This 7-part series will cover the history of bullying legislation and anti-bullying efforts within the state of Colorado beginning with the first definition of bullying by the Legislature in 2001.
What is to be Done?
The threat of bullying is visible. Schools with bullying cultures exhibit high rates of absenteeism, lower scores on academic exams, and reports from students of fear for their safety. Each news story that reports youth peer violence or teen suicide acts as a reminder of the work to be done. This series has worked to build an understanding of the policy, non-profit and academic work around issues of bullying in Colorado’s public schools. The State’s definition and reporting requirements around bullying are considered to be comparable to those of other states in the nation (Sacco, Baird, Silbaugh, Corredor, Casey, & Doherty, 2012; USDOE, 2011).
The law not only outlines a clear definition of bullying, but has been bolstered to include annual reporting requirements designed to longitudinally track incidents of bullying across Colorado’s schools as well. Additionally, the state has taken action to provide direct access for means of anonymously reporting bullying and channeling those reports to the proper authorities (CO, 16-15.8-101, 2007). Similarly, in the last decade, Colorado has seen an increase in non-profit activity aimed at stemming bullying in its schools. These efforts have provided financial support for school and community efforts (Colorado Trust, 2008; Colorado Legacy Foundation, 2011).
They have worked to bring the findings of their efforts to the public so that others involved in the work might benefit and avoid making early mistakes based on access to research that speaks specifically to the problem of bullying within Colorado schools.
At the national level, work has been done to provide a clear understanding of bullying within Colorado schools with protected classes (GLSEN, 2001) and across all youth populations (Levy et al., 2012; USDOE, 2011). These findings both point to a dire need for intervention if there is to be hope for making Colorado schools safe places of learning and community as well as speaking to which efforts and strategies have been successful across geographies.
At a more intimate level, social scientists have been working in individual schools to understand the cultures in which American youth are developing (Clark, 2007; Pascoe, 2011). They find a culture desperate for adult presence and a need for the adults already in learning spaces to be more mindful and caring in their language and actions. Their work puts a face on the numbers and statistics often attached to instances of bullying and the argument for greater efforts to fight it. Each of the pieces necessary to make a true and positive difference in the cultures and communities of Colorado schools is set in place.
The problem is identified and possible solutions have been tested and shared. The policy is in place to make these efforts central to the work of educators, and there is no lack of national data supporting such a focus.
Necessary now are two components. The first is a confluence of all of the above factors through an act of public will to make our schools safer. The second, and inevitable, component is the time it will take to move our schools from environments where students fear ridicule and harassment to spaces where they feel free, cared for, and accepted for who they are.