbullying.
In 2010, over 56% of students in grades K–12 have claimed to have witnessed bullying take place at their schools. With the highest rate of bullying occurring in grades 4 through 8, 90% of these students have reported being the targets of some form of bullying.
The Peace Center’s overall goal is a comprehensive approach to changing school climate so all students feel physically, emotionally and socially safe. When a bullying situation occurs, many school administrators turn to The Peace Center for intervention assistance. The Peace Center has worked in cooperation with targets, perpetrators, their families, along with those on the periphery of the incident in order to open lines of communication and create understanding and empathy between the parties.
Schools: The Peace Center partnered with all thirteen school districts to help with bullying intervention and/or prevention. Experienced staff, along with a full-time Bullying Specialist, provides guidance in the form of suggested protocols, prevention efforts, problem-solving and intervention when needed. A Bullying Support Tool Kit, being developed by The Peace Center, will be disseminated to all schools in Bucks County.
Outreach and Education to Law Enforcement: As police departments wrestle with the burgeoning crisis of cyber-bullying, they, too, are often unsure of how to deal with situations that have not necessarily crossed the line into criminal behavior. The Peace Center will reach out to police departments throughout the county to provide education and support to officers to enable them to effectively handle both the target and the offender in cases that are non-violent.
Many police departments are trained in Restorative Justice Family Conferencing (RJ) to address the needs of the targets, the offenders, and others involved in minor crimes. Restorative Justice encourages the development of relationships and empathy which in turn helps to discourage future occurrences. The Peace Center will build upon this structure encouraging the police to use RJ or make referrals to the Peace Center to run the process.
The Community: The Peace Center staff is trained and prepared to hold facilitated dialogues or, when appropriate, mediation and conflict coaching between children and families who have been affected by a cyber-bullying incident. Peace Educators currently facilitate a ten week teen program, Ventures in Peace (VIP) geared towards coaching young people and their families on how to deal with conflict, anger, and violence in an appropriate and healthy way.
Many of The Peace Center programs in place directly serve the people affected by bullying, whether they are a target or a perpetrator. The Peace Center has experience working with law enforcement, courts, district justices, district attorney, school superintendents and administrators, educators, as well as families. The Peace Center developed the county-wide Cyber-Bully Task Force and has been on the forefront of addressing this issue on a personal, school, community and political level.