If your child seems to be making an unusual number of trips to the school nurse, it’s time to talk with him or her about bullying.
Kids who are the victims of bullying visit the school nurse more often than other kids, and not just for things like injuries, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Surprisingly, bullies themselves are also more likely to visit the nurse. This is likely because many bullies are also victims of bullying, or are subject to other forms of abuse at home or in the community. (For more on the pernicious effects of bullying and cyberbullying, see Much Ado About Nothing: A social media theater production, below.)
Both bullies and the bullied visited the nurse with a range of complaints, from injury and illness to pains without a medical cause. The psychological stress caused by bullying could compromise kids’ immune systems and make them vulnerable to sickness, said researchers. And some bullied kids might just be looking for an escape from the hallways or playground, and thus seek refuge in the school nurse’s office.
“The message is, a child might be getting frequent stomachaches from being picked on,” said Eric Vernberg, lead author of the study and director of the Child and Family Services Clinic at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Parents should ask the nurse to discuss their child’s visits with them, and be alert to any behavioral changes suggestive of bullying. Bullied kids may become anxious, not want to go to school, complain of headaches, or drop out of favorite school activities. Parents should also look for potential signs their child is becoming a bully. These include manipulative behavior, cruelty to animals, and being a sore loser. (This boy was excluded because he was black–this was the reaction of his friends. )
Nearly one in five students may be affected by bullying, according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a school program developed by Clemson University’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life. This includes bullies, the bullied, onlookers, followers, and defenders.
Much Ado About Nothing: A social media theater production
Beginning April 26, the Weekly Reader literary magazine READ will launch a groundbreaking performance of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. The entire performance will take place on Facebook. Beginning at 4 p.m. (EST) and running over the course of three days, the action will unfold as characters update their Facebook feeds. Audience members also will have the chance to interact with the performers by commenting on their wall posts. This unique production is produced by READ and The Ophelia Project, a non-profit which works to support youth and adults “affected by relational and other non-physical forms of aggression.” The play is being staged to highlight Much Ado’s all-too-contemporary themes, especially how rumor, innuendo, and vicious lies can wreak havoc on young people’s lives. Learn more about the performance, and view a teaser video for the play, at the Weekly Reader web site.