Bullying is a pattern of deliberate, negative, hurtful and aggressive acts that shift the balance of power. Students who are bullied are less likely to attend school, to succeed academically, and are more likely to drop out. Last year's study by the Council on State Governments found that almost 60 percent of students who were disciplined more than 10 times failed to graduate from high school. This suggests both the bully and the victim are at risk of dropping out of school.
Bullying in schools is a serious issue, and it can no longer be dismissed as kids being kids. We know that children who are victims of bullying are more likely to miss school. Many of these students suffer depression and anxiety into adulthood and a few even turn to violence. California's Bullying Prevention Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to discuss how we as a community can help young people find positive solutions to bullying.
As a teenager who immigrated to the United States from Cuba, I understand how bullying can impact a young person's life. I had a hard time learning English, and was often teased for being different. School was challenging, causing me to become disinterested, and I eventually dropped out. Although, I did find my way and returned to school to receive a Bachelor of Arts and eventually a Juris Doctorate Degree, this is not the case for many young people.
That is why with the help of my Women's Advisory Committee, I decided to launch "Bye Bye Bullying," a video contest for San Francisco middle and high school students. We went directly to the experts -- the youth who understand how we can stop bullying. The goals of this contest were to increase awareness about bullying amongst students, encourage youth to discuss bullying more openly, and develop effective responses to bullying. This video contest was instrumental in initiating students to take charge and realize they can be the solution.
Video submissions ranged in topics from what is bullying and the effects of bullying to positive solutions to bullying. Those who focused on the effects of bullying touched on some of their own experiences being bullied, even dealing with the suicide of close friends. Others who focused on creating positive responses called for their peers to be "up-standers" not just bystanders when they witness bullying.
The most effective way to end bullying is through prevention. We cannot prosecute our way out of bullying, nor can we suspend or expel our way to safe schools for our students. Zero tolerance discipline fails to address the causes and harms of bullying. It is imperative we hold young people accountable for their behavior and repair the harm they've caused.
Combating bullying is a smart approach to reducing truancy and preventing crime, and an important facet in maintaining healthy learning environments for students. I am proud of every student who entered the "Bye Bye Bullying" video contest. They are all winners and part of the solution. It is important that students realize they don't have to be victims or bystanders, they have the power to prevent bullying.
The top nine "Bye Bye Bullying" videos chosen by judges can be viewed at www.sfdistrictattorney.org.
To learn more about how to prevent bullying, go to http://www.stopbullying.gov.