What follows is a news report on school bullying that made the TV news in Dallas a few weeks ago. School bullying may be defined as physical and/or emotional harm inflicted within the boundaries of a school ground and taking a form ranging from teasing, taunting, hitting, kicking or taking/destroying others’ belongings. Approximately 1.5 million from ages 12 to 18 report having been victimized by violence while at school. The most up to date, professional, and comprehensive study of bullying thus far is full of surprises. Here is the transcribed TV report:
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A lot of schools spend countless hours trying to stop bullying. But some question if they are sending the right message. It started as a simple look at bullying. University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000 students from all 50 states. He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite.
Jeong said it was, “A very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.” The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be more likely to become a victim of bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.
The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting. Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it.
According to Jeong, some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind. “This study raises an alarm,” he said. “There is a possibility of negative impact from anti-bullying programs.” Jeong and others like him believe that until the message delivered by anti-bullying programs improves — some programs may be doing more harm than good. END.
What do you make of this new information about anti-bullying programs? What would be your Biblical / Theological interpretation of it? First thing I did was to actually go and read Professor Jeong’s study and confirm for myself if his study says this and if it meets with high professional standards. With very basic training social science research, I can say to the best of my knowledge this is well done work. The report is remarkable in what it reveals. Also unreported by the news was that “race did not have an impact on peer victimization.” Jeong wrote, “The current study found no statistically significant difference across race. This is contrary to our prediction that minority adolescents are more likely to experience higher rates of bullying victimization, compared to Caucasian adolescents.”
So how do we think theologically or Biblically about this? For instance, am I really surprised that certain folks would use anti-bullying information to become better bullies? Not really, given a biblical view of human nature as fallen, and predisposed to do bad things. Significant too is how surprised some are that their programs are not working to “control” the bullying problem. These “true believers” often reflect the Tower of Babel syndrome, in which people believe they can reach the heights of heaven on their own and build the perfect society here and now, without any real help from God. This is the illusion of making a “system so perfect no one needs to be good.” It won’t and can’t happen apart from the Lordship of Jesus and His kingdom. Merely making people aware of a problem is not always enough. Some folks don’t care, some don’t know why they should care, and some have strong reasons why they should not care. Sometimes it takes more than a social program to reach the human heart, from where real change comes. The report shows at minimum that the gospel of Jesus is ever relevant for the most profound of social changes. Lord Jesus help our schools, our students, our teachers, administrators, and our nation. LH