Posts Tagged ‘school’

Parents Give School an “F” in Bully Policy

Friday, April 18th, 2014

School administrators in Lincoln, Nebraska are scrambling to do damage control after students were sent home with a list of instructions on how deal with bullying. And they should be, because whoever is responsible for authoring and dispensing this list to children is, at best, dangerously ignorant of what bullying is. At worst, they are fostering an atmosphere of violence and fear which can have lasting, harmful effects.

We have learned much about bullying in the past several years. It has been recognized, not as a rite of passage that children need to go through to “toughen up,” or as normal “kids will be kids” behavior to be tolerated… but as a deviant, defiant, criminal activity. ‘Think that sounds a bit dramatic? Think again: bullies are predators in training. When they engage in this activity, they follow a criminal mindset–seeking out targets, zeroing in on them, and moving in for the kill. If allowed to continue unchecked, their actions typically escalate in severity and number of victims. By the time school bullies reach adulthood, many have graduated into full-fledged criminal activity.

There are over 2 million bullies right now in our schools. Nearly 3 million students are threatened or injured with guns, knives, or other weapons, physically assaulted, verbally abused, and/or have personal property stolen, damaged, or destroyed by bullies.

Schools and community organizations are still struggling to find the best ways to handle bullying. But thankfully, it is now understood that aiding and supporting the victims is of equal, if not greater, importance. So, you can imagine the outrage of so many parents of 5th graders at Zeman Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, when their children brought home a flier stating that, if they are targeted by such predators-in-training, they should, among other things,

  1. not verbally defend themselves (“The bully is our friend. We defend ourselves against enemies.”)
  2. not to feel fear, even if the bully is verbally harassing or physically threatening or assaulting them (“Fear is something we feel toward enemies, not buddies.”)
  3. not to physically defend themselves (“We attack enemies, not friends.”)
  4. show they are physically wounded, but not angry because (“We want the bully to feel sorry for us and apologize. If we’re angry, he won’t feel sorry for us and apologize.”)
  5. not to “tell” on the bully (“Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?”)

As a radKIDS Instructor, a teacher, an adult, and a human being, this entire list of “guidelines” makes me angry. All this talk about “friends” and “enemies” is ridiculous. Telling a child how they should feel is wrong. Comparing a child’s reporting an incident of bullying to “tattling” is wrong. And taking away their right to defend themselves from harm is gutting.

Whoever compiled this list of nonsense clearly has no understanding of bullying. Fortunately, parents of Zeman Elementary’s 5th graders are on top of the issue, and have called BS on the flier and its directives. Now the school itself needs to step forward and right the wrongs.

Punish Bullies AND Their Enablers

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Nine teenagers have been charged in the death of a 15-year-old girl in Massachusetts. What are their crimes? Formally stated, they include assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, stalking, disturbing a school assembly, and delinquency. In plainer words… bullying.

These students of South Hadley High School took it upon themselves to continuously and enthusiastically torment their classmate, Phoebe Prince, over a period of months. The constant barrage of verbal, physical, and cyber-bullying destroyed Prince bit by bit. Desperate for an end to their incessant cruelty, she escaped the only way she could. Her little sister found her body hanging in the stairwell of their home.

Bullying is about power, about gaining and maintaining dominance over someone through the use of terror tactics. It’s vicious, undeserved, and inexcusable. And in Northampton, Mass., that power struggle is beginning to be set right.

Bullying tears at the heart, the spirit, piece by piece. If left unstopped, it can lead to the annihilation of the one targeted. And in this case, even that wasn’t enough to stop the bullying. On the day they learned of Phoebe’s death, how did her tormentors react? They left sarcastic comments on her Facebook page.

And what about the teachers and staff of that school? The District Attorney in the case says that, during the investigation, it became horribly clear that many adults working in the school were aware of the pain and humiliation dished out daily to Phoebe by her classmates. And they did nothing to stop it.

