The current social distancing has schools across the Nation temporarily closed. During this time, parents and families can address the issue of bullying with Black boys. Not in the way that many people may be thinking. Too often, we assume that Black boys are the “bullies” in school. Black boys are actually victims of bullying in public schools probably more than they are portrayed as the bully.
Children regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background learned bad behaviors from adults. In fact, adults teach children how to bully others through the social interactions they display in front of and towards them. They visualize how they were bullied and do that to other children. Why do you think “good” kids are always bullied? It’s because the bullies see themselves in the victims.
A vital part of the early character development stages in Black boys’ can be largely impacted by how teachers and parents talk to them.
Aggressive behavior seen in Black boys can stem from several issues. If we know the impact of modeling in the classroom and assess children’s ability to excel in learning from teaching methods that incorporate modeling, why don’t we see the same impact modeling negative behavior has on Black boys?
Black boys are taught how to become the negative stereotypes society presses upon us how all Black males are. The Mental Health Association describes bullying as, “aggressive behavior. It occurs when a child is targeted by one or more youth with repeated negative actions over a period of time. Black boys are too often assumed to be the bully when they are actually the victims of being bullied by adults and other peers. For example, Black boys that have had discipline concerns in school are automatically blamed and assumed to be the problem by teachers who insensitive to restorative justice practices and peers who know teachers will automatically blame the student labeled as a problem first.
Black boys have been labeled as bullies and a “threat” to general population classrooms. This is a possible cause to the disproportionate rates of Black boys in special education classrooms.
Black boys behaviors are classified and intolerable. I have read many records for Black boys on my caseloads over the last two years. The lack of life skills, social and emotional skills aren’t because Black boys don’t learn the same as other children. It’s because they haven’t been taught. I can tell from the academic gaps in my students, past and present, that many of the behaviors students are displaying in schools is because of some type of drama. Children model the behaviors of adults. We have an issue with bullying and a stigma on Black boys because adults aren’t laying healthy foundations early. This is why more schools are now turning to social-emotional learning (SEL) methods, PBIS, restorative justice, and other behavioral interventions.
Data from public schools shows that these resources help Black boys choose better pathways of expression and engagement towards and with others. We aren’t fixing Black boys in order to stop bullying. Public school districts are realizing that bullying in schools for Black boys doesn’t start at school. It begins within the environments outside of the classroom that influences children.
Our call to action isn’t that we are helping Black boys not to be a bully in school but to heal Black boys heal from the trauma caused by adults at home and in schools.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.