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Facebook Bully Gets Choked

Facebook remains in the news this week, only this time the feature story wasn’t the IPO debacle. Instead while at a mall a Florida mother, Debbie Piscitella, was arrested after choking a fourteen-year-old boy who had allegedly been terrorizing her daughter on Facebook.

In Piscitella’s own words, “I just snapped. Yes I shouldn’t have done that, but you all do not even come close to understanding all the torment they have put my child through.” And according to the NY Daily News, Piscitella said the boy wrote “disgusting” comments below a photo of her daughter, calling her “a fat f—ing whale” who “didn’t deserve to live because she is so nasty that he wouldn’t even rape her.” I’m not going to defend her actions. She was wrong—dead wrong—to choke a boy. But I do understand the emotions overwhelming her. I would feel the same about anyone hurting one of my loved ones.

Would I stop short of choking a teenager? I’d like to think so, but hope that’s a question I’ll never have to answer. What really raised questions in my mind was not Piscitella’s behavior at that moment, but how the bullying was being handled.

Before the mall incident, the girl’s father reportedly reached out to the bullying student to ask him to stop and was met with obscenities in response. Okay, obviously that tactic did not work and I’m not surprised. In the boy’s mind, online could equate to being impervious to repercussions. But why didn’t the Piscitellas reach out to the bully’s parents (the Tiptons) and bring the matter to their attention? Maybe the Tiptons were unaware of their child’s behavior. Maybe the Tiptons were aware and didn’t care. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the situation was one that should have been dealt with adult to adult and not adult to child.

The next question is: where are the boy’s parents involvement in all of this? It sounds as if the situation had been ongoing for awhile. How is it that a fourteen-year-old has an account which is not monitored by his parents? Did his parents know about the account? If not, then I will cut them a little slack for not being involved with what their son was doing, although it doesn’t absolve them from all responsibility. But if he had an account with their permission, then what happened to their due diligence in monitoring on an occasional basis what his interactions were with other kids online. This should be done for the safety of their son if for no other reason.

As a result of the incident, the Piscitella’s took down their daughter’s Facebook page, which is understandable. They wanted to protect her from any further backlash which might be directed at her after her mother choked her bully. Tipton’s lack of involvement is evidenced in her statement that she didn’t have a chance to see her son’s comments before they were removed. One commenter stated: “The boy’s mother needs to get involved and restrict her son from writing weird stuff on Facebook.” I believe there needs to be a little more involvement than restricting the boy from writing weird stuff…the mentality that allows someone to bully another is something that needs to be addressed on a much deeper level.

And while some will cry that teens deserve their privacy as they are becoming adults, I’ll agree with a caveat—they deserve such privacy as they have earned. And at fourteen, total privacy has not been earned… even for the best kid on earth. Not necessarily because of what the kid might be doing, but there are some nasty people in this world of ours and for their own safety they need to be monitored to ensure that they have an adult’s guidance when dealing with situations beyond their abilities. AND if all parents monitored their kids online activities on a regular basis, don’t you think we’d see a decrease in cyber-bullying?

I’m not naive enough to believe that parental involvement will solve the cyber-bullying issue. Some kids will create accounts their parents don’t know about, but not all will, and most will give thought to what they are posting if they know that mom or dad may be taking a peek. Do kids need an avenue to express their thoughts and feelings? Absolutely. But not at the cost of others, and this is what we must stop.

Posted: June 4th, 2012 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , ,

Born This Way Foundation

Photo: Credit KCSPresse / Splash News

When someone uses their celebrity to help address one of my pet issues, it makes me feel good. That they use their pull and tap into their fanbase to raise awareness about the issue, such as bullying, it gives me hope that something positive will come out of it. Lady Gaga made a point of meeting with President Obama after the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer to discuss the bullying epidemic, which made me believe she was serious about making a difference. And sure enough, she is launching the Born This Way Foundation in conjunction with her mother, the MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment, and Berkman.

