The below piece is written by our incoming visiting scholars Cecília Pazinato Marcon and Maria Fernanda Marques about the research that they will conduct while they are visiting scholars with the VHC at Emory Law. They will join us virtually from Brazil in 2022.
Our research is about bullying legislation and we understand that all children and teenagers are susceptible to bullying no matter their gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, or disability. We have noticed that laws and schools usually seem to focus their protection only on a specific group of individuals instead of trying to assure a healthy environment for everybody.
We find vulnerability theory interesting for our research as it begins with the recognition that we are all universally vulnerable because we are all embodied beings, therefore we are all innately dependent on social relationships and institutions.
Vulnerability theory requires a responsive state that addresses the vulnerability of its subjects and monitors and regulates the social institutions within the state. Schools, as social institutions, provide us with the assets or resources that enable us to acquire resilience, so we can survive and even thrive within society. If there is a failure to provide proper education, it can affect an individual’s prospects in employment, aging, and retirement.
A school is also a place for an individual to establish social relationships and develop their support system, along with the family, so if they are not able to create those connections because of the bullying, it can also affect their future prospects, especially when it comes to building adult family relationships. The damaging effects of experiencing bullying are immediate and long-lasting along the dimensions of psychological and physical effects, and it can also affect the students’ performance in school.
The vulnerability approach allows us to focus on the idea of a responsive state, where the state has the responsibility to monitor and regulate anti-bullying programs that emphasize cooperation and prevention. Also, after the pupil has already experienced bullying, the state must take action not only to punish the individuals who are responsible for it but also to provide the assistance the pupil needs, such as mental health support, monetary compensation, and the assurance that it will not happen again. The schools must provide a healthy environment for every student, and if they fail to do so, they also need to be held accountable for negligence.