How to stop bullying
Kids have plenty to deal with at school, especially at the middle school and high school levels. Besides reading, writing, math, band, gym, and other assorted classes and activities, they have to figure out complex social relationships and deal with bodies that seem to be changing on them every day. Throw in the problem of bullying -- which seems to be getting worse in both its occurrence and consequence -- and we should be thankful as adults that we've already made it past that stage.
A quick glance at Internet news sites will show a disturbing picture. Seth Walsh, 13, committed suicide over long-term bullying. Asher Brown, also 13, and Tyler Clementi, 18, are two others. Regardless of the exact techniques, words, or attacks, and regardless of whether a kid is male or female, gay or straight, bullying is something that can forever damage a child's psychological well-being and can lead to suicide or other destructive behavior.
Often the school system alone will not work to completely protect your child. Here are some tips to stop bullying before it gets out of hand.
- 1. Encourage your child to be honest with you about what happens at school. Many kids are reluctant to speak to their parents or other authority figure, fearing that they won't be believed or that their attackers will worsen their attacks out of revenge for being reported. Start talking to your kids early, before you're even aware of any problems. Let them know they can come to you about any problem they have.
- 2. Familiarize yourself with your school's anti-bullying policy. Every school has one, and every school has different avenues for handling complaints. Visit your school or school system's website for policy details and any forms they may have available for reporting problems.
- 3. Document everything. When your child tells you about a bullying incident, don't try to file it away in your brain for later use. Write it down. Dates, times, areas, instigators, witnesses. If you have the need to visit your child's school to report a problem, documentation will go a long way towards helping them help your child.
- 4. Have a meeting with school administrators and/or counselors. Talking things over face-to-face with people in charge of discipline and order at the school is a necessary step at stopping bullying before it gets out of hand. Be forceful but polite. You may find that some teachers and principals may have a "boys will be boys" attitude when it comes to bullying but you can't let the problem be dismissed so lightly.
- 5. Write a letter to the school principal. Letters shouldn't be threatening but should contain definitions of bullying found in your state's laws to show how serious you are at rectifying the situation. Send the letter via certified mail so you have proof of its receipt, and consider sending a copy to the school board, especially if the principal doesn't seem concerned with solving the problem.
- 6. Consider calling the police at any signs of actual physical violence or credible threats of physical violence. Use your best judgment here; you don't want to act prematurely but the safety of your child is paramount. If you believe he or she is in immediate danger it's best to get the authorities involved.
- 7. Don't give up! This is the most important thing... don't give up trying to help your child. Don't be afraid to report each incident of bullying to the school, especially if it's coming from the same instigators and is becoming a pattern. The school system is there to serve your child so make them do just that.
Bullying is a serious issue in today's schools and can be a matter of life or death for your child. Be a friend and a protector to your child and let them know you'll do whatever you need to do to keep them safe and make them happy.
It Gets Better
In response to several suicides among teens who were gay or whose peers believed they were gay, Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller created the It Gets Better Project. The goal of the project is to let teenagers, particularly those in the LGBT community, know that they won't have to put up with bullying forever. The project also seeks to give teens advice for getting through their current problems.
The It Gets Better Project has spawned tens of thousands of videos from people of all walks of life, including celebrities like Lady Gaga, Kathy Griffin, Jennifer Love Hewitt and many others, and government officials like President Obama. Businesses like Google, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft have also sponsored videos for the project.
In his video contribution to It Gets Better, President Obama had this to say:
"We've got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage; that it's just some inevitable part of growing up. It's not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. And for every young person out there you need to know that if you're in trouble, there are caring adults who can help."
You can help, too. Head on over to the It Gets Better website to pledge your support in the battle against bullying.