Bullying, Substance Abuse and Where to Go From Here

Sticks and stones may break bones, but mean words and taunts are proving to be harmful as well. Every day, kids across the country are bullied at school. Not only does this behavior make it difficult for them to learn, but in some cases, students skip school from fear of being bullied. 
Last year, the White House elevated this issue by holding a bullying prevention summit to provide resources for schools. And recently, pop sensation Lady Gaga launched the Born This Way Foundation to empower teens to be nicer and more accepting of each other. "The victim and the bully are both going through mental turmoil," noted Gaga at the launch event. "Don't just save the victim, save the bully."
Gaga may be onto something. A new study published in Addictive Behaviors, found that bullies are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes than non-bullies. And four out of five youth arrests either involve substance use, are committed while under the influence, or the kid later admits to having a substance abuse problem.
So where do we go from here?

Over at GOOD Magazine, Liz Dwyer chimes in with ideas on preventing and addressing bullying:

Psychologist and family counselor Dr. Kenneth Shore says it’s not enough for school districts to write "zero-tolerance" anti-bullying policies or hold a special assembly. Instead, he recommends that every school form a standing committee made up of students, parents, and school staff to be responsible for planning and implementing a prevention program. Shore also says it’s crucial for educators to take time out from their lessons to hold special classroom meetings at which kids can discuss times they’ve been bullied, and to make the consequences of bullying clear to all students.

Shore says research shows that schools that create comprehensive programs see a 50 percent drop in bullying. So if we know what steps help foster a culture of caring—and we know it works—why don't more school communities take action? Part of the answer is that parents and teachers still accept bullying as a normal part of life, a rite of passage that helps kids learn to deal with the real world.

What steps are your schools taking to address and prevent bullying in schools?

Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.
*Photo at top by Flickr user Chesi - Fotos CC

Updated: March 12 2012