The issue of school bullying has moved into the forefront in recent years. The increase in school shootings, violence, and cases of severe bullying and cyber bullying have been steadily on the rise. In response to this growing issue, initiatives spreading awareness and anti-bullying campaigns have been launched throughout the country and world. Anti-bullying day started in Canada, and soon after, the U.S. and many other countries followed suit in declaring a day dedicated to the promotion of bullying awareness and prevention. The prominence and universality of this message reveals how bullying is an issue that resonates with the public, regardless of race or age.
Private School Vouchers For Bullied Students
While there are many ways for schools, individuals, and societies to tackle the bullying issue, the state of Florida has introduced a controversial tactic that many are questioning. The Florida legislature is poised to pass a bill which grants students who are victims of bullying, harassment, or violence, a voucher enabling them to transfer to a private school. This scholarship program is paid for with tax credits, and as is the case with most legislative changes, has both its supporters and critics.
Supporters of the Program
Advocates of the voucher program see it as an opportunity to support students that are not thriving in their current educational setting due to the misconduct of others. They see it as providing an escape for children who desperately need one. It is also suggested that as Florida is the first state to attempt this, it will prompt the passing of similar legislation and many other states and schools to follow suit. Supporters also claim that this change puts the power back in the hands of the parents, as they now have the leverage to say that if the current school isn’t working for their child, they have the option to go elsewhere.
Critics of the Hope Scholarship initiative question if this actually provides a solution, or is merely a band aid over a growing wound. Switching schools might improve the situation for a child for a time, but who’s to say how long it will be until they are bullied at the next school? Research also indicates that there are not substantial differences in bullying rates between public and private schools. Anti-bullying groups point to the fact that this initiative does nothing to address the root cause of bullying, nor does it hold the bully to accountability. People are also wondering what kind of message it sends to the victims of bullying; should it not be the bully who is forced to change schools? Are we sending the message to children that victims should have to run away while the bullies are not held accountable.
Many struggle to understand the logistics of such a program and wonder what the determining factors will be regarding whether or not a student is being bullied and eligible for the voucher.
The program stipulates that to be eligible for a voucher, the student would have to report to their school that they had been a victim of severe bullying, such as physical assault or harassment. Legislation sites the following acts as worthy of the ‘bullying’ designation: harassment, bullying, hazing, physical or sexual abuse, threats, robbery. After a bullying claim is reported, the principal has 15 days to investigate the matter. If it is determined that the victim is eligible, the family is given the option of either getting approximately $6,700 towards private school enrollment fees or transferring to another public school.
The private tutors that work at REACH Professional In-Home Tutoring can attest that bullying is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in our schools. The poised Hope Scholarship program is divisive in its approach to tackling the bullying issue. On one side, people see it as a positive option for students who are not thriving, but on the flip side, critics ask what relocating students actually does in terms of prevention and awareness.