Sexual assault of students during class is just one of the possible charges that some middle school students at a Dallas area school face after a two month investigation. This leaves many administrators reaching for anti-bullying programs.
In Sunnyvale ISD, some middle school students may be seeing gray clouds as a Sheriff's investigation has revealed that five students were assaulting other students throughout the previous school year.
In a graphic explanation of what the victim's of the abuse endured, an opinionated commentary in The Dallas Morning News told the story of how:
The eighth-grade thugs would pin younger boys to the ground in the locker room. The ringleader would put his fist into a plastic cone and try to shove it into his victims' rectums. His pack stood around and moaned to torment the weaker kids.
This went on almost daily, says one seventh-grader who saw it go down. "We're going to rape you," the bullies would say to the little guys. A Sheriff's Department investigation found that the gang of older boys had sexually terrorized seventh-grade boys at Sunnyvale Middle School for most of a year.
These thugs where not the ones thought up in the minds of many, wearing gang symbols or brandishing weapons. They were apparently athletes who committed what equated to gang rape just inches away from coaches in a locker room during PE. The mother of one of the victims told of her son's rape, explaining that "My son said, 'Mom, [victims] were screaming bloody murder. I don't know how they couldn't have heard them,' also reported by The Dallas Morning News.
An initial investigation by Sunnyvale ISD administration concluded that "the incidents didn't go beyond normal hazing, the Superintendent of Sunnyvale ISD, Doug Williams said in a seperate report in The Dallas Morning News. However, according to the news report:
A private investigation by Sunnyvale ISD found that students were mostly assaulted during a first-period PE class between March and November, said attorney Harry Jones, whom the district hired to conduct the investigation.
as well as reported in the opinion article:
The report from the private investigator retained by Sunnyvale ISD indicates lax supervision and an insufficient policy against bullying.
There were also reportedly several student witnesses to the assaults.
With the Dallas County Sheriff's Department wrapping up its investigation and the students, age 13 to 15, facing charges of indecency and sexual assault, this case opens up the floor to questions about the current need for anti-bullying programs.
Despite some negative belief systems that bullying is simply a right of passage or an establishment in the hierarchy of the student body, it is an epidemic that is creating problems across the country. All children have a right to safety while on school property and during school events and it is the sole responsibility of school officials to ensure their safety.
The act of bullying is harassment whether teasing, making one feel like they don't belong, spreading of false rumors, threatening or even hurting a person. It can be verbal, emotional, psychological and physical in nature. Bullying has taken on other forms such as Cyberbullying, where the bully uses the Internet to spread rumors or harass another. For many, the abuser learns the behaviour and uses it as a way to obtain some type of recognition or attention.
The bully is most likely to come from the family where supervision is lacking, according to Dorothy L. Espelage, PhD, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are athletes and from high-income households. Their behaviour begins at an early age and its focus is on a specifc result. Bullies often continue their behaviour into adulthood as It is the exertion of power and control in a pattern of behaviours and can end up proving destructive, even fatal for some.
In Florida, a bill was passed this year after a teen named Jeffrey Johnston who committed suicide after being shamelessly bullied by a classmate. Jeff was an outgoing young man until going into middle school, where another student began calling him names like "fag" and even went as far as hacking into private computer property and posting false comments about Jeff and others. Over the next few years, Jeff's well-being deteriorated and his mother found him hanging in his closet one morning. He had committed suicide.
Although many teens already have ingrained them by the time they reach middle school the pattern of abusive behaviours, schools across the country have begun to implement anti-bullying programs into their curriculums. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Martin County offered a summer program targeted at ages 8-12 to get this year's students in the know.
Minneapolis schools have been in the news for a controversial program called The Welcoming Schools, which takes anti-bullying a step further and targets family diversity. With the National Mental Health Association claiming that over 90 percent of children hear derogatory comments against alternative life styles such as "fag" and "queer" and nearly 80 percent witnessing anti-gay behaviour, this program targets this type of bullying and serves as a supplement current anti-bullying programs.
As schools begin opening their doors to students, the hope is more schools will take the matter of bullying seriously instead of dismissing complaints as some minor teasing or an incident of picking on another student. The problems can create severe issues that extend far beyond what can be seen and with a bully being a mastermind in the area of manipulation, teachers and administrators need to be educated in warning signs for both victims and perpetrators alike.
Lets hope this problem doesn't continue to get out of hand.