Archive for the ‘Bullying’ Category
Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
I had the privilege yesterday to participate in a life-altering program that was not only the most humbling experience, but one which I truly believe every child should be able to experience. Challenge Day is a program that travels to high schools and middle schools around the country, with the goal of teaching our children about respect, love, kindness and equality. It is a program about renewal, about opening one’s eyes and realizing that every individual counts. If I could offer one piece of advice to the world’s children, it would be to participate in this activity at least once.
Challenge Day has been highlighted on MTV, via a show called If You Really Knew Me. You can go to their site to watch an episode (have tissues). I have blogged about it before, but having participated in Challenge Day personally, I will try to do it justice with my words.
100 children and about 30 adults participated in the event. The children included those who are bullies, have been bullied, those facing some tough issues, those who seem to be on top of the world – basically every type of child. Adults ranged from school administrators and teachers, to parents and other district employees. The day started off with a loud welcome and some fun games. People loosened up and began to feel comfortable sharing with each other.
Toward the middle of the day we were broken up into small “family” groups – 4-5 kids with 1-2 adults per group. In this group many feelings were shared, starting with the words “if you really knew me…” Barriers were broken down, and there was a lot of crying and sharing. Some children brought up some very tough issues they face daily, like sick or alcoholic parents, divorce, thoughts of worthlessness or contemplation of suicide. My heart ached for every person who told a story, but knowing they were able to talk about it and get it out made me feel better. It was a very emotional day.
The part of the day that will forever be with me was an activity called Cross the Line. Everyone stands on one side of a line, and the facilitator ask everyone to cross the line if… It was heart-wrenching: “Cross the line if you have ever contemplated suicide or have a friend or family member who has committed suicide…” “Cross the line if you you have been hit…” Seeing so many children cross the line for being teased or bullied, being ignored by grownups, constantly yelled at, constantly made to feel they had to be better, had rumors spread about them, had family members incarcerated, never got to be a child…the list went on.
Children should not hurt. They should not be the subject of torment and should not have to deal with issues that are so scary. There was a lot of hurt in that room – and this school is in a very “good” area. It goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you are – it is so hard to grow up, even harder now than it was before society got faster and more technologically savvy.
Challenge Day was life-changing for me. I know, and have known for a long time, that my destiny is to work with young adults in some capacity. My own bullying stories helped one young woman in particular yesterday, who thanked me and told me that she didn’t realize other people went through the same thing she has been through at school. If you have children, or know someone who does, please speak with them or with your local high school, and try to bring this program to your campus. You will need to raise money to do so, but it will be the most incredible experience for everyone involved. Those who go through the program take what they learn and help to make campuses better and safer places.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Bullying is one of the worst and most relevant things children today must deal with. It is something that we as a society need to tackle, and it will not go away unless we all work together to help educate our children. If you have always wondered how you can help, or what you can do or say to eliminate it, here is your chance.
On October 8 from 4-7 p.m. come on down to Rock for Challenge Day at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach for some great music (by Temple of the Dad) for a great cause. All proceeds will go towards Challenge Day at Aviara Oaks Middle School, which is an award-winning program for teens to combat bullying. Challenge Day is coming to a Carlsbad School for the first time on November 7. Over 100 children and 35 adults experience this amazing workshop, to help stomp out bullying and teasing on school campuses.
If you have not read one of my previous blogs about Challenge Day and do not know about it, you can go to MTV’s website and watch an episode of “If You Really Knew Me.” http://www.mtv.com/shows/if_you_really_knew_me/series.jhtml This show is a reality show that highlights the Challenge Day program at campuses across the nation. You can pick any episode, but make sure to have tissues handy. Share it with your teens too. Challenge Day is the most real, raw, intense and inspirational wake up call to kids. NO ONE IS UNAFFECTED by this program.
Our biggest dream is that Challenge Day can one day be on every high school and middle school campus, but we need your help. It is not free, and there are few people who are trained to run the program, so there is a waiting list. Here is your opportunity to really make a difference in preventing bullying, and all you have to do is come to the Belly Up and enjoy some great music with friends, have a drink, and relax.
To find out more about Rock for Challenge Day on October 8, Challenge Day itself, and to order your tickets, please visit http://www.villatortuga.net/ChallengeDay/ChallengeDayBenefit.html. Tickets are only $15, and will be $20 at the door. The Belly Up Tavern is a 21 and over venue.
