Back to School Can Mean Back to Bullying, Expert Warns

Back to School Can Mean Back to Bullying, Expert Warns

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For Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician at RowanSOM, the letter from a sixth-grade student – one of hundreds she has received – summed up the terrible impact that bullying can have.  “Last year my best friend turned on me all of a sudden,” Allison wrote, adding that she was glad she had failed sixth grade because she would “finally get away” from the kids who bullied her. 

For Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM), the letter from a sixth-grade student – one of hundreds she has received from elementary and middle school students over the past decade – summed up the terrible impact that bullying can have.

“Last year my best friend turned on me all of a sudden,” Allison wrote, adding that she was glad she had failed sixth grade because she would “finally get away” from the kids who bullied her.

“To think that a child would intentionally fail in school just to stop being bullied shows the desperation felt by many victims,” Dr. Caudle said. “Too often, that sense of desperation has led children and teenagers to tragic results.”

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To listen to a podcast of Dr. Caudle's interview with San Francisco radio station 910AM, visit: http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?podcast=frosty&selected_podcast=08.06.13_910_AM_13-00_1375824181_19438.mp3. Dr. Caudle's interview begins at the 2:00 mark of the broadcast.

Over the past decade, more than 50,000 students, parents and educators around the country have attended lectures and workshops where Dr. Caudle helped them find practical solutions that can foster a “bully-proof” school environment.

“Despite heightened awareness, bullying continues to affect more than one-third of students, and bullying extends well beyond pushing, hitting or name-calling at school,” Dr. Caudle said. “Once targeted, a child can continue to be bullied electronically, through social media and cell phones, creating a constant and harrowing experience for the victim.”

Dr. Caudle is the corresponding author of a review article on bullying that is the cover story in the July/August edition of Osteopathic Family Physician. In the article, she and co-author Melissa Runyon, PhD, of the CARES Institute at RowanSOM, note that being bullied is associated with short and long-term psychosocial outcomes, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Children who bully others are also at a greater risk for complications, such as antisocial personality disorders, delinquent behavior and increased alcohol abuse.

Dr. Caudle urges parents to help prepare their students for the school year by talking to them about bullying and to continue that conversation throughout the school year.

“Ask your children not only if they’ve been bullied but also if they have bullied others,” she advises. “Be compassionate and let your children know that you are there to listen, not to judge, and that they can count on you for support. Remind them, too, that there are two basic rules about bullying – treat everyone with respect and always tell an adult whenever they experience or witness bullying.”

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