Willow Kwak: Let’s do a better job dealing with bullying in schools

Published: 6/12/2019 8:00:24 PM

Here in western Massachusetts, I think we pride ourselves on our good public schools and with good reason — the academics are very good.

But the schools aren’t perfect. One problem we like to think we don’t have is bullying at school. As an alumna of an Amherst elementary school, however, I think we can do a better job of dealing with this issue.

I was bullied for being bisexual and saw other kids being teased for things like their weight, how they dressed, and what foods they brought to lunch. People made fun of my last name, which is Korean. During recess and lunch I hid in the library to avoid people.

After school I started seeing a therapist. I tried to reach out to other kids who were being bullied to know how they felt. Some of the adults at my school were supportive, but it was not enough. Too often, teachers failed to notice what was going on.

When I approached them about the struggles of a Chinese student who didn’t speak English they told me that I was overreacting. This made me feel like no one cared.

Bullying is a difficult problem to address because bullies operate out of sight of adults and have excuses for their actions, but there are some steps that we can and should take.

One is teaching staff to recognize the different forms that bullying takes in and out of the classroom (including on the school bus, at recess, and at lunch).

Another is training adults to be more responsive to students’ needs.

And a third simple step is to have homeroom teachers periodically check in with students individually, rather than shifting responsibility onto counselors and other staff; you have to be in the classroom to understand and address the problem.

We like to think we live in the “happy valley,” but to live up to that name, we need to pay more attention to the struggles that some of our youngest students face every day.

Willow Kwak


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