Archive for the ‘Bullying’ Category

The Parent Bully Dilemma

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

We all know that bullying is wrong, that it creates low self-esteem, and issues like depression and anxiety, and has led to high suicide rates among teenagers. But what happens when the bully is a parent? Believe it or not, this is not out of the ordinary, and unfortunately these people raise new generations of bullies, perpetuating the vicious cycle and making bullying harder to eliminate.

Adults, especially those who are parents, should be mature enough to understand bullying and its effects, but unfortunately that is often not the case. Think aggressive sports parents or dance/drama moms (a cliche yes, but so prevalent on television)…we see it all around us, all the time. But many parents do not realize that their actions constitute bullying.

Everyone knows about physical bullying, but many still do not realize that there is an even worse form of bullying that leaves deep scars – it is emotional bullying, and it happens often. Every parent needs to ask themselves whether they might be bullying others, especially children.

Talking about others in a negative way, especially if they are minors, is an act of bullying. Parents are in a position of leadership, both in and outside of the home. Those leaders outside the home (say as a school volunteer or extra curricular activity helpers) have even more power to affect young peoples’ perceptions. Gossiping about others, especially in front of your own children (no matter how old they are) teaches them that it is ok to do.

Take for example a mom volunteer at a high school who gossiped about a student in front of a room full of 40- to 50-something year old moms. Her daughter was in the room as well. Her daughter also bullied the victim verbally by constantly trying to get her in trouble – not what many would consider bullying but still a valid form. Furthermore, the mom didn’t even have her facts straight and was making assumptions, thus resorting to slander….the girl’s parents could sue her should they decide to do so, since her words deeply wounded the victim. The other moms proceeded to discuss the “badness” of this young lady who actually was one of several who made s silly mistake. Sadly, they didn’t even have their facts straight – this is how rumors get started. Who knows how many went home and discussed the “bad” choices allegedly made by the victim with their own daughters? Think of what that teaches the daughters! Of course this is how the bullying culture survives – the apple never falls far from the tree.

Parents, keep in mind that your actions can be extremely detrimental to young minds. Did you ever wonder why the incidences of depression, anxiety and suicide have skyrocketed with younger generations and in past decades? As one who was bullied in high school, and as the mother of young adults who were bullied there as well, I think it is time we seriously assess our actions as parents – hopefully it’s not too late.

Bullying will continue to be a big problem until we all understand that words, not only actions, can hurt others. Many may not think before speaking, but as a parent it is crucial to teach your children that bullying is NOT ok. You are the only one who can truly instill this very important lesson in your children. So ask yourself how your words and actions may be seen from their point of view before you speak or act. We can ALL combat bullying if we just check ourselves and openly discuss it. If you realize you have done or said something to or in front of your children that could be an act of bullying, or may incite them to bully another person, discuss your mistake with them. You will be a better person and so will your children.

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Ineffective and Bully Teachers Need to be Fired

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Those of you who know me or read my blog regularly know how strongly I feel about two issues that effect all of our lives and our communities: bullying and education. I have championed many causes over the years and fought battles in the name of making public education better and raising awareness about bullying in our schools. These battles have been difficult but I try to live up to the notion that change won’t happen unless you make it.

I wanted to write about ineffective teachers, here at the end of the school year, because they hurt us all – our children and families, other children, our schools as a whole, our communities, and the future as well. It is time to stop allowing ineffective teachers and administrators to continue working in the education system.

I will share with you a few personal incidents that really highlight what is going on in our schools…in great neighborhoods! One case: there is a teacher who singles out a student constantly, makes comments about the student under her breath, yells at the student for no reason and is generally mean to the student. The student makes good grades, follows directions and does not get into trouble. Yet this student, who suffers the injustices that the teacher throughout the year, is afraid to do anything because it will jeopardize her grade and make class time more difficult. Another student I know went through the same thing at another school and had to go to counseling because she would come home crying all the time.

There is another teacher who is just downright nasty to many students, making it very clear that she has favorites. If your student is one of the many she does not like, and your student gets put in her class (even if you had a run in with her in the past), you cannot move your student out of her class! This happened to my daughter, and the only way I was able to get her out was to downgrade her from an honors to a regular class. That is ridiculous.

There are teachers at the high school level who tell the students flat out that they don’t care, that they aren’t going to spend time teaching some lessons, and that they are protected from being fired because they have tenure! These teachers speak rudely often and the students can feel their lack of excitement for education on a daily basis…what do you think this says to our students? Yet we wonder why students in the USA are so far behind on many educational levels compared to other nations.

In defense of teachers, I must say that teaching is the most noble profession in my eyes, and always has been. Teachers should be paid more and should be placed on pedastals – other nations do this (like Japan). Teachers should be respected, BUT respect is not automatic, it is earned. The moment you lose the respect of the student body you have placed a noose around your neck.

Why do teachers stay with it if they do not care to influence students? Surely at some time they wanted to teach and be mentors, to help students get excited about teaching. I know there are unions and tenure to protect the rights of teachers, but I say let’s get rid of the ineffective teachers. Let the students and parents and communities decide who deserves to continue teaching. Let’s rate our teachers annually. Let’s let the student body know that it’s ok to file complaints, and that they don’t have to stay in classes if they are subject to verbal abuse or other unfair treatment.

I know this is a fine line, and I know there is room for abuse. But WE SIMPLY HAVE TO MAKE CHANGES TO OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM, and we need to get rid of teachers who bully or do not teach effectively.

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How to Help Kids: “Be the Change”

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.

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Help Prevent School Bullying on October 8 (and Have Fun Too!)

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.

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What Are YOU Doing About Bullying?

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.

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Is Respect Disappearing?

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 “Leave it to Beaver” 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—it is easy to learn how to cheat on a paper or test, find or make weapons or bombs, or watch pornography…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‚Ķthere 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.

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School Bullying Shows No Signs of Disappearing

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.

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