Cop Corner

By Officer Ken McNeill
Pleasanton Police Department

The old adage about “Sticks and stones …” may have been sufficient years ago, but today, in addition to verbal assaults at school, the speed and ubiquitous nature of e-mail, Internet chat rooms, cell phones and social networking sites can often leave no escape for victims of bullying. Bullying can often be dismissed as part of growing up. But it is actually an early form of aggressive, violent behavior.

Bullying is repeated and unnecessary aggressive behavior or simply unprovoked meanness. It’s a form of intimidation, behavior designed to threaten or frighten or to get someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Bullies have learned that bullying works. They do it to feel powerful and in control. Types of bullying range from brute force to deception and manipulation.

When teens use the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person, that is called cyberbullying. Examples of cyberbullying include pretending to be another person online to trick others, spreading lies and rumors about victims, sending or forwarding mean text messages and posting pictures of victims without their consent.

Although anyone can be the target of bullying, the victim is often singled out because of his or her psychological traits more than his or her physical traits. A typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive and maybe anxious or insecure. However, some children are picked on for physical reasons such as their weight, being physically small, having a disability or belonging to a different race or religious faith.

California law allows school officials to suspend or recommend expulsion for students who engage in harassment using electronic devices, on or off school grounds.

Here are some things you can do:
  • Monitor your child’s computer usage. Avoid letting them use the computer in complete privacy. Read their incoming and outgoing e-mails and the text messages on their cell phones.
  • Listen to children. Encourage children to talk about school, social events, other kids in class, the walk or ride to and from school so you can identify any problems they may be having.
  • Take children’s complaints of bullying seriously. Probing a seemingly minor complaint may uncover more severe grievances. Children are often afraid or ashamed to tell anyone that they have been bullied, so listen to their complaints.
  • Watch for symptoms that children may be bullying victims, such as withdrawal, a drop in grades, torn clothes or needing extra money or supplies.
  • Tell the school or organization immediately if you think that your children are being bullied. Alerted caregivers can carefully monitor your children’s actions and take steps to ensure your children’s safety.
  • Work with other parents to ensure that the children in your neighborhood are supervised closely on their way to and from school.
  • Help children learn the social skills he or she needs to make friends. A confident, resourceful child who has friends is less likely to be bullied or to bully others.
  • Teach children ways to resolve arguments or conflicts without violent words or actions. And teach them self-protection skills like how to walk confidently, stay alert to what’s going on around them, and to stand up for themselves verbally.
  • Recognize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity, anger or loneliness. If your child is a bully, help get to the root of the problem. Seek out specific strategies you can use at home from a teacher, school counselor, or child psychologist. 
Parents and students should contact Foothill's school resource officer, Erik Silacci, at esilacci@pleasanton.k12.ca.us to discuss any concerns they may have about bullying incidents.

You can contact Officer Ken McNeill at 931-5233 or kmcneill@ci.pleasanton.ca.us.

Posted Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010