Monday, March 14th, 2011
Fact: ONE IN FOUR STUDENTS ARE BULLIED.
Those who know me know that bullying is an issue close to my heart. I was bullied in middle and high school, and one of my children has been bullied. Watching my child go through that was not only upsetting to me, but it made me angry in a way that I can’t even explain. I was angry at the parents of the bullies for not teaching their children true compassion. I was mad at school officials for not truly following any true programs–even when they had them in writing. I was angry that other students watch (and still do) bullying every day, as bystanders, yet do nothing (they do not have the tools to deal with this). I was angry at a lot of people. But my anger didn’t help. It didn’t make the problem go away.
I took my anger and started trying to make changes in our local school district, specifically at my local middle school. My voice was loud, and I was joined by many parents, and we have been heard. We are still awaiting changes from school officials. It is almost political to make changes in a school that are for the better–so frustrating.
The fact of the matter is that bullying goes on daily, and that bystanders, victims, teachers and others simply do not know what to do about it. In our local high school just last week, there was a physical fight between two ninth graders. Many kids were watching and egging it on, and one student was video taping the scene from his phone…that is, until a teacher came up and asked him to delete the video–really! I shudder to think what would happen if that child were injured (or worse), and the physical evidence destroyed.
If you wonder what is going on to stop this horrible problem, there are some good programs and helpful people out there. Here are some of my favorites:
Obama Administration: Obama and the government have become vocal on the issue of bullying. The Department of Education announced in November that schools that do not deal with bullying of gay students are failing to enforce gender discrimination laws and could lose government funding. The administration is also working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the problem and increase counseling and teaching in schools. I am certain we will see more from the government on bullying prevention.
Facebook: Facebook is jumping into the bullying problem head first, attacking cyber-bullying by expanding their existing bullying reporting system. Now those who are bullied online can file a report and send it to a teacher and/or parent as well.
MTV: MTV created an interactive bullying visualization tool called “Draw Your Line,” which tracks bullying education and prevention activity across the county using virtual maps. It is part of the anti-bullying campaign A Thin Line (http://www.athinline.org/). Apps have also been created to allow kids to chime in on whether a particular bullying incident went Over the Line?–the name of the app.
MTV also has a wonderful show called “If You Really Knew Me.” It is developed around an amazing program called Challenge Day (http://www.challengeday.org/), which has been at high schools around the country. It brings together kids of all “labels,” like “jocks,” “nerds,” “populars,” etc. It is a one day program that is so powerful I have no words to do it justice. If you have not seen it I HIGHLY recommend watching an episode. If you have tweens or teens have them watch it with you. Have tissues handy. http://www.mtv.com/shows/if_you_really_knew_me/series.jhtml
Star Power–Hollywood stars have been jumping on the anti-bullying bandwagon. Ellen DeGeneres has been vocal in supporting programs to combat bullying, including STOMP Out Bullying, a program that aims to reduce bullying and cyber-bullying. You can check out all the great work they are doing at http://www.stompoutbullying.org/
Justin Bieber also has added his voice to anti-bullying campaigns, telling fans to take action against cyber-bullying by posting on Draw Your Line. As a young and very influential star, people like Bieber lending support to such relevant issues will undoubtedly assist in bringing this issue further into the spotlight.
Many school districts across the country have developed their own ways to help prevent bullying, and there are some incredible programs. Please get involved with your district if you have school-aged children. If they do not have a program join together with other parents and teachers to start one. Bullying is not going to go away without education, calls to action and involvement. We all need to help to create a new culture where bullying is not welcome.
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
(The following article was featured as a guest commentary in the San Diego Coast News)
What has happened to good, old-fashioned respect? There are signs everywhere that it may be disappearing, but we need to bring it back or risk living in a world where no one cares and nothing is accomplished.
As the parent of two children, one in elementary and one in middle school, I often hear stories from my kids that not only shock me, but also make me feel sad. The stories are about kids who insult teachers during class, spray paint horrible things about Principals and staff. In fact, the other day I was picking up a carpool at the middle school and on my way out a boy made a vulgar hand gesture to me. If my children ever did anything like that to an adult they would suffer consequences. But how would I know? I teach my children to respect others and themselves, and I can only hope and pray that they do so.
