Monthly Archives: January 2017

The bully myth

(Editor’s Note:  This opinion piece, written by bullying/cyberbullying prevention pioneer Nancy Willard, is important reading for anybody interested in identifying, addressing, and preventing bullying and cyberbullying in schools.  Nancy has long been known to speak  truth to power, regardless of the consequences.  As a result, she is sometimes vilified for her candor, as many of the comments appended to her article demonstrate.  But she is totally correct in observing that bullying prevention programs have proven largely ineffective, not necessarily because their methodology is flawed, but because implementation is impeded by lack of resources and lack of public and political support.  The focus is on “fixing” the kids when it’s the adults who are broken. — Mike Tully

P.S.  Full disclosure:   Nancy Willard is a close friend and valued colleague for many years.)

Prevention programs based on major misconceptions

Last November, the top administrators of Lane County’s three largest school districts made public statements related to bullying. In part, they stated: “Regardless of the uncertainty associated with the election, schools still are safe places.”

In December, 2016, the Oregon Department of Education issued a statement that read in part: “It is especially important now for all students, families and other members of the greater community to know and be reassured that our schools remain safe and respectful places of learning for all students.”

Unfortunately, data on bullying in Oregon and Lane County show that these statements are not accurate.

On the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teen survey, conducted by the Oregon Public Health Division, students are asked about their experiences being bullied in the last 30 days. Bullying is defined for them as someone being repeatedly hurtful. In Oregon, 29.9 percent of eighth-graders report being bullied. This rate appears to be significantly higher than on two national surveys.

In Lane County, the student-reported rate of being bullied in eighth grade was much higher — 34.2 percent of reported someone was repeatedly hurtful to them at school in the last month!

In a recent well-publicized incident, two Creswell High School administrators texted messages disparaging former students. There are three concerns associated with this incident: First, that they would do such a thing. Second, that both students left Creswell schools because of concerns related to bullying — indicating a lack of attention to the concerns at the school.

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Family of 13-year-old boy who hanged himself sues his private Brooklyn Catholic school for ignoring ‘months of relentless bullying from classmates and teachers’

The family of a 13-year-old boy who took his own life after months of bullying is now suing the Brooklyn Catholic school they said did nothing to save him.
Daniel Fitzpatrick committed suicide at his Staten Island home on August 11, 2016, after writing a heartbreaking letter, suggesting he was relentlessly tormented by his classmates and teachers.

His family have been outspoken about their pain since losing their son, and on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the Holy Angels Catholic Academy.

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Boy, 9, afraid to go to school due to bullying (Canada)

In a heartbreaking video posted online Thursday morning, a nine-year-old boy is seen holding up cue cards, each one detailing how bullying has made him afraid to go back to school.

In that video, Zach (CityNews is not publishing his last name, and has blurred his face) claims he’s been called names and pushed around. After he complained, he said, his teachers told him to “man up” and “grow up.”

Zach said he decided to make his story public, partly, he said, to protect kids just like him.

“I just wanted to get it out there and I didn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Zach said.

Zach and his family, who are from Mississauga, moved to a community north of the city this past September. In less than four months, his mother Alexandra says she had to take drastic action and remove all of her children from the school, after faculty failed to address Zach’s bullying.

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Creswell school administrators sent texts mocking students (OR)

Creswell High School Principal Andy Bracco and Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Jordan Osborn are being scrutinized by community members after text messages in which they made fun of several students were made public last week.

One text poked fun at one former student’s weight. Another insinuated that a former student was snorting cocaine.

Rachel Stauffer, 17, a student at Pleasant Hill High School, was the target of the administrators’ text message regarding her weight. In the text, Bracco wrote to Osborn, “Looking fit and healthy I’m sure,” to which Osborn texted, “She’s 5’2 and 257 pounds.”

The text message conversation happened during a Jan. 13 Creswell varsity boys’ basketball game at Pleasant Hill High School, where Stauffer was cheering with the ­Pleasant Hill varsity cheerleading team.

A person in the stands at the game took a ­photograph over Osborn’s shoulder of the texts on Osborn’s phone.

District Superintendent Todd Hamilton confirmed that copies of the text obtained by The Register-Guard were between Osborn, 31, and Bracco, 45. Hamilton also confirmed the comments were referring to Stauffer.

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Democrats unveil legislative proposals, including anti-workplace bullying effort (KS)

Democrats unveiled a slew of proposals on Wednesday, offering a legislative agenda to counter Gov. Sam Brownback and Republicans.

