Today's blog post has its roots in a movement online to bring awareness to the problem of bullying. I found out about this movement from author K.C. Neal on her blog. Have you been bullied? Have you been a bully? What impact does bullying have on people? Well, I'm not an expert but I can give anecdotal evidence . . .
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Yes, I was picked on for not perfectly fitting the mold at school growing up. I have always tended to gravitate towards the outliers, not the popular cliques. Between my 7th and 8th year of school, I endured a painful summer of growing pangs and ended up on the taller end of the student body. I don't know if my increased height or slight increase in emotional maturity gave me confidence to stand up for myself and my friends. Whatever the reason, the girls who used to pick on my friends and I stopped once I got in a few faces.
There are stories all over about heroes like Casey Heynes, the Australian boy who took several punches from a bully then snapped and fought back and Jonah who posted an emotional video to his friends about his fears for the next school year. As a society, the majority of people empathise with people who are bullied and are rightly horrified with the whole concept. But if you go to Youtube and read the comments beneath the videos talking about standing up to bullies, you see that bullies are everywhere.
In addition to many videos, there are several great books about bullying. One of my recent favorites is A Horse Called Trouble by C.K. Volnek.
From Amazon.com: Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Tara Cummings has been passed from foster home to foster home; not wanted anywhere by anyone. At thirteen she’s skeptic and suspicious, with no family, and no friends. Horse therapy “will teach trust, perseverance, respect, and the value of teamwork,” or so says the program’s instructor. Tara is unconvinced. Trust only broke her heart, perseverance meant more failures, and no one respects or wants to team up with the misfit foster kid. At the farm, Tara meets Trouble, an angry and defiant horse, bent on destroying everything and everyone around him. Tara is frightened of the enraged horse, until she realizes Trouble is as misunderstood and untrusting as she is. Pushing aside her fear, a special bond is formed, much to the surprise of everyone at the farm. Trouble trusts Tara, and Tara in turn finds hope and acceptance as well as the will to love and trust again herself. But, Tara’s confidence is shaken as an even greater challenge looms ahead. Trouble’s mean and manipulative owner is the one and only Alissa, Tara’s nemesis. Can Tara overcome her own limitations and fight to save the horse who freed her heart and gave her life value and meaning? Or will Alissa destroy them both?
From me: The story is gut wrenching. I could relate to Tara's plight that the bullying always happened when no adults were around to see. Part of the root of bullying in schools is too many kids and not enough adults who are willing to step in and guide the children through conflict situations. Then you have stories where the adults are too busy covering their self interests to protect children.
I am in a group who are fighting Nebraska's over-reaching truancy law. I read a gut wrenching story this morning of a mom who is facing court charges for trying to protect her child from a physically abusive situation. From Nebraska Family Forum:
For Victoria Herrera, she believed her trust was well placed in Millard Public Schools, a district with an unmatched reputation for excellence. She had no idea just how poorly misplaced her trust was until the passage of Nebraska’s invasive truancy law in 2010, that has been used by as an excuse for schools to crack down hard on what they deem to be “trouble parents”. The past year has been an unimaginable nightmare for her young daughter and her family as they fell victim to Nebraska’s heavy-handed approach to “improving school attendance”.
For her daughter, it started with bullying in 1st grade, bullying her mother did not understand the full breadth of until her daughter reached 3rd grade. 3rd grade was the year she began allowing her daughter to walk home from school on her own, but she never imagined that her daughter would be assaulted by several kids who had persistently tormented her for years. With only 24 days left in the 2009/2010 school year her daughter was beaten by several kids with sticks on her way home from school.
As if the beating her daughter got wasn't injury enough the reaction of Millard school administrators and Douglas county police was unforgiveable. Victoria talked to the Neihardt Elementary school principal where her daughter was enrolled about the bulling and the serious assault specifically and the school took no action against the students who were responsible, sighting the excuse that the school is not responsible for what happens to a student on their path home from school. Even after contacting the Superintendent of Millard Schools, Dr. Keith Lutz, there was no effort to resolve the issue at the school level and no effort to contact the parents of the kids responsible. With only 24 days left of the school year, and school authorities unwilling to address her daughter’s safety, Victoria pulled her daughter from school with the intention of home schooling for the remainder of the year.
The summer passed without incident and with the hiring of a new principal, Victoria was willing to try to work it out with her school and hoped that her daughter’s 4th grade year would be better. Victoria requested that her daughter be placed in a class without any of the children who had bullied her, but the school placed her in class with one of the primary culprits and the bullying continued. To make matters worse she was told that she was being referred to the county attorney for “truancy”.
Victoria said the authorities at her school were “so sweet to her in person” they reassured her that the truancy filing was a mere formality and nothing was likely to come of it. What she experienced next could not have been further from that. She was sickened by the way she was treated at Douglas County Court. Victoria said, “I didn’t even get to talk!! I wasn’t allowed to tell my story.” The officials she met with berated her and made it very clear that if your child misses 20 days of school or more you’re just a bad mom! Because of the way she was treated she decided to get a lawyer.
On the day of her first court hearing her daughter was assaulted by a boy at school. The boy yelled at her during lunch, “If you don’t shut up I’m going to hit you.” When she ignored his threat he hit her with students and teachers as witnesses. The principal handled the incident by telling her daughter to smack him, saying “show me how he hit you”! The principal held her daughter in the office for three hours until her daughter “admitted” it was an accident. The school district never reported the incidents to the police and when Victoria called the police they told her to her face they would not make a report.
It's hard to feel safe sending your child to school when administrators turn hostile to protect themselves instead of protecting your child's physical safety.
Another book that I haven't read but I know the author from the group Book Junkies on Facebook, is The Snake Pit by Donna L. Dillon.
Donna posted a while ago that she received an email from a girl who said that she was picking on a girl because of how the other girl looked but then read The Snake Pit and was going to stop immediately. Bravo Donna!
It's always hard to be the new girl at school, but for Cinda, it's a nightmare. Born with a facial deformity, Cinda endures the taunts and teases of other students without complaint, until one girl takes bullying too far...way too far.
Anything that teaches others to stop bullying is worth its weight (and more) in gold. This book is on my to-buy list.
Bullying is real. It affects a child's ability to learn and blossom into a well rounded person. Join the movement and stop bullying now.