Friday, October 19, 2012

Teens Against Bullying and Friday's Story

It is always an inspiration to me to see students step up and take on a cause. This month is National Bullying Prevention Month. I have been using information and ideas from a website called Pacer's.

On the Pacer site is a link for teens and children on how they can also prevent bullying in their schools. Click here for the resource link.

A Parent's Perspective on Bullying:

A Parent Advocates Perspective

Posted: 10/16/2012
"Do you believe everything happens for a reason?" she asked. I looked at her long hair strewn over my pillow. My pulse quickened a little, sensing the pain behind the question.
"Are you asking whether all this school bullying will come to some good?" I clarified.
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Well, I believe a lot of things happen because of people's choices--yours, and theirs. But OUR decisions and our responses to those choices are what make up the outcomes. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I think so."
For a couple years, the bedtime snuggle tradition I share with my older daughter has often been heartbreaking. It's when I hear of the exclusion, insults, clothing critiques, daily lewd gestures, fat thigh lists, shoving, being hit in the privates with a paper, whisper campaigns and more she's experienced at school. A few social leaders started treating her poorly, and it has eventually spread to even her closest friends being unwilling to be her friend in public. The few who occasionally stood up to her had to deal with the wrath of the bullies. One of her last allies switched sides only last week. She's heartbreakingly generous in her assessment of some of these former friends: "They're just trying to survive fifth grade too." She has had sleep problems, hour-long crying jags, uncharacteristically defiant behavior at thome, lack of motivation, refusal to get dressed in the morning, and more.
We are working with her teacher and a wonderful therapist to encourage assertiveness. She's scared to death to engage with her classmates assertively, for fear of escalation. But I'm convinced that until she demonstrates a certain willingness to defend or counterattack, very little will change. Sometimes, when she wants to say something in defense of herself, she finds herself panicked and mute.
She calls her depressive episodes "being stuck." So far, they have lasted only days or weeks. But she and I have both been terrified at times that they will become more serious. Rule-abiding girls don't often lash out, but rather in: In my darker moments, I know that she is at risk for self-injurious behaviors, eating disorders, addictions, and more. My husband and I try to provide lots of affection and encouragement when we are with her. But will it be enough to counteract the 30-plus hours in a hostile peer environment?
I have written enough emails to the school to fill a small book. We have had two meetings with staff. The emails fell largely on deaf ears to one teacher; another has responded in very helpful ways. We have a couple strong advocates in the building now. One student's family has had to come to school to address his behavior, and since, he can't stop talking about how stupid the anti-bullying efforts are. His mom does the same thing in the hall, in front of my daughter, although she did not voice objections at the official school meeting on the topic.
Why is my daugher in particular a victim? It's hard to say. Because bullies need victims.  She's more sensitive to others' feelings as well as her own than most people. She's less willing to follow the crowd than others, in her dress and behavior. She's better read than almost anyone her age. She's stood up for other kids being bullied. She's had to wear orthotics to school at one point. She has vivid, striking hair. She's smart, and although she doesn't brag as some boys do, she doesn't try to hide it as many of the girls do, either.
She is only 10. And she has seen far more of the dark side of people's social behavior than many adults. She's doing her best, and we're doing our best to advocate for her. We participated in a PACER Center anti-bullying walk, and she enjoyed seeing hundreds of people who understand we're not just imagining this horrible experience--just trying to deal with it the best she can. Does everything happen for a reason? I don't think it's all so grandiose and predetermined. I still think a couple brave bystanders could turn this around any week now.

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