While there is not much to see yet about the Born This Way Foundation, you can sign up on the landing page. The tag line is Empowering Youth — Inspiring Bravery — both lofty goals. And the meat of the page:

THIS WAY, TOWARDS BRAVERY
WHERE YOUTH ARE EMPOWERED.
THIS WAY, TOWARDS ACCEPTANCE
WHERE HUMANITY IS EMBRACED.
THIS WAY, TOWARDS LOVE
WHERE INDIVIDUALITY IS ENCOURAGED.

Lady Gaga my hat is off to you. Keep up the good work.

Posted: November 3rd, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Victim’s Fault?

Lawrence "Larry" King

Bullying is a hot topic these days. As a nation, we’re grappling with how best to stop bullying and yet more cases are jumping into the public eye. Recently the case of Jamey Rodemeyer has been making headlines, because bullying drove this fourteen-year-old boy to take his own life. At the same time, the case of the Lawrence King shooting by then fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney may be re-tried because the first trial ended in mistrial.

While I am not a member of the jury, nor did I sit in the courtroom to hear all of the testimony, I’m a little flummoxed by the results of this trial. There is no question as to whether Brandon McInerney shot Larry King. None. There was a roomful of witnesses. My understanding of the situation is that the defense pressed the point that King’s behavior pushed McInerney to the breaking point by wearing feminine attire and via means of sexual harassment with words such as “Love you baby!”. In other words, vilifying the victim.

Brandon McInerney

Wait! We’re leaning toward manslaughter on a charge where the perpetrator had enough forethought to bring the gun to school and shoot the victim execution style twice in the back of the head? It wasn’t his fault because the victim wore high heel boots and make-up to school? I hear echoes of “It wasn’t my fault, your honor. She was asking for it.” in rape cases. Or in this case… it’s not a hate crime because the victim was asking for it. We, as a nation, are running an extreme risk with this type of thought process. While Larry may not have handled the bullying by Brandon in the most appropriate manner, are we really saying that the alleged words “What’s up, baby?” are enough to incite murder?

Middle School and High School are tumultuous times at best. The campus is populated with kids trying to figure out who they are and how they want to express themselves. Larry chose to express himself by wearing make-up and high-heeled boots. This cannot be used as an excuse for deliberately taking his life. Larry dressed that way as an expression of who he was, and that Brandon didn’t like it was… tough — or should have been.

I currently have pink highlights in my hair. There are a few reasons I have done this… most of them personal, but the biggest reason is that it is fun. It is an expression of who I am. I’m sure that there are people who think that it is ridiculous or even worse, it is an expression of underlying deviancy which could lead to horrible things. Should someone be allowed to state as an excuse for shooting me that the pink in my hair incited them to do it? That somehow the pink was taunting them in some way? While this may seem an superfluous example, in my mind it is no different than saying the fact that Larry wore make-up and boots incited Brandon to take action, and therefore we must be lenient toward Brandon.

I do believe that Brandon perpetrated a hate crime. But I also believe that at fourteen-years-old, while he should have known better, there are some extenuating factors in his background which need to be kept in mind. This does not mean I believe the degree of murder should be mitigated down, but I don’t necessarily believe spending the rest of his life in prison is the right answer either. I would like to see Brandon receive intense therapy to help him overcome his past and if determined that he would be able to re-enter the “outside world” as a productive, contributing member of society, then I would like to see that happen. And I would like to see those who abused him dealt with as well.

We have to stop they bullying cycle!

Posted: October 2nd, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pledge of Allegiance = Bullying?

When I saw the article title at first I thought I had misread it. I looked again. Nope. It said what I read the first time. Lawyer wants to ban Pledge of Allegiance in schools; claims it’s bullying. I’ll admit, my first thought was that the lawyer in question must be jumping on the bully bandwagon because especially with the start of school, bullies are a hot topic, and he was somehow using the word bully to incite. After having read the article, I’m still of that opinion. But I thought the premise an interesting one, so I took a look.

While the article is brief, in a nutshell, the good people of Brookline, MA are considering banning the Pledge of Allegiance. Not all of the folks are in agreement, but there is a faction that would like to see it banned. This is something the majority of us who were born and raised in the United States of America have recited, hand over heart, through our entire pre-college school career, day after day. What could possibly be wrong with the Pledge? Before getting all up in arms over it, the discussion really has very little to do with patriotism or the lack thereof.

