|Cover image: Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying|
Religious and political advocacy groups have drawn attention in recent weeks to students targeted by homophobic bullying. To their efforts, I would like to add recognition for another vulnerable demographic: that of students with “invisible” disabilities.
In her book “Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying” (Autism Asperger Publishing Co., 2003) author Rebekah Heinrichs cites a survey taken in 2002 of more than 400 parents of children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and nonverbal learning disability:
“Ninety-four percent of the parents responded that a peer had bullied their child at least once in the previous year. Compared to studies of the general population, kids with AS were four times more likely to be bullied, twice as likely to be hit or kicked in their privates, and twice as likely to be hit by their peers and siblings.”The findings also indicated that children with AS and with nonverbal learning disability “experience high levels of peer shunning that seem to increase with age and peak in high school” (Heinrichs 7).
The text of this book was viewed on Oct. 15 using the “Look Inside!” feature on www.amazon.com.
I bring this up not to minimize the suffering of any one demographic group, or establish classes of victims as rivals, but hopefully to enlarge the focus of groups who have singled out a particular class of victim as being worthy of their support instead of giving their wholehearted support to all victims of bullying.
Anything less than zero tolerance toward all bullying is unacceptable to me. When members of my community pick and choose among victims of bullying, I view it as a personal betrayal because I was bullied and ostracized in school.
According to Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention, “There are 160,000 children staying home from school each day for fear of bullying.” She adds, that by people across the country working together, “we can make a difference.”
PACER is encouraging everyone to unite against bullying in their communities:
“With their parents’ permission, elementary school students can write 'The End of Bullying Begins With Me' on their hands, notebooks or T-shirts. Middle and high school students can tweet, text and post about bullying prevention, along with signing 'The End of Bullying Begins With Me' petition online at PACER.org/bullying.
“Schools can create an 'I Care about Bullying Prevention Because…' mural in the classroom where each student adds his or her thoughts about bullying. Communities can hold a special event to show they care about this important issue, including music, giveaways, speakers and more.”Local actions include supporting “Be the Change” clubs at Lake County high schools and encouraging students who are neither bullies nor victims to intervene when another child is bullied or ostracized.
“Be the Change” meetings take place at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Round Table Pizza in Lakeport. For information, contact June Wilson at 262-0291.
Lower Lake High School has a “Be the Change” team, which also meets regularly. For more information, call Amy Osborn at 994-6471, ext. 2707.
Zero-tolerance legislation should acknowledge that any child can be the victim of bullying and, instead of attempting to define the victim, it should focus upon the bullying, which, as observed by Bullypolice.org, is the root of the problem.
The “perfect law” as envisioned by Bullypolice.org can be viewed in detail at www.bullypolice.org/ThePerfectLaw2006.pdf. For more information about 10.20.10 resources to unite against bullying, visit PACER.org/bullying or call (952) 838-9000.