Consider that kids need to be safe from both physical and mental bullying.

This editorial is the opinion of Morgan Hill Life

It is saddening to hear of the bullying and violence that occurred at Solorsano Middle School, as reported in a lawsuit against Gilroy Unified School District filed by the parents of an 11-year-old student. No child should have to endure being attacked and bullied while at school, a learning environment that is meant to be safe and nurturing.

In this incident that occurred in January, a disturbing video shows the girl being pulled by her hair and punched by another 11-year-old girl on the grounds of the campus. It shows other students recording the violence with their phones.

Not one student stepped in to defend her or halt the attack. This is a troubling sign of desensitization and apathy in the face of cruelty. When witnesses fail to act, it enables further harm.

While the details of this specific incident are still unfolding, it points to a larger issue that many schools face — creating a culture of kindness, empathy and inclusion. Studies show that bullying peaks in middle school, as children navigate a period of intense social pressures, competition, and identity development. Schools have a profound opportunity during these formative years to foster compassion and discourage cruelty.

As the new school year starts, it is an important time to consider that kids need to be safe from both physical and mental bullying.

The incidents like the one at Solorsano remind us that bullying can escalate to violence if not addressed. With students returning from summer break, educators have a fresh chance to be proactive and set the tone for an environment where harassment and harm will not be tolerated.

What causes bullying behavior in the first place among certain students? Often it stems from lack of empathy, anger issues, and desire for social status. Some bullies may be modeling behavior they experience at home. Others may have low self-esteem or be struggling to fit in. While these factors help explain bullying, they never excuse it. Society has a collective responsibility to address the root causes while still holding bullies accountable for their actions.

Both Morgan Hill and Gilroy unified school districts have implemented the STOPit app as one way to empower students, parents, teachers and others to anonymously report bullying, threats of violence or other concerning behavior.

STOPit allows users to submit anonymous reports containing text, photos, or video that administrators can quickly act on. Having a safe and anonymous reporting system in place is an important step toward deterring bullying and inappropriate behavior.

What else can parents and teachers do to limit bullying on campus?

  • Establish clear anti-bullying policies and enforce consistent consequences for bullying behavior.
  • Provide social-emotional learning programs to build empathy and conflict resolution skills.
  • Increase supervision in areas where bullying occurs — halls, cafeteria, playground.
  • Encourage students to speak up safely if they witness bullying.
  • Host parent info sessions to align on solutions and keep communication open.
  • Respond promptly to any reports of harassment or exclusion.
  • Model compassionate behavior and praise acts of kindness among students.

We must also remain vigilant about cyberbullying, which can follow students outside of school walls. Social media platforms and texting apps have enabled new forms of harassment that parents and educators must work together to address.

The consequences of bullying can be devastating — in some cases even leading students to take their own lives. One act of cruelty or exclusion is one too many.

In addition to technology-based solutions, we must also focus on culture change.

First, comprehensive anti-bullying policies need to be established and consistently enforced. Bullying should never be written off as “kids being kids.”

Second, social-emotional learning programs can teach students empathy, emotion regulation, and conflict resolution skills. Roleplaying difficult scenarios and discussions about treating others with respect should start early and continue through 12th grade.

Finally, adults must model the behavior we wish to see in youth. Teachers can praise acts of kindness they observe in the classroom. Parents can have open conversations with their children about being allies to those who are marginalized or mistreated.

Creating a school culture of care and inclusion requires effort from all stakeholders. But it is some of the most important work we can do — shaping not just students’ knowledge, but their character. With compassion as our guiding principle, we can ensure that every child feels safe, respected, and valued for who they are. This is how we plant the seeds of a kinder society for generations to come.