I had a neighbor when I was a kid who happened to be a teacher, and she mentioned that she really would like to do away with the Pledge of Allegiance. At the time the idea shocked me a bit. What harm did reciting a few words every morning do? But when I started to think about what she said, and some of the books I’d read, understanding grew. When children start school, one of the first things they learn is to recite the Pledge. Standing tall, hands over heart, some murmuring because they are afraid they have the word wrong, while others shout in their confidence, the Pledge is learned by rote memory. That is all. Not one of the kids reciting it has an inkling about what the words mean that they are saying. Most of them can’t pronounce the words correctly, let alone know what allegiance is and why they are pledging it (heck — they don’t even know what a pledge is unless it’s the stuff to dust the furniture). I think Beverly Cleary illustrated this the best in her timeless classic Ramona the Pest. Ramona was so excited to go to school and every morning they sang a song about the dawnzer lee light, so when her father was looking for something at dusk she told him he might want to turn on the dawnzer. Ramona had no idea what she was singing about and made the “words” fit in her world. She had no feelings of patriotism, she just got to sing every morning. While the illustration is about the National Anthem, it serves just as well for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Another classic example involving rote recitation as a means of declaring patriotism — when it is nothing of the kind — is in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. During war, Captain Black, angered by the promotion of Major Major to Major, decided to have all of the men sign loyalty oaths to obtain the very things they needed to go on a mission to serve their country. Then he added in the Pledge of Allegiance and then the National Anthem as a part of the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade.

“The important thing is to keep them pledging,” he explained to his cohorts. “It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ means.”

The entire passage is funny, absurd, and yet drives the point home. Heller was a master. If you’re interested in reading the entire passage, click here. So while, I’m not sure that there is a lot of value to young children reciting a pledge, or for anyone to make a pledge they don’t understand or don’t mean, I also don’t find anything wrong with teaching the pledge once the kids are old enough to understand the meaning behind it as well as the history of the pledge. But is the pledge bullying?

According to the lawyer, Marty Rosenthal, “It goes against tolerance and diversity.” He also claims: “We think it’s analogous to bullying. It could promote bullying,” Rosenthal said. “Anything that’s a hot button issue that divides people is susceptible to bullying.”

Ahhhh. Yes, he’s trying to create it as a hot button issue. And that doesn’t mean that it, the pledge itself, is bullying, but is susceptible. Oaths and pledges have certainly been used as methods of bullying in the past. The example in Heller’s Catch-22 certainly was a case of one person going on a bullying spree and getting others to join him, all to prove that Major Major was a communist because he wouldn’t (wasn’t allowed to) sign the loyalty pledges. And pledges and oaths have been used in the past by dictators as a form to keep people in line. Prove your patriotism!

I don’t believe the pledge is being used by the Brookline school system as a means of bullying because it lacks the intent. In this case, the people of Brookline, MA have a decision to make as to whether they are keeping the Pledge of Allegiance as a part of the daily school practice or whether they modify current practice. Hopefully, this can be done without bullying on either side to sway their point.

Posted: September 12th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cecil FTW

One of my goals is to share real world experiences along with thoughts and articles about the issues which crop up in my writing. And to do that, my plan was to contact people and ask them to share some of their experiences, but before I had a chance to execute that plan, I got into a Twitter conversation with Brooke about one of the articles I had posted and the next thing I knew posted an interview with her and her daughter Gabbie about Gabbie’s experiences being bullied (Bullying: A Real World Experience. After posting that, I received a Facebook message from CJ, who I have known for years — although most of the time we’ve been in different cities/states. His mom and I have been friends since before he was born. CJ, or now more appropriately Cecil (c’mon dude, cut me some slack… I’ve ALWAYS called you CJ) hasn’t had the easiest life, but his outlook on life has always been good (okay mom, we’ll except some of the teenage rants). He has HFA — which is High Functioning Autism, and I know that his mother fought for him to receive the education he deserved. When he read about Gabbie, he wanted to share an experience about a time when he was bullied in school. The below is completely in his words.

