Remember that Grade School Bully?

I remember. And,I bet you do too. Remember the bully in grade school, or middle school, or high school.

Mine was in grade school, Longfellow Elementary, in a fairly early grade. The bully was a new kid, older than I, and fat, and I’m sure now that I could have outrun him. But I didn’t know that then.

All I knew was that he showed me his knife and said he’d "get me" after school. I didn’t know what "get me" meant, but it didn’t sound good. After school, I walked on one side of Transit Avenue, and he on the other. He’d yell at me and say he was coming across the street to "get me."

Of course, his mother probably wouldn’t have approved of him ever crossing the street at that age. (I had the patrol boys and girls to supervise my intersection.) But I didn’t know that either.

So I ratted on him. Told. Tattled. It had to have been 50 years ago. And I still remember it, although in retrospect it seems so minor.

Friends have told me of much worse incidents. And their kids, too. Of course, they remember the bullies, too..

And, now, still another generation is facing another generation of bullies.

Last week I talked to an expert in child therapy and he, like many professionals, finds the increase in bullying astounding and unacceptable. Teachers report the same, with bullies attacking teachers and kids, even principals.

Everyone can list their own theories of reasons–broken homes, domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, tv, lack of role models, having been bullied themselves, and on and on and on.

So, she asked, what should we do about it?

The Governor’s office has given the legislature several bills to deal with bullying, school safety, truancy and a myriad of related issues, the goal being violence free schools, creation of a safe basis for good education, student accountability, and to target, reduce and prevent bullying. It’s just a start. But, here goes.

First, the pilot Bullying Prevention Program launched in 18 schools statewide at a cost of $2-million. Developing ways to prevent bullying and encourage kids to stand up for themselves and tell bullies that their actions are unacceptable.

Still to come, a crack down on weapons–guns and knives most notably.

Public schools would tell police and parents when a student, on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event, is involved in an incident using a weapon. Beyond that, carrying a knife to school would be a crime; penalties for carrying a gun to school would double (two years in prison for adults, one year in a house of detention plus one year expulsion for juveniles).

There would be a weapon free zone, like the drug free zone around schools, with penalties of up to 10 years for crimes committed there.

People who sell drugs to kids or use juveniles to transport or sell illicit drugs, would receive even stronger penalties than they earn now.

The Governor’s office is also targeting truancy, calling it a telling sign that a child is in danger of rejecting the training and experiences needed to become a productive member of society and someone who may become involved in crime.

Current law demands that adults send a child to school. Absences of 5 days or 10 half days in any six month period (a decrease from the current 7 and 14) would be fined $100, up from the current $20. Principals could impose community service on students, as well. And, police powers would be expanded to cover truancy situations.

Perhaps the best truancy remedy of all, minors (under 18) would have to submit proof of school attendance, with no more than 5 unexcused absences in the preceding two semesters, or produce a diploma or GED, or be in other approved educational programs, to get a license. If more than 5 unexcused absences are accumulated in the next two semesters, the Registry could suspend the license.

The Governor’s office has even suggested uniforms for all public schools, a requirement local school board could opt out of.

These are, of course, all only suggestions, sure to garner much debate. And there are many more details in the various pieces of legislation.

A start? A chance to get rid of a few more bullies? A chance to make our schools safer?

And a chance to get rid of one more fat kid with a knife?

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