Disrespect among peers has plagued young people and continues to make headlines across the nation and world. Cyber bullying, while a form of anguish and torment, also has roots in respect (or lack of it). Why do young people think they are empowered to affect the lives of others in a way that could lead to severe and possibly irreversible consequences, including murder and suicide? Where along the way did this come to be acceptable?
Some people say that lack of respect is caused by the advance in technology, or the fact that in many households both parents or the single parent works, leaving children home alone for long periods of time. This theory advocates that there is no longer a ‚ÄúLeave it to Beaver‚Äù situation where there is a parent who is always around for the children, thus causing them find ways to entertain themselves that may get them into trouble. The days of playing in the front yard with the neighborhood kids seem to be over in most cases.
The internet and mobile access to it has been blamed for the lack of respect as well. The amount of information available to children these days is scary‚Äîit is easy to learn how to cheat on a paper or test, find or make weapons or bombs, or watch pornography‚Ä¶all at our fingertips. Social network sites like Facebook and MySpace are very popular amongst young adults, and are the way to communicate. Unfortunately many use it inappropriately to tarnish reputations and hurt others.
Video games and the media also play a role in the demise of respect. Far from the innocence of games of the past like PacMan and Asteroids, today’s video games can be extremely violent. Exploding bodies, blood and torture are the norm in many popular games, creating desensitization issues. Many kid-friendly movies and even television shows on child-appropriate networks portray violence, adult themes (like sex, drugs and alcohol), and even young actors who have to make uncharacteristic grown-up decisions.
There are many factors that contribute to the growing lack of respect today, but one thing is clear: we need to fix it before respect disappears. It is not only the young generation, but also the older ones who demonstrate behaviors that are disrespectful. As an example to the younger generations it is imperative that we set examples of proper behavior. Work stress, lack of sleep, financial problems, relationship issues, traffic‚Ä¶there is a lot on most peoples’ plates right now. But to get through it we need to respect each other. Getting angry at someone because they cut you off or cut in front of you does not help you at all. Why raise your heart rate, make yourself upset?
Each day, each moment is a gift, and each person has an equal right to that gift. If we all start living according to this principal we will naturally be more respectful, and the world will be a better place.
Sunday, April 4th, 2010
I was dismayed this morning in reading an article in the San Diego Union Tribune on school bullying. Not only did it state that bullying has gone down statistically in schools since the tragic Columbine High School shooting, but it attributed this decline to the way schools appear to be handling bullying. Although I do not have specific numbers for local school districts (the article only mentioned districts in the East county and San Diego Unified School District), I can attest that bullying DOES happen in our schools, and officials often turn their backs on it.
Several years ago one of my children was the victim of bullying right here in the Carlsbad Unified School District. When it started in elementary school I admit the Principal was vigilant–he took it personally and made sure it stopped. While most children are afraid to point fingers at the bully for fear of retaliation, this Principal had some very creative ways to work around finger pointing. We also consulted a bullying expert who gave my child powerful come-backs to use that WORKED. These were the saving grace.
In middle school the bullying started up again the first year. I reported it to the staff and was told they needed names to deal with it. Touting the district’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, I was told that bullying was not allowed in the district. It continued and worsened. The saddest part was that a boy who carpooled with me was the victim of terrible bullying (he since left the school). I was concerned for this boy.
In my distress to help these kids, and having received nothing concrete from middle school personnel, I wrote a letter to the District, specifically to the Superintendent. I both emailed and mailed the letter. In it I stated that I felt the Zero Tolerance policy was ineffective, that there was plenty of bullying going on and nothing was being done about it at the middle school level. While elementary schools had assemblies and discussions on bullying to teach the children it’s repercussions, the middle school (or at least the one my child attended) had no such talks. My letter went unanswered.
Luckily my child came out of the bullying situation a stronger person, but that is because he chose to discuss it with his parents and we took action to help. Many kids do NOT discuss this with anyone and internalize it, leading to all kinds of problems, many of which can manifest themselves years later. Furthermore, if the victims are pulled out of schools where they are bullied I believe that sends the wrong message to the bullies. A victim should not be punished for being victimized.
With an increased number of bullying-related suicides this past year, and with more ways to be a bully since the advent of the internet, why is this topic not discussed in middle school? Middle School years parallel critical development years–puberty, self-discovery, learning to make choices that have consequences. Shouldn’t this be the time to hold assemblies and discuss the effects of bullying? Now is the time to bring this issue out into the open.