My story
Armijo High School Fairfield, CA:

My bullying experience began when I was put in a class called metal workshop. I was about 14 or 15 years old, our country was at war with Iraq, and a lot of Mexican students leaving the campus, and my P.E. class while taking to the downtown courtyard to protest the Illegal Immigrant Crackdowns by then-US president George Bush.

When I was in Metal Workshop, there were some students who were nice to me, including the only girl in the class who supervised my arc welding activities while there were some students who were the worst people you could ever imagine, including one student: Big Steve. My mom, stepdad, and I called him that because he was huge and Steve was his first name. Once, I had a bunch of Yu-Gi-Oh cards (my favorite card game) hidden inside my backpack, and when I was on the bus, I found out that they went through my backpack, and stole the cards. The next day, I confronted Steve and asked him if he stole my cards, and he said to me, ”Do you think I play that Jewish shit?” The trading card game itself is from japan, and what he said was just unbelievable. Wonderful people, aren’t they? -_-

A couple of days later, I found the charred remains of my stolen cards near the forging machine, Those B@$&*%s!! and after that, I have my trading cards locked in the teachers office nice and safe when I come to class. One day, when I was outside in the back of the shop, I saw Big Steve and some of the students pouring a can of gasoline inside the ”Cat house.” It’s a place where a bunch of stray cats go to eat catfood, drink water, and rest. I have no idea why the school put that there, but I could assume that’s the reason why California is in debt. And no, they didn’t set it on fire. One day after that, when everyone got into class, my teacher was all saying, ”Which one of you poured gas in the cat house?” Prepare yourself, what happens next will SURPRISE you! 😀 I then said, ”Hey teach!” and he said, ”Yes Cecil?” and then I said, ”I know who poured gas in the cat house!” :3 And the teacher said ”Who did?” And I said, ”It was Steve, and those guys right there!”Ha,Ha,Ha, Snitching simple-minded Cecil FTW! >:)

After class started, Big Steve went up to me slowly, put his big meaty hands on my shoulders, and he said, “so, you like to talk shit, huh?” So then, the bullying continued. I got locked inside the shed out behind the shop, Thank god the teacher found out I was locked in there or I would be in there all night, and my mom and Stepfather would be organizing a police search team! My grades in the class were slipping due to Big Steve and the others, and I witnessed some of the students outside reading a porn magazine! 0_0 Soon, my mom got tired of the bullying, and she decided to tell one of my other teachers about the situation. His name was Mr Henderson. He was my Science Teacher, and one of the most popular teachers in the school. He was in his 40’s, though he looked very young. He was very nice and he actually let me bring my 2 guinea pigs to the class to show everyone in class. Little did I realize, I was gonna remember this man forever, for the rest of my life, and so will everyone else.

After hearing what my mom said, Mr Henderson invited me over to his class after school to talk about the bully. “What is Steve’s race/ethnicity?” he asked me. I then said, ”He’s American.” *facepalms* No, Cecil! American means anyone of different race and backgrounds who have citizenship in America! You’re supposed to say he’s “Caucasian!” LOL I then told him every single thing that they did to me, and then after that, Big Steve was never seen again, Probably kicked out of school. and I was transferred to a different class.

A couple of weeks later, my science class had a substitute teacher. I asked one of my classmates where Mr. Henderson was, and they said that he called in sick, and he won’t be in for a while. Then, one day at school, I found out the worst: Mr Henderson passed away while he was in the hospital. This sent a huge shock to every single person in the school, including my friends, my teachers, a girl that I liked, and me. I went home to my mom crying, and I tried to look in the local newspaper for any information about any funerals, because I wanted to attend it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend because his family wanted the funeral to be private.

After these events, I got my learners permit from my driving teacher. I was the last person he graduated before he quit teaching drivers ed. to become head of school board. I graduated Armijo High School in the summer of 2006 with a high school diploma.

My parents divorced and we were about to move. I went to my girlfriends house to say my final goodbye before the move. I never saw her again until I visited Facebook a couple years later, and then I decided that she has her own life now and that I should live my life and find another woman to be with and share my life with. One of my dreams We moved to Ohio and I lived there for a few years. I now live in North Carolina. 🙂

**********

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Cecil. I think it is fantastic that you, with the help of your mom and a good teacher, were able to address a bad situation successfully.

