Bullying and What We Can Do About It

ZIPPER JUNCTION

Bullying is on the rise in our country (Source: http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-statistics.html) and unfortunately, so too are the dramatic and sometimes tragic outcomes of bullying. Kids have quite a lot on their plates these days between rigorous academics, after-school activities, busy home life, and so on. Add a bully into the mix and it’s no wonder we’re seeing kids crushed under the weight of it all.

bystander

Since I was about a year and a half old I have been wearing eye glasses and those glasses were enough for some kids in my class to pick on the four-eyed, quiet, introvert who would rather build something alone than interact with other kids. For almost the entire kindergarten year I quietly endured hassles, heckling, and downright nastiness of the class clique of three bullies. And yes, I said almost the entire year…

Then one spring day, something simply snapped and quiet little me started swinging at all three of the bullies to let them know how I really felt. Stunned, all three boys limped away after being rescued by the several adults they called out to. I got the interrogation I deserved and a lifelong lesson to boot.

You see, I was brought up to walk away from confrontation, taught to turn the other cheek, and to try to make the best of any situation. Being a big kid, my dad always made it clear that you could never take back a powerful punch – especially one that may cause more damage than you thought it would. However, I guess he forgot to tell me about going to someone when I was being bullied. I guess he did not realize there was a whole gray area of interactions that a little kid could experience that were not outright fights, but could, over time lead to the events that ensued that spring day.

And ultimately, part of the reason that we have a growing problem with bullying in our nation is that kids aren’t taught to seek help OR they are afraid to ask for help because they are afraid of the consequences it could lead to.

Bullying is real, and the consequences are far reaching. From simply making someone feel bad, to fights, to suicides, to mass shootings – the effects of bullying can be downright terrible.

For all those who say get over it, grow thicker skin, sticks and stones, or even suggest violence as a solution right off the bat – well, they are simply wrong. Period!

Being one who no longer takes the nonsense I did when I was that little kid, I can tell you that there is always – ALWAYS – another way to deal with the bully AND to get to the root of why the bully is the way they are.

Here are two big questions related to bullying:
What can we do about it in schools, in society, and just about everywhere else?
Why do people become bullies in the first place?

Predominantly a subject for schools these days, bullying is a major point of concern for parents, students, teachers, and administrators. From detailed research I can tell you schools are indeed doing what they can, within the law, even if parents do not think it is sufficient. If you believe your school isn’t doing it’s part, I suggest asking a school official what your district is doing about mitigating bullying and what they do when a problem develops.

I have found my local district officials all to be open and honest in talking about this difficult topic. Please keep in mind there are many barriers to the openness some people may like to see it terms of “dealing with it” or the ”appropriate punishment” they may want to see if their child was the victim. Sometimes these things simply cannot be shared with the public. Rest assured however, remedies and consequences exist.

Secondly – the bully. It’s time for our society to take a really honest look at the many ways people are bullied throughout their lives – I believe doing so is a step in the right direction. Adults, the media, social media (a really big problem these days) – and maybe even a mirror at times – is what is needed to stop the trend of creating more bullies in the first place.

Part of the problem is that the bullying has been normalized.

“Oh, she’s just joking.”
“He likes you, that’s why he teases you.”
“Kids will be kids.”

And of course the rise of domestic violence, violent media, and the simply terrifying state of world affairs (at home and abroad). All of this stuff gives license for others to go after others. Another element is when a victim of bullying becomes the bully and they act out worse than even they experienced.

Hatred breeds hatred. We need kindness and understanding to breed kindness and understanding.

So what do we do about this growing problem??? Below I’ve shared a few links. The first is a website of an organization that advocates respect and the second is a video about the hidden signs of bullying and their disastrous potential effects.

I believe the more we educate ourselves and our kids, the more likely we are to see things turn around.

1 – This was a recommendation from one of our local school Principals: www.OperationRespect.org
Here is their Mission Statement:

Operation Respect is a non-profit education and advocacy organization dedicated to transforming schools, summer camps, and other youth-serving organizations into respectful, safe and compassionate climates of learning, free of bullying, ridicule and violence. Founded in 1999 by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dr. Charlotte Frank, McGraw-Hill Education senior advisor, we disseminate our own classroom-based curriculum, the “Don’t Laugh at Me,” program, free of charge to schools worldwide. Operation Respect’s inspiring music, SEL curricula, multicultural videos and highly-regarded professional training provide adults with the tools they need to help children express their feelings constructively, resolve conflict peacefully, celebrate diversity, and engage with each other in a spirit of caring, compassion and cooperation.

2 – Recently a video has been shared about the hidden signs of bullying and the violence it could lead to. The EVAN video on the Sandy Hook Promise YouTube channel has a strong message hidden within it. See if you can spot the signs before they are revealed.

Finally, I would like to share some direct resources about bullying for the four school districts that are the heart and focus of The ZIPPER JUNCTION Project™. Although these are specific policy examples for schools districts within Northeastern Pennsylvania, the ideas contained could very well be for any school district. I urge parents to look into the resources within their own school districts to see if these types of policies are in place and question administrators if they are not.

Wallenpaupack Area School District
To access some policy items related to the term “Bullying” on the Wallenpaupack Area School District website:
1 – Click and follow this
2 – Click on the third Tab labeled “Policies”
3 – Enter the Policy number you wish to view
Policy 247 – Hazing
Policy 249 – Bullying/Cyber-bullying
Policy 815 – Acceptable Use of Internet/Network Policy
Policy 819 – Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Response
There are some great resources related to this topic on the Wallenpaupack Area North Primary School website as well. Click and follow this LINK to view these items.

Wayne Highlands School District
To access some policy items related to the term “Bullying” on the Wayne Highlands School District website simply follow the links below:
Policy 247 – Hazing
Policy 249 – Bullying/Cyber-bullying
Policy 815 – Acceptable Use of Internet/Network Policy
Policy 819 – Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Response

Western Wayne School District
To access some policy items related to the term “Bullying” on the Western Wayne School District website:
1 – Click and follow this LINK
2 – Click on the third Tab labeled “Policies”
3 – Enter the Policy number you wish to view
4 – Or simply follow the links below for Policy 819
Policy 247 – Hazing
Policy 249 – Bullying/Cyberbullying
Policy 815 – Acceptable Use of Internet, Computers, and Network Resources
Policy 819 – Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Response
Policy 819 – Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Response – Attachment

Delaware Valley School District
To access some policy items related to the term “Bullying” on the Delaware Valley School District website:
1 – Click and follow this LINK
2 – Enter the Policy number you wish to view
Policy 247 – Hazing
Policy 249 – Bullying/Cyber-bullying
Policy 815 – Acceptable Use of the Communications and Information Systems
Policy 823 – Suicide Awareness, Prevention, and Response

Finally – DO NOT STAND FOR BULLYING!

If you see it, call it out for what it is, you may save a life.

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