Until the bullying stops

May 9, 2013 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years | with 0 Comments

Bullying is an ongoing challenge for school districts in New York and around the country. Character education, bullying awareness programs, help lines and more have been set up as districts work to combat this difficult problem and enforce the Dignity for All Students Act.

In the continued fight, we love to hear stories about people such as Mohonasen High School teacher Faith Perry, who is taking a stand against bullying in an unusual way. YNN recently aired a piece on Perry’s efforts.

“Last year, there was a young man in here who couldn’t afford to buy a lot of clothes, so he would wear the same things often, and one day, he was called a scumbag for wearing the same clothes two days in a row,” Perry, an alternative ed and ESL teacher, told YNN. “And then I said, ‘Well, I’ll wear this outfit for two weeks!'”

Perry wore the outfit for two weeks – and she continued to wear the same outfit for the remaining four months until the end of the school year. She then decided to wear what she calls an “outfit against bullying” for the 2012-13 school year as well.

“As a society, we judge people, whether it’s what we wear, our race, our sexual orientation, any of those things, and there’s no reason to be bullied for those things,” Perry told YNN.

Perry’s initiative has caught on, and several other teachers are following suit by wearing the same clothes every day this week. Perry says she is committed to wearing one outfit each year for the rest of her career – or until bullying stops.

Bullying has received a great deal of attention in this age of social media and smartphones. Instant messaging and picture sharing have taken bullying to a whole new level. Statistics indicate that one in seven children is bullied. Moreover, 160,000 students miss school each day due to fear of being bullied.

Research suggests bullying can lead to poor academic performance, depression and anxiety, and, even death. In February, the most comprehensive study to date on the long-term effects of bullying was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study assessed 1,420 bullies and victims over several years in western North Carolina.

According to study results, victims were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder in adulthood. Bullies who had also been bullied were 14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder than those who hadn’t been bullied, and bullies who hadn’t been bullied were 4.1 times more likely to have anti-social personality disorder.

“The effects of being bullied are direct … and long-lasting, with the worst effects for those who are both victims and bullies,” said researchers.

It’s not a problem that will go away overnight. We’ve got to take the “village” approach to bullying, and we, as parents, are part of that village. Character education, bullying awareness and open communication all begin at home. It’s not a one-time conversation. It’s an ongoing dialogue about bullying and the negative impact it can have on both individuals and school communities.

How can we start that dialogue?

We should ask our kids every day about what is going on during the school day – and we need to be specific. Instead of asking “How was your day?” we can ask, “Who did you have lunch with?” or “Are you working on any group projects?” Their answers may reveal additional details and stories about their social life and bullying.

We should teach our children empathy, conflict resolution, how to establish clear limits. We need children to be empowered to make a stand against bullying. And we need to be examples, role models of non-bullying behavior.

We applaud Perry’s efforts, and think it’s an important story to share with all of our children – a story of an adult who is giving voice to their plight; someone who is coming alongside victims to encourage them and help them feel less isolated when they are being bullied.

It’s one small – but meaningful – step toward combating bullying.

GETTING STARTED

How to talk about bullying: stopbullying.gov

How to talk with educators at your child’s school about bullying: Tips for Parents of Bullied Children

Signs your child is being bullied: StompOutBullying.org

What if your child is the bully: pacer.org

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