If anyone else has an experience they’d like to share, I’d be happy to hear it. Send it to me at lkgardner-griffie [ @ } griffieworld ( dot) com.
By sending your story to me, you imply tacit consent for me to post the experience to share with my readers, unless otherwise specified in the email.

Posted: August 6th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Year Detention – Seriously?

The Children’s Court president judge said the only option for the offences committed was a year of detention. I’m a little underwhelmed by the decision, if in fact detention is the same thing in Australia as it is here. Here’s the thing… a 16-year-old boy decided to “impersonate” a bully on the internet to wreak some sort of vengeance on behalf of a friend. Yeah, the word impersonate is in quotes for a reason. This kid decided to create a fake Facebook page of a known bully and used it to force girls to expose themselves and perform sexual acts while on webcam and distributed the footage of one teenager. That’s not impersonating a bully… that’s being a bully and a whole lot more.

I understand wanting to avenge your friend who has been tormented by a bully, and if the kid had confronted the bully directly, even through the use of violence, while not condoning that, I would have understood. A fake Facebook page where you torment innocent bystanders in the situation?? Not so much. One poor girl he threatened for an hour an a half, telling her she’d be effing dead and mobbed by up to 15 girls the next day if she didn’t do what he wanted her to. Little did she know, her actions were being recorded and he posted them on Facebook and then told her he’d only take it down if she had sex with him.

In all of this, I wonder… EXACTLY how is this avenging his friend??? Because I don’t see it. I see a sexual predator using the identity of the bully for his own personal sexual gratification. This kid needs help — intensive therapy for starters, and maybe he can turn his life around, but I’m more concerned about the girls. I hope their parents get them help to deal with the aftermath of what he has done to them.

I read through several of the comments on the Huffington Post article covering this incident, and was amazed, although I shouldn’t be, at how many people felt that the girls were to blame for not saying no. And how many put the incident on the level of “a boys raging hormones” as if that excused his actions. And yes, there were several comments buried among the others about the fact that they are young girls (13-16) and they were being threatened, and that raging hormones aside, there is no excuse for extorting the behavior or for posting the video. While I did not read through all of the comments, I found it interesting that only one comment questioned whether anything was being done about the known bully whose identity was used to extort these girls into exposing themselves.

A disturbing incident which highlights the need for parents to be increasingly vigilant about how their teens are interacting on the internet. And a year detention in a juvenile facility does not quite seem to fit the crime.

Posted: July 28th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Interview with Rose Gardner

I’m very excited… for two reasons. First, my friend and fellow author, Denise Grover Swank, has released her debut novel, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes — (whispers go ahead, click the link and buy copy… I know you want to. I’ll wait right here for you to get back…) And second, I have the rare opportunity to interview Rose Gardner, the delightful and charming heroine of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.

LK: First off I’d like to thank Rose Gardner for stopping by today to talk with me. How are you today, Rose?

Rose: I’m doing well, LK, I’m trying to get used to all this attention Denise has put me in. I’m not used to having so many people interested in my life. For the most part, people don’t want to have much to do with me.

LK: Just a bit of trivia, and this just hit me when I said your name…one of the names my parents considered for me was Rose, and I’d have been Rose Gardner, too.

Rose: Really? That’s so awesome! My father loved his flower gardens, so I suspect my sister Violet and I got our names from that, but Momma always brushed off the question. So we never knew for sure.

LK: I understand. Anyway, today I’d like to talk about bullying and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

Rose: Bullying? I think you’ve misunderstood what happened to me. People in my town of Henryetta, Arkansas find me an oddity, not that I blame ’em. I have visions and what I see just blurts right out of my mouth. To be fair, people just don’t know how to handle me knowin’ their personal business, you know? My momma used to tell them I was demon possessed. Most people didn’t believe that and just thought I was a snoop, which explained how I knew where to find someone’s library book or that Mr. Tucker was having an affair with his secretary. So most adults avoided me and their kids followed suit. Most just snubbed me at school or made snide comments, but I was never tormented. Not too much.