This, to me, is an even worse crime than those committed by the students. There is no excuse for standing by and allowing an innocent child to be hurt. None. Surely, this school has safety procedures in place, precautions taken so that a stranger cannot barge in during the day, wielding an axe and threatening harm to their students. It is, after all, their job not just to teach, but to provide a safe environment in which all the students can learn. Why any of them would stand around and watch a group of bullies engage in such vile and destructive behavior, and choose to do nothing to stop it, discipline the perpetrators, or at least, protect the victim, is beyond me!

Those teachers and staff members who knew, but did nothing? They have her blood on their hands.

What If There’s a Gun?

Monday, February 1st, 2010

When we were growing up, our parents taught us that talking to strangers was a surefire way to get kidnapped… that bullies were just “kids being kids” and you should toughen up… and that saying “No” to an adult was disrespectful and not to be done. Times have changed, and the ways we protect our children have changed, too. At radKIDS, we know that not all strangers are bad people, and sometimes kids may need to go to a stranger for help. So, we teach them how to find and approach good strangers; how to handle bullies rather than suffer years of pain; and that, sometimes, they may have to say “No” to an adult to protect themselves.

Another thing we need to teach our kids today that wasn’t much of an issue when we were growing up is what to do if there’s a gun. Maybe a classmate reveals one in their backpack at school. Or a friend pulls one out of Dad’s drawer during a playdate. Gun ownership in the United States is at an all-time high, with more than 250 million privately-owned firearms in over 40% of American homes. That means there’s at least one gun in almost half the houses in your neighborhood. So, if you don’t have one in your house, it’s a good bet that one of the neighbors on either side of you does.

I’ve watched studies of kids’ behavior, of what they do upon discovering what they thought was a real weapon. These were average-to-bright kids, elementary-school aged. They came from strong, loving families in which their parents tried to instill in them morals and good character. In separate interviews, each child was asked what they would do if they ever found a gun. The responses ranged from, “Tell a grownup” and “Don’t touch it” to “Run away” and “Call 911.” (All are excellent courses of action, I might add.)

Later, the children were grouped together in a playroom. A replica of a handgun had been hidden within the toys and games, so a child could “find” it. Behavior experts were curious as to how the kids would react. Would they run from the weapon? Would they remember their parents warnings not to touch it, and to notify an adult?

“Bang bang! I shot you!”

“Cool! Let me have it!”

“I wanna see it, too!”

“I had it first!”

The first thing these average-to-bright kids did was aim the gun at another child in the room or at their own faces, and pull the trigger. The good intentions of running away and telling an adult were lost in the excitement of handling the “dangerous weapon.”

I see the same behavior in my radKIDS classes when we cover gun safety. We use a bright yellow, rubber model of a handgun. When the activity is finished, often a child will come up to me and politely ask, “Can I just touch that gun for a minute?” I obligingly hand it over and watch as a spell befalls my once-safety-conscious students:

“Bang bang! I shot you!”

“Cool! Let me have it!”

“I wanna see it, too!”

“I had it first!”

Guns are fascinating to kids. The power, the mystique, the danger they represent often outweigh the few warnings we may have given them in the past. But these days, loaded guns are brought to schools, brandished on school buses, and wielded behind parents’ backs in neighbors’ homes. Repetition brings learning. We must keep telling our kids what to do if there’s a gun.

No Bullies Allowed

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Behavior in elementary schools across the nation underscores the point that bullying has become rampant. Humiliation, taunting, and physical abuse can leave lifelong emotional scars that affect the rest of a victim’s life.

radKIDS is about safety and self-defense for children. And bullying is one of the areas we cover–a very important area, if you ask kids in grades 3 and higher. Research agrees: up to 75% of students report being bullied during their school years; over 10,000 stay home from school at least once a month out of fear of bullies. And this fear is not unfounded. A recent report reveals that over 66% of attackers in school shootings were victims of longstanding, severe harassment and bullying.

The old thinking that “kids will be kids,” or that “it’s just part of growing up” is erroneous–not to mention harmful. If a child is bullied, it is important for the protection and/or restoration of their own self-esteem that they stand up for themselves. There are ways to do this that do not put the bullied child in further danger.

