Lately the media has decided to focus on bullying across the country and the effects it has on young children. What really saddens and frustrates me is that we never hear about bullying in Native American communities.
Native Americans make up 1.2 percent of students in public schools. It may seem like a small percentage, but in the grand scheme of things 1 percent of all public schools is a huge number.
A lot of what students are bullied about stems from racial stereotyping. If you are like most middle-class Americans, you probably were not aware of this. Native American students may be bullied for some of the following reasons.
Stereotypes and misconceptions of what it means to be Native American, and inherent bullying by the predominant culture. generational poverty, generational alcoholism and drug addiction, poor nutrition and diet, substandard and Inadequate housing, family structures that are not intact
And of course the list goes on and on. As human beings, we need to recognize the differences that we all have, and respect each others’ cultures and beliefs.
One of the saddest things about bullying is that it is not just students who target minority groups, but teachers as well. On statistic says, “Latin American, Native American, Alaskan Native and mixed-race 10th graders at low-minority schools were the most likely to feel “put down by [their] teachers.” Teachers hailing from low-minority high schools are likelier to insult, isolate or otherwise marginalize Latin American students at a rate of 17.3 percent and Native America, Alaskan Native and mixed-race students at 17.8 percent.
Another frightening statistic is that Native American children, on average, have some of the highest rates of suicide and mortality compared to any other group.
One of the biggest issues with bullying is that parents are not aware that it is happening, or they choose to ignore it when in fact there are many ways to help your child.
If your child tells you about a bully, focus on offering comfort and support, no matter how upset you are. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it’s happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed.
Sometimes kids feel like it’s their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse.
Praise your child for being brave enough to talk about it. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone – a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly – not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
Sometimes an older sibling or friend can help deal with the situation. It may help your daughter to hear how the older sister she idolizes was teased about her braces and how she dealt with it. An older sibling or friend also might be able to give you some perspective on what’s happening at school, or wherever the bullying is happening, and help you figure out the best solution.
Many states have bullying laws and policies. Find out about the laws in your community. In certain cases, if you have serious concerns about your child’s safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.
Please take the time to talk to your child or a friend. You never know you could be saving a life.
by Rae Owen – Navajo Hope Observer