LK: Most people don’t know that they are being bullied. Bullying tends to be a string of small incidents over a long period of time, and while each incident might be considered trivial, over time it builds up. This might be a hard question, but have you ever been belittled or demeaned either at home or work? Can you tell us about it?

Rose: Oh, dear. I’d never looked at it that way. Um, one of the women I work with, Suzanne, makes lots mean comments, but honestly I just try to ignore her. But my momma… my momma was a difficult woman. Momma just didn’t know what to do with me and though it doesn’t make what she did right, I can sort of understand it. Mostly she used to just call me names although she had a special punishment when she found out I’d been having visions of other people’s business. I’d rather not talk about that one.

LK: That’s okay, hon. It sounds like the memory is still too painful. You don’t have to talk about it. Humiliation is often an effective tool for a bully. I know this may be difficult, but will you share a situation in which you felt humiliated?

Rose: The most humiliating experience was with my momma, I just can’t talk about that one. I don’t even talk to Violet about it. We shut it off and left it in the past, but sometimes I have trouble being in tight, enclosed spaces. I did tell Joe, but it just slipped out without my meaning it to. But next to that experience, my momma used to separate my older sister, Violet, and me. Or she’d punish me and then punish Violet for trying to come to my defense. Violet could have very easily turned her back on me, but she never did. Ever. She’s my hero.

LK: It’s so nice to have a sister to look up to. Who would you consider the number one bully in your life and why?

Rose: I suppose if you’re going by your definition of a bully, my momma was the biggest one. But she’s dead now so I only have to deal with her ghost. Not her real ghost mind you, I don’t believe in those. More like sometimes out of no where, I’ll hear her voice in the back of my head tellin’ me how stupid or lazy or insolent I am. Even though I’m changing, sometimes I’m still that little girl who tried so hard to please her momma.

LK: {{{{Hugs}}}} Sometimes it’s not easy to break away from old patterns. I understand you stood up for yourself against your mother, shortly prior to her murder, which led to you being under suspicion for her murder. And that your stand was over pie. What caused pie to be the thing that caused you to snap?

Rose: I’d just seen a vision of my murder. You have to understand, I’m nobody. I go to work. I go to church. I occasionally go to my sister’s house and I go home, so even though the people of Henryetta find me annoying, no one really have no reason to murder me. But seeing myself dead on a Momma’s sofa shook me up. And I started thinkin’ about how I hadn’t even lived any of my life yet. Just wasted twenty-four years under Momma’s rules. And I suppose I had a whole bunch of anger stored up and once I let myself at it, it just spewed right out. So when Momma told me I had to make her two apple pies for the Memorial Day picnic at the Henryetta Southern Baptist Church and I couldn’t leave until I made ’em. Well, it was like one order too many. And I just lost it. I told Momma she could get her own d**** pies out of the oven and I left. And the entire neighborhood heard me. I admit, it looked pretty suspicious. The first time I ever told my momma off, in public no less, Momma winds up murdered.

LK: How did you feel when you took your stand?

Rose: I was so proud of myself! But I felt kind of bad, not because I did it but because I didn’t feel contrite, only smug pride, which as Momma would be quick to point out, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

LK: Well, I think you’re somebody pretty special, and sometimes a little pride can be a good thing. Do you think standing up against a bully allowed you to change your life?

Rose: Oh yes, for one thing, if I hadn’t left the house and delayed coming home so long, I would have been murdered. And I wouldn’t have been a suspect for her murder. But I also wouldn’t have created my wish list, the twenty-eight things I wanted to do before I died or got arrested. And I would have been held back by my fear and been too scared to do the things I wrote down. With every number I checked off, I got more and more confident until, by the end, I hardly recognized myself anymore.

LK: What changes have you experienced since?

Rose: The old Rose was too scared to talk to people, so I make myself do it now. I’m better at it, but old habits are hard to unlearn. I’m less self-conscious of how I look and I care more about my hair and my clothes. And I’m happier. I have a boyfriend now, my wonderful next door neighbor Joe. But I’m most happy that Joe didn’t have anything to do with my changing. I changed me and took him along for the ride.

