We all want to look good and feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, for too many middle- and high-school students, this seems to be out of reach — particularly for those who live in poverty or on its fringes. Too often these students are tormented by peers over what they wear, how they look, and even how their hair is cut.
That’s the case in our community and in communities around the country. We want to do something about that. We don’t understand why, in a country as blessed as the United States, any child should be ridiculed or bullied because they do not have access to fashionable clothing, hairstyling services, or personal care products. Simply put, there’s no reason for it to ever happen.
But it does, and far too often.
- Each day, approximately 160,000 students skip school to avoid being bullied, the National Education Association reports, with approximately 13 million school students being affected by bullying each year.
- Sixty-two percent of NEA teachers and education support professionals polled for a 2010 study “indicated they’d witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month. Forty-one percent indicated they’d witnessed bullying once a week or more.”
- A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that “(u)p to to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress,” The New York Times reported.
- The Times also reported that frequent absences have been linked to low academic achievement and high dropout rates. The article cited studies suggesting a direct correlation between attendance and academic performance, and suggesting “that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do.”
- According to the Times’ report, “(p)oor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school.”
“This a social justice issue for us because bullying compromises students’ basic right to learn and grow in a safe environment,” former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in 2012 when he headed the labor union.
It’s a social justice issue for us, too, one we take seriously because we view each child in our community as members of one family — the family of God.
HELP US help these members of our family. Donate, start a clothing drive, or volunteer today! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.