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Dr. Renee Clauselle Agrees that Bullying is a Civil Rights Violation

Says More Needs to be Done to Address The Psychological Effects It Has on Its Victims


Dr. Renee Clauselle, a practicing child psychologist with a private practice in Franklin Square, New York, and Director of School Mental Health Services at St. John’s University, says she agrees with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in that all educational institutions nationwide should implement stricter measures to deal with bullying and harassment when it comes to students’ civil rights being violated. In addition, she believes that institutions should provide safe havens, or places that victims can go, to get relief from harassment, feel supported, and receive treatment for symptoms that might occur as a result of harassment.

On October 26, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights sent out a 10-page letter advising schools to protect students’ civil rights by implementing stricter measures to handle bullying and harassment when the student is targeted because of their gender, race, religion, handicap or sexual orientation.

Dr. Clauselle says that students who are bullied can become anxious or depressed. If these medical conditions are not treated, the student can become phobic, paranoid, or even suicidal. Continued bullying, without support, and/or treatment for the victim can end in tragic results.

On September 21, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, committed suicide after two other students secretly videotaped him having a sexual relationship with another man, then posted the video online.

“We always encourage our children to be proud of who and what they are and how unique they are. Unfortunately, other students may not like another classmate because they are different,” Dr. Clauselle said. “I agree that we must protect the civil rights of those who are the target of their tormentors. But what is also important is protecting the mental health of the victims so we do not have tragic incidents such as what happened with Mr. Clementi occur.”

At school districts throughout Long Island, the number of bullying incidents has decreased. According to the New York State Education Department, there were 3,393 such incidents reported during the 2006-2007 school year. In 2008-2009, the number of incidents decreased by 11 percent to 3,023.

“It is wonderful to see fewer incidents take place over the past few years,” Dr. Clauselle said. “But more still needs to be done. Teachers and school administrators cannot dismiss bullying and harassment as just hazing or ‘kids being kids.’ Students who are continually subjected to taunting and physical abuse can start to feel anxious or depressed. Providing safe havens for victims or places they can go and feel supported is imperative to the mental health of these individuals. If parents see a dramatic shift in their child’s behavior, they should seek professional help for their child.”

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