LK: Joe sounds like a wonderful guy. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Rose. Is there anything else you want to share?

Rose: When we’re kids, we’re raised to believe that our parents are always right. And while nobody’s perfect, parents usually are. But sometimes when they say mean, hurtful and degrading things they aren’t. And sometimes they have underlying reasons for behaving the way they do. It doesn’t make it right, but it help to know it’s not really you they’re striking out at.

Thanks to Rose for stopping by and to Denise for arranging this interview. Make sure you stop by Denise’s blog to learn more about Rose and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

Posted: July 27th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Intolerance Factor

My post When 0.27 Percent Isn’t That Small made it into the internet newspaper Beyond Bullies for July 11, 2011 and one of the other articles caught my eye: Teaching Children Tolerance on Reality Check by Dr. Michele Borba.

I’m not going to rehash the entire article, but will recommend you hop on over to Dr. Borba’s blog and read it for yourself because it makes several good points. But I’m going to share what about the article struck me the most. The article starts with a Reality Check statement which says that most hate crimes are committed by youth younger than nineteen. That statement caught my attention, but what really captured me was that the key reason for the escalation we are seeing in bullying is due to intolerance.

Dr. Borba has worked with hundreds of student focus groups across the country and after confirming that bullying is a big problem, Dr. Borba asked the students who the bullies choose as their victims. The number one word she hears in response is Different.

The “different” terms kids list for children more likely to be bullied are endless: Too fat. Too thin. A speech problem. Band kids. Too shy or quiet. A different race. In the special ed class. Gifted or too smart. Cries easily. A loner. Gay. Too pretty. Too poor. Dresses funny. Too artsy. Just moved. Teacher’s pet.” In short, any kid who doesn’t fit in or blend in…any child who looks or acts a little bit out of the norm. Bullies too often target a victim based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, beliefs, gender, appearance, behavior or sexual orientation.

Whatever happened to celebrating each person’s unique qualities? Social psychologist Gordon Allport explored the roots of intolerance in The Nature of Prejudice. His findings support the idea that children are born with the capacity for both tolerance and intolerance. Which trait becomes the dominant one depends on their upbringing.

Babies do not know the difference between girls and boys, but they tend to prize the unique and different. A baby explores their world with every sense available and if they have an object, say a toy, they look at it, touch it, smell it, taste it, and they try to make noise with it. Once they have explored all it has to offer, they may become bored with the toy and toss it away (or that could be a game to make you pick it up which is a delightful use of their time for hours on end). When they are done with that toy, they want something new to become acquainted with. What captures and holds their attention for a longer period of time is something different, something unique and unfamiliar. They may approach with caution, but ultimately will explore the new object, unless hurtful in some way, as they did the previous one.

Two and three year-olds have to be taught the difference between boys and girls. I will always remember my sister’s excitement when the little boy down the street finally called her a her instead of he or him. Children always question what they see, especially when it is different, and based on the response of the adult, they learn an attitude as well as the answer to their question. For example: If a child sees someone in a wheelchair and it is an unusual sight, then they might ask why that person doesn’t walk like the rest of us. If your response is to tell the child to hush because you’re afraid someone may take offense, then child learns that people in wheelchairs make you nervous and wheelchair-bound person becomes someone potentially to be feared. They are different and not in a good way. We need to realize the question was asked because the child is trying to make sense of something new (or a new realization) and answering the question in a direct, simple fashion is always best.

If such a simple thing gives off vibrations of intolerance, whether it be with intent or not, what are your reactions to seeing something “different” and what does that say about your tolerance?

Posted: July 11th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When 0.27 Percent Isn’t That Small

Wow! I knew that bullying was prevalent in the United States, and I had my suspicions that it was not isolated to the United States, but I found an article today which caused my eyebrows to rise. In August 2010, the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group (in the UK) commissioned a national survey to determine how many children are not in school due to bullying. Most of our efforts are given to compiling statistics on kids who are bullied in school. But what about those who are not there?

The results were an astonishing ~ 0.27 percent of kids aged 11 – 15 are not in school due to severe bullying. While such a small percentage doesn’t seem like much, let’s take a look at some numbers. The Red Balloon Learner Centre Group estimates approximately 16,000 children out of 6 million of school children aged 11 – 15 are either long-term absent or being home schooled because of severe bullying. This is not the number of children overall who have been bullied, but those who have left school because the bullying was too severe!!

