Overcoming Perceived Differences to Prevent Bullying
Why were my friends and I targeted? Was it because we were Hispanic? Not at all. We were all Puerto Rican kids, growing up and attending school in Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory), and being bullied by kids of our same ethnicity.
But we were seen as different. Different in many diverse ways. One girl was bullied because she was overweight, another because of her deep-rooted faith and beliefs. A boy was targeted because Spanish was his second language. A couple of us were bullied because we always got good grades
Bullying is a complex and widespread problem in the United States. In 2013 , 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property and an estimated 15% reported they were bullied electronically in the previous 12 months. Bullying can have short and long-term physical, mental, academic, and behavioral consequences for both the child who bullies and the child who is bullied.
While all children are at risk, specific groups are at higher risk of being bullied because of characteristics that can make them stand out. These groups include children of different racial, ethnic, or national origins. Nonetheless, kids from the same race, ethnicity or national origin can also bully each other.
We must always consider the context in which bullying occurs. Hispanic children, or those from any specific race, ethnicity, or national origin, are not inherently more likely to be bullied. But they can be targeted if their race, ethnicity, or national origin makes them appear different than the majority or the perceived status quo.
In today’s U.S. schools, diversity is more the norm than the exception. When this fact is accepted and respected, more kids from all backgrounds will learn safely with less risk of bullying.
Schools and communities can help protect them and all children who are perceived as different from the majority or the “norm.” Most importantly, they can create environments that respect diversity.
CC: Stopbullying blog.