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.