How do those numbers equate for the United States? Well, I was unable to find a similar study conducted in the United States, but taking the UK statistics and applying them to the greater population numbers in the United States, the ~ 0.27 percent equates to 955,000 plus students who are staying out of school due to bullying. 0.27 percent doesn’t seem so small anymore, does it?

When close to one million students have left school because of oppressive and unrelenting bullying, it is time to take action. The question? What do we do about the situation? How do we combat it?

Posted: July 10th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , ,

Bullying: A Real World Experience

Bullying has been around for as long as I can remember… and long before that. It has seemingly been on the rise in recent years, but it may be that our tolerance for bullies is waning, or we are better defining what bullying is. So, what is bullying? Dan Olweus gives us a commonly accepted definition for bullying in his book, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do:

A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to talk with a mother and daughter on the topic of bullying and to bring you a real world example of how one girl successfully dealt with a bully. Thank you Gabbie (almost 12) and Brooke (Gabbie’s mom) for your willingness to share your experience, not only with me, but with the world.

  1. Gabbie, I understand you had an experience where you were bullied by one of the boys at school. Tell me how it happened.

    • He threw a whiteboard eraser at my head and told me and all of my friends that i was stupid and no one liked me. He would come up to me in carpool and tell me that people were asking about me and I would go over and ask what they wanted he would laugh and they would laugh at me for coming up to them. he was always bothering me in band class, taking my things, erasing my work on the white board that the teacher asked me to write.

  2. Brooke, how did you feel when Gabbie told you about the bullying?

    • Gabbie was very vocal about what was happening with this boy at school. She shared with me in carpool one day that she was being bothered, explained the circumstances and I made a phone call to the school before exiting the parking lot, I wanted them to be aware of a possible issue so they could begin a monitoring process. At first I was a bit consumed with anger but it was quickly replaced with getting Gabbie through this situation in a positive way. I felt like I could inform the school and teach Gabbie strategies to deal with her situation without feeling fear or shame.

  3. Gabbie, when you reported it to the school, how did they respond? Did they take care of the situation immediately or did you have to convince them that there was a problem?

    • I had to convince them there was a problem, they wanted to keep an eye on him. They only watched him for three days and then called his parents to make them aware of it. They were very nice to me and listened to what I said.

  4. Brooke, what is your opinion of how the school handled the situation?

    • In the beginning when they met with Gabbie early the next morning, the school admin decided that “teasing” was in fact the label for what was going on. Gabbie did not feel as though “teasing” was the appropriate stereotype and listed why she felt that way, which included a brief quote from the Wake County School Boards Policies and Procedures book, listing examples of bullying. Wound up being a learning experience for the school, my husband and I and Gabbie. In the end, I felt as though we worked together as a team with not one person or role taking part more than another.

  5. Gabbie, how do you feel about how your parents handled things when you told them about the bully?

    • My mom and dad took care of it but let me talk to the school people. They called the school and listened to me, they helped me figure out what I wanted to say.

  6. Brooke, how do you feel about how Gabbie dealt with the bully?

    • Exceptionally well. I recognize what an awful situation this could of risen into and am so proud along with my husband and the school of how she handled it and even more important, herself.

  7. Brooke, any words of advice for other parents out there on how to protect your kids, but at the same time allow them work it out?

    • Education begins at home, not just the academics but social interactions as well. Teach your children to be kind and give them a voice, without holding their hand to respect themselves and others, to approach challenges with the attitude that there IS a solution, to always talk to their parents, guardians and other important figures in their schools to help guide them through questionable situations. Someone will always be there to listen and support them.

Thank you both so much for sharing your experience with me. And if anyone else would like to share an experience with me, please contact me at lkgardner-griffie [ at] griffieworld (dot ) com or leave a comment below. And for those interested in good sites on dealing with bullies, please check out the links on the Resources page.

Posted: June 30th, 2011 under Bullying - No Comments. Tags: , , , , , , ,