Bullying is Nondiscriminatory in How it Discriminates
Written in collaboration with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center

Those who bully are not always the stereotypes portrayed in movies and television shows. While many people think bullying is demonstrated by individuals such as Regina George (Mean Girls) or Biff Tannen (Back to the Future), too often they aren’t an obvious living, breathing typecast. The same can be said of the individuals who are the targets of bullying – they are not always the smallest, weakest, ‘unpopular’ children. There are many forms of bullying and it happens largely due to a lack of understanding or knowledge about something that may appear different. The truth is it can happen to anyone, by anyone regardless of the age or setting.

A staggering one out of five (20.8%) students have reported being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016). Children with disabilities are at an increased risk of being bullied. Studies have found they are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. (Marshall, et. al., 2009) The issue can continue into college and adulthood, with workplace and situational bullying.

It is unfortunately a very common truth for individuals with Tourette Syndrome, a recognized disability under the law, who often also have co-occurring conditions like OCD and ADHD.

Emotional and behavioral problems experienced by the targets of bullying, as well as those who demonstrate bullying, may continue into adulthood and have produced long-term negative outcomes, including low self-esteem and isolation, poor school performance, few friends and little social interaction, a negative view of school, physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety), drug use and abuse, criminal behavior and gang membership. (National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health & Center for Disease Control, Bullying Surveillance Among Youths, 2014). Youths who bully others and are bullied themselves suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for mental health and behavioral problems into adulthood. (Center for Disease Control, 2017).

So, how do we change this reality? Through the power of education. Educating students, teachers, school administrators, colleagues, human resources departments, and even families about the challenges faced is a positive approach to combatting and preventing stigma, discrimination, and bullying.

In response to this need, the Tourette Association of America (TAA) facilitates programming to build awareness, encourage research, and provide support across the nation. This includes our Youth Ambassador Program where children, ages 12 to 17, are trained to advocate for those living with Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders in their communities. In addition, the TAA receives funding from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to mobilize public education programing on Tourette Syndrome for various professional audiences, families, individuals, and the general public. Finally, tourette.org features a wealth of resources, videos, webinars that address workplace bullying and job advice, which provide information for children, young adults, families, educators, law enforcement, and more. These tools can be a great source of hope, help, and inspiration for everyone.

No one should ever have to endure bullying, or become the target of cruelty, harm and humiliation. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center actively leads social change to prevent bullying, so that all youth are safe and supported in their schools, communities and online.

While National Bullying Prevention Month has ended, talk about preventing bullying should not stop now. The concerns continue well beyond October. Hundreds of organizations advocate for those with various disabilities who are the unfortunate targets of bullying. Now, more than ever, it is imperative for us to join together to reach schools, families, and communities around the country to put a stop to this conduct.

Together, we can create a world without bullying.

– Amanda Talty, President and CEO, Tourette Association of America & Paula Goldberg, Executive Director of PACER Center and the National Bullying Prevention Center.

 

References:

Disabilities: Insights from Across Fields and Around the World; Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009

Rose, C. A., & Monda-Amaya, L. E. (2012). Bullying and victimization among students with disabilities: Effective strategies for classroom teachers. Intervention in School and Clinic, 48, 99-107. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezp3.lib.umn.edu/doi/abs/10.1177/1053451211430119