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Bullying of Special Needs Students Needs More Attention

Young boy alone and bullied.

One group that’s easily overlooked in the bullying crisis is those with special needs. According to a recent article advocates in Maryland are calling on the state to do more to address the problem.

From the article:

Experts want officials to strengthen Maryland’s anti-bullying laws to provide more detailed rules for educators to follow in reporting incidents and more scrutiny in situations that involve sometimes-fragile students.

“They have targets on their back, and with a child who already has a disability, the damage can be greater,” said Ellen Callegary, an attorney and special-education advocate for more than 30 years, who is part of a coalition of advocates pressing for changes at the state level. “There appears to be an inability of school personnel to understand how deeply that is felt.”

This is something we’ve encountered frequently as we travel to schools with our anti-bullying school assembly. Students with special needs are easy targets and have more difficulty taking a stand.

One of the things that we teach students is to “make new friends” and “hang out in a group”. This is an extremely effective tactic because it limits the bully’s opportunities.

For a student with developmental disabilities this is easier said than done.

I recently spoke to an expert who works with special needs children. One thing she mentioned is that many times kids without special needs will try to befriend these students. Unfortunately they’ll be bullied by their peers for doing so.

In other words it’s a form of indirect bullying. Instead of bullying the special needs student directly, they’ll bully their friends.

The article goes deeper into the struggles that many families of special needs students have with bullying. Here’s one of the more telling quotes:

Margolis chairs the Education Advocacy Coalition, a group of organizations and special education experts that represents families of disabled students. She said the group has noted increasingly frustrated calls about bullying from parents of students with disabilities.

We need to prevent bullying for all students, including those with special needs.

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