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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Vigilance, not law needed to stop bullies

State Rep. Dennis Arakaki says he proposed a resolution against bullying when some students told him it's the No. 1 problem they face at school.

Arakaki's legislative attempt to force the Department of Education to take action is laudable, but enlisting the help of lawmakers is like bringing in a big brother to retaliate after a bullying episode at school.

Besides, legislation from on high isn't going to make bullying go away.

To deal with the problem effectively, vigilance is required at the school level. And schools are already empowered by the DOE's policy in Chapter 19.

What's needed then is a focused effort, from administrators to students in each school, to come up with plans that fit their individual campuses. At the core of any plan must be the acknowledgement of what constitutes bullying behavior, and why such behavior is unacceptable in a school setting.

Easier said than done especially when some administrators may not think bullying, which often goes underreported, is a problem. But that's because victims are either shamed or intimidated, and are left to suffer in silence.

The problem gets worse when adults hold on to the attitude that dealing with a bully is just part of growing up.

Hardly a benign activity, bullying is more than just the big kid preying on the small kid, the sports jock teasing the bookworm, or the established kids picking on the new kid. There's a Darwinian aspect involved, where the strong take unfair advantage.

But victims also are selected because they look different or come from a different ethnic background. That makes bullying just another form of discrimination and easier to understand.

Racial taunting or physical harassment would never be tolerated in our schools and neither should bullying.