Our Opinion: Dipping into an anti-bullying strategy

Bullying is an unfortunate and unnecessary obstacle to education.

Students who are bullied often resist attending school and, if they do attend, avoiding their tormentors and coping with stress may divert their attention from instruction.

State lawmakers are considering legislation to require public school districts to adopt and enforce anti-bullying policies.

The Jefferson City School District has a policy that defines bullying as “intimidation or harassment of a student or multiple students perpetuated by individuals or groups.”

Bullying is not a new phenomenon and it is not confined to classrooms.

In addition, modern advances in social media have created a popular and despicable application. Cyberbullying compounds the cruelty because the perpetrators may remain anonymous or hide behind other personas — real or imagined.

We find much truth in the Bucket-Dipper theory of bullying outlined in a letter by Katherine Schedler, published Sunday. She wrote: “Everyone has an invisible bucket and an invisible dipper. When your bucket is full, you use your dipper to dip from your bucket to fill another’s bucket, e.g., compliment, encourage, etc. If your bucket is empty, you use your dipper to dip out of another person’s bucket, e.g., put down, demean, etc.”

Administrative policies — in schools, workplaces, etc. — are necessary, but they largely address punishable behavior, not human nature.

In addition, a consequence of punishment may cause the bullying to escalate, often in a more secretive manner.

Children, and adults, want to belong. We were created as social beings who want to be connected, accepted and loved.

Self-worth often is based on those social underpinnings.

The many forms of bullying — humiliation, ridicule, disrespect, ostracism, etc. — erode those underpinnings, leaving the victim feeling alone, isolated, depressed, even suicidal.

The social movement to improve self-esteem among young people — by not keeping score of youth baseball games, for example — met with much derision. Although the applications were questionable, the basic concept had merit.

That concept, using the Bucket-Dipper theory, is to help people keep their bucket full so they can give to, not take from, others.

Bullying, in the final analysis, is a form of taking. It is stealing another person’s sense of self-worth.

And it is prompted by the mistaken notion that the bullies can elevate themselves by tearing down others.

A starting point for all of us — parents, educators and members of a community — is to remind people, especially children, that each of us is unique and valuable.

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