The bills range from restoring teacher due process, allowing cities to use prevailing wage and reducing workplace bullying at state agencies. Several of the proposals have been around, but Democrats hope the new, more cooperative Legislature will boost the chance of passage.

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Bullying instances up in Englewood schools

ENGLEWOOD — Incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying were up between September and January in the K-12 school district, which the superintendent attributes to social media.

The district saw 42 reports of HIB both in the school buildings and on social media, with 25 founded or determined to be instances of HIB, Superintendent Robert Kravitz said in a report to the Board of Education Thursday. Of the others, 15 were considered unfounded, one was inconclusive, and one was founded, but without an offender because the incident was anonymous on social media.

The reports can be filed by a parent, student or teacher, he said.

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Sister of teen who died by suicide calls on Edmonton Catholic schools to tackle bullying

The sister of a 14-year-old boy who killed himself earlier this month made an emotional address to the Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) at its first public board hearing of the year on Tuesday.

Chloe Dizon presented the ECSD with a petition with more than 4,000 signatures, calling on the school board to address bullying at the school her brother Ethan attended, St. Thomas More Catholic Junior High School. She said another student at the school also died by suicide in the fall, a claim the ECSD later confirmed with Global News.

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High School Students Stand Up for Truth in Play with Lesbian Character

(Thanks to Warren Blumenfeld)

Administrators at Buchanan High school in Clovis, California cancelled a play, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1944, No Exit, because, according to the play’s director, Senior Jared Serpa, one of the characters is a lesbian.

According to Serpa, though the administration claimed in the press it had closed down the play because of its language and violence, the administration told him it made its decision since:

“One of the biggest complaints [parents] had was that one of the characters was a lesbian. And how the administrator told me was that if a parent takes their child to see the show, and the child’s like ‘Is that woman trying to kiss that woman?’ what is the parent going to say? That puts the parent in a sticky situation. No. That just shows how cowardice the parent is for not talking to their child about reality.”

Jacob Serpa and his student cast had been in rehearsal for approximately two months, but after only one performance, administrators forced the cancellation of its remaining run over parental complaints. In a self-produced on-line video, Jacob provided wise council to parents:

“Talk to your children about reality. Don’t put them into this bubble and darkness…because you couldn’t find the courage to talk to your own children to the fact that people are different.”

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Did Donald Trump or the 2016 election cause more bullying in schools?

(Editor’s Note:  While there clearly seems to be a “Trump effect,” the data is not clear on whether it has increased bullying in schools.  The more salient question may be whether it has affected the behavior of bullies without such an increase.  Since the President is a major role model — possibly the ultimate role model — in this country, his behavior may reinforce bullying behavior and tendencies and make it more difficult to correct.  The most effective anti-bullying strategy is to address school (and workplace) culture to ensure that bullying behavior is not the norm.  If Trump’s bullying — and he does bully people — suggests that bullying is a norm, then the effort against bullying in schools and workplaces will be set back, regardless of the numbers.  – Mike Tully)

Can ugly campaign rhetoric and electoral bullying trickle down to students, leading to more bullying in schools? What about in North Carolina?

That’s what Politico tried to discover with data mined from a handful of school systems across the country. Did students mimic Donald Trump’s aggressive attacks against his rivals with name calling, bullying and other questionable behavior in their classrooms?

Anecdotal reports of such behavior have been called the “Trump effect” by teacher unions, advocacy groups and opponents of the president-elect.

Politico requested bullying and harassment reports from more than a dozen school systems, including the largest in the country and some in battleground states such as North Carolina where negative campaigning probably was at its height.

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Bullies target physical appearance, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation – UN reports

17 January 2017 – Nearly a quarter of a billion children and young people world-wide are bullied each year, according to a report released today by the United Nations educational and cultural agency, which found that bullies like to pick on children because of their looks, have ethnic or cultural differences, or due to gender or sexual orientation.

“School violence and bullying is a grave violation of the right to education,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the agency that oversaw the report and co-organized an international symposium on the subject now underway in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The report found that all children and adolescents are at risk of school violence and bullying, but bullies target vulnerable factors, such as poverty or social status associated with ethnicity, linguistic or cultural differences, migration or displacement. Children who were disabled or looked different, such as being overweight or underweight, were also a prime target for bullying.

Young people whose sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not conform to traditional gender norms are also at increased risk of school violence and bullying, the UN agency reported.

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