Bullying: Mixed messages

Miranda L. Pennock 10/06/10More articles
There are so many classifications for students in the school system, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up on the lingo.

Some terms, though, have remained constant for years: Nerds. Jocks. Band geeks. Bullies.

No matter what they’re called, it seems at one point or another, someone from each group is the brunt of a joke or some form of abuse by another group.

Recently, a student at Cicero-North Syracuse High School was the target of a rumor started through text messaging, a new wave of bullying, but no different than the 1960s kid who beats up a younger student for his or her lunch money.

“The issues are the same; kids have problems with other kids for a lot of reasons. Today kids respond to their thoughts with text messages, e-mails and Facebook,” said C-NS School Resource Officer Doreen Brisson, a 27-year veteran deputy with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department. “Things can be said that at times are not a true reflection of a person, but once in print, it’s right there.”

As the face of the sheriff’s department in the school for the last decade, Brisson said as the resource officer, a lot of issues arise with bullying. But whether a person is being bullied or not is left to interpretation.

“If a person feels someone is picking on them, then to them, they are bullied,” she said.

Brisson has found that many times when a student who has sent something inappropriate is talked to about it, they say, “I didn’t mean it that way,” “I was just mad. I’m OK now” or “They took what I said the wrong way.”

“It can be very overwhelming to investigate,” she said.
With a rise in complaints in recent years, when a student reports an issue, Brisson said she, a dean or a principal listen to all sides and work to resolve the original issue — the basis for why something was said in the first place.

“Most times, bringing all involved together clears the air,” she said.

While there is no special training for officers when it comes to bullying, the sheriff’s office enforces the New York State penal law when applicable. Legally, if someone breaks the law, it would be considered harassment or aggravated harassment, but most of the time just getting the parties involved together to talk about the matter stops the bullying, Brisson said.

Changing the means of bullying from face-to-face to through a text message, an e-mail or a Facebook status doesn’t change the end result. Someone always ends up feeling outcast or vulnerable.

“Bullying is what it is — making someone feel bad, putting them down. Doing it over an electronic device makes it cyber bullying,” Brisson said. “Both ways hurt.”

Ways parents can help their children from being bullied — or becoming the bully — include checking computers and cell phones their children use and staying aware of what activities the kids are involved in. Some signs of being bullied may be apparent, such as if the child no longer wants to do an activity they have always enjoyed or if they aren’t hanging out with the same kids they used to, Brisson said.

“Parents should get as much information as they can from their child about the situation. Parents need to teach the child how to handle situations that come up in life. Friends sometimes do things that are hurtful,” she said. “Listen to them. If necessary, contact the school if the bullying will have an effect on your child’s school day. Children need skills to cope with things. Parents need to teach their child how hurtful things they do or say can be to a person.”

CATEGORY: General Education
TAGS: Cicero, North Syracuse, police, text message, Facebook, bullying
EDITION: Star-Review

Rating: 2.5/5 (10 votes cast)

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