The idea of “ignoring the bully and he’ll stop”  is no longer taught. (Thank goodness, because as many can attest to, not only doesn’t it work, but it often makes the situation worse.) Studies have shown that bullies are not kids with low self-esteem who just want attention. They are predators and their behavior must not be allowed to continue.

Defending themselves allows the targets of bullying to know that they have worth, that they don’t deserve to be teased, mocked, or hit, and that the problem is the bully’s behavior, not themselves.

As a parent, you may need to meet with your child’s teacher and/or principal. With so many other children on their radar screen, they may simply not be aware of the problem. Make them aware. And let them know you expect the situation to be resolved immediately. Your child has a right to be safe at school. You have a responsibility to insure that he is.

All in Fun? or Gun! Gun! Gun!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Hey! Wanna see somethin’ cool? Shhh…

What if a schoolmate beckoned your child to a corner of the classroom, smiled conspiratorially, and offered a peek at a prized item inside a Spiderman backpack? What if the prized item was a 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol? Very possibly loaded. And, at that moment, in the hands of a 10-year-old?

Would your child, in a combination of awe, envy, and admiration, gush in hushed tones, “Wow! Where’d you get that!” Would they ask to hold it? Just one time? For a second?

Or would they recognize the danger staring them in the face and run away, yelling to inform all others nearby, “Gun! Gun! Gun!”

I’ve read too many news stories about kids bringing guns to school. The fact that there are parents who care so little about their own children (not to mention other people’s) as to allow them to get their young hands on a deadly weapon–much less bring it to school to show off–disturbs me greatly.

But what I find even more alarming is the stance so many schools take on the issue of guns: a head-in-the-sand, don’t-talk-about-it policy. In these days of “zero tolerance,” schools like to think they’re being proactive by passing such rules as, “No talking about guns in class; no writing stories in which a gun is used; no play-‘shooting’ your friend who’s pretending to be an evil space alien at recess.”

An acquaintance of mine is a first-grade teacher. Rolling her eyes at the futility of her school’s policy, she told me, “We’re not even allowed to put the word ‘gun’ on our spelling lists! We have to make believe it doesn’t exist. How does that help the kids if there’s trouble?”

Good question. What these schools refuse to acknowledge is that none of the above-mentioned rules actually prevents someone from carrying a gun into a school. So, my answer to this extremely serious issue is to prepare kids for the situation, should it occur. Teach them how to use the tools they have to make smart choices, so they can keep themselves safe.

In this case, those tools are their legs, to run away, and their voices to yell, “Gun! Gun! Gun!” to alert trusted adults who can help. Then, give them the permission to do it, and the practice–to know they can.

No Ostriches, Please

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

As a Children’s Safety and Self-Defense Instructor, I was asked to speak at a lunch-n-learn program at one of the most family-friendly business organizations in the United States. I welcomed the chance to speak to an audience of pro-active, forward-thinking parents.

As the date drew close, the meeting planner requested a copy of the materials I would present. I sent a Power Point presentation, discussing the need for kids to be made aware that bad people co-exist in the world with good people, and the importance of teaching them good decision-making skills and strengthening their self-confidence so they will be unappealing targets for predators. These points were corroborated by statistics on drug use, molestation, bullying, and other issues that affect children daily.

The next email I received from the meeting planner informed me that she had no idea the subject matter would be so frightening, and that she and her manager agreed that the entire program would have to be scrapped.

I was surprised and disturbed. Year after year, this organization has been voted one of the most “family-supportive” companies in the United States. I believe that there’s more to supporting parents and their children these days than simply offering a week of summer camp when school’s out, or a few extra sick days during the year. Yet, when it came to kids’ safety, they preferred to put their heads in the sand.

I understand that the topics I mentioned above are not pleasant ones, and might lead to brief reactions of fear, anger, or sadness in some people. But the information I’ve learned as part of the radKIDS organization, the skills I share with my radKIDS students, are so vital and so helpful, I think it’s worth a few minutes’ uneasiness. This knowledge can be life-saving. And, to me, that’s worth anything!