Why We Need Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

Dear Mr. Dad: A few days after school started, my 9-year old son started coming home crying. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Nothing.” But when he started refusing to go to school in the mornings, I pushed the issue and he broke down and told me he’s being bullied by an older child. My son’s school has a zero-tolerance bullying policy and I expected better from them. Should I confront the bully’s parents?

A: Bullying has probably been around as long as there have been people.  Accurate statistics on how many kids are being bullied are hard to come by—the numbers range from 20 percent of kids all the way up to 90 percent. But even if you take the low end of the range, that’s still millions of kids. And there are several concepts that most people agree on:

-          More than 150,000 children stay home from school every day because they’re being bullied

-          Most victims don’t ever report it to teachers, school administrators, or parents

The good news is that your son actually told you what’s been happening, which means you can at least try to deal with it. The bad news is that traditional methods of dealing with bullies have not been successful. In fact, many of them have actually backfired, according to Carrie Goldman, author of an eye-opening new book, “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know about the Cycle of Fear.”

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