Amanda Todd & Vanessa Disbrowe prove “rules” or “laws” will not stop bullying.

There is an old saying — talk is cheap. Just ask Vanessa Disbrowe (see video at this link).

The reason bullying is in the news is because we are hearing of horrible cases like the tragic death of Amanda Todd. Amanda’s story is heartbreaking. Worse yet, even after her death, the bullying (and now fraud) apparently continues. How truly pathetic the lives of those who are doing this! On that aspect of the story, Dr. Dawg has an excellent post providing some reasons why some individuals bully. (See also updates 1 and 2 at the end of this post.)

The reality is, however, as Michael Den Tandt wrote in yesterday’s Calgary Herald, until there is the will to do something about it, nothing is going to change.

So, what did we do when we were children?

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How will anti-bullying legislation help?

Click for Rachel’s Challenge.Org

There are some in the mainstream media who are hailing Ontario’s Bill 13, The Accepting Schools Act, as a step in the right direction regarding bullying, such as this CBC story and this Globe and Mail column.  In fact, there is apparently similar legislation being enacted all over the developed world.

My question to all those who are hailing such legislation is:  Exactly how can such legislation actually stop bullying?

I mean, how would an anti-bullying law actually help a teacher or school principal deal with a youth who is alleged to have bullied someone? Specifically? Or, perhaps even more importantly, how would such a law get kids to intervene when they see a bullying incident in progress?

Well, actually, it seems to me, that such a law, won’t help anyone or change anything. For example, there is a quote from the CBC link:

The Toronto District School Board, the largest in Canada, says it will spend the summer developing board-wide guidelines in time for the act’s implementation in the fall. But it says that it will be up to its nearly 600 schools to decide how they specifically adopt and address these strategies.” (My highlighting.)

I will repeat what I highlighted: “…it will be up to nearly 600 [TDSB] schools to decide…” In other words, after all is said and done, no matter how well-intentioned Bill 13 may have been, nothing concrete is going to change in the TDSB or, in fact, in any other Ontario school board.  

So perhaps, if the politicians or school board administrators can’t actually do anything specific to stop bullying, maybe they should look to what techniques or strategies have actually worked. As it turns out, every successful approach have all involved young people themselves!!!

First, there was the “Wear a Pink Shirt Day” phenomenon which got started when high school students David Shepherd and Tarvis Price observed a new student being mercilessly bullied for wearing a pink shirt.  Disgusted, they went to a dollar store and bought fifty pink T-shirts — which they passed around to 48 of their friends.  Then, all fifty showed up at school the next day wearing a pink shirt — essentially shaming the bullies by supporting the victim — and the Pink Shirt campaign took off from there.

Or, what about exposing kids of all ages to Rachel Scott’s Challenge, who wrote just before her death at Columbine:

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Rachel’s Challenge is apparently a very powerful approach that encourages students to feel good about themselves, as well as to be able to look for the best in everyone. Specifically, it is teaches kids why and how to stop and intervene when a bullying incident is taking place.

Meaning, that to stop bullying, actions speaks louder than words. 

So, how can anti-bullying laws, that are nothing more than static words put into place by politicians who want their communities to think they are actually doing something, be a step in the right direction? In other words, how can anti-bullying legislation actually bring concrete results and changed behaviour?

For more information on Wear A Pink Shirt Day, which will be on February 27, 2013 and Rachel’s Challenge, see the anti-bullying page on my Header Bar.

Forsyth N.C. implements “Rachel’s Challenge” anti-bullying

School districts in the United States are implementing a very powerful anti-bullying program called “Rachel’s Challenge” — a tribute to Rachel Scott, the first student shot in the Columbine disaster. Some schools in Forsyth, North Carolina, for example, have taken on this challenge. As Fox news is reporting:

“The program, which left students speechless and emotional Wednesday at Glenn High School, mixes Rachel’s words and personal photos with words written by Ann Frank and Martin Luther King. The basic message is simple: be kind and look for the best in people. The challenge, however, is to start chain reactions of kindness with others.”

While some students will dismiss this type of program as too emotional or for sissies, it is a very positive way to get individuals to look at a whole person — be it the bullies or the victims. Questions that could stimulate debate might be:

  • Why is someone bullying other students they see as weak?
  • What is behind their bullying?
  • Is their bullying a reaction to something going on in their own lives?
  • Are bullies insecure or do they have a mental illness or undiagnosed disability?

In other words, why do some young people find it necessary to belittle and hurt others? Whatever is the case, as a society, we have to get to the bottom of those reasons because far too many victims of bullying are dying to escape its clutches (e.g., Ottawa’s Jamie Hubley).

Yes, there have always been bullies and there always will be to some extent.  Now, however, there is social media and the permanence of things written and posted on the Internet. Rachel’s challenge is, therefore, applicable to all of us and which in many ways expands on “random acts of kindness” principles.

Marywood Palm Valley School “anti-bullying” campaign Oct. 17-21

I always like to find positive anti-bullying news. Marywood Palm Valley School is a private school in California that is starting a preventative anti-bullying campaign today which will run through until Friday (October 17-21, 2011).  As reported by Editor Jessica E. Davis in Palm Desert Patch, there are eight steps in the Marywood program.

  1. “Be an example of respectful, courteous language and behavior to your classmates and schoolmates
  2. Encourage others around you to use courteous language and behavior.  Speak up for respectful behavior at all times.
  3. Walk with awareness and confidence; be assertive and move away from people who might cause trouble.
  4. Avoid situations where you may be drawn into conflict or trouble.  This is called “target denial” where YOU choose to move away from potentially trouble-causing situations or groups.
  5. If you feel any degree of threat from another student, set a boundary and say, “STOP,” in a polite, but firm voice.  Your confidence can quickly diffuse a potentially aggressive act by another.
  6. Name-calling and put-downs are forms of bullying.  Do not engage in these actions as a form of retaliation. This makes the problem bigger, not better.  Walk away and report the name-calling to an adult who can help you deal with the circumstances.
  7. Be persistent in getting help from the adults at school.  Report any situation where you do not feel safe and need support or intervention.  Your teachers, administrators, and school staff are here to provide a safe, healthy environment in which you can learn and grow socially and emotionally, as well as intellectually.
  8. Remember that the best defense is a good offense.  Be confident, assertive, and respectful at all times.  You are the one who determines how others will treat you.”

Daniel Sebben another victim of bullying

Michele Mandel writes in today’s Sunday Sun about another student, Daniel Sebben, who has been bullied for years. Now eighteen and a student in the York Region District School Board, he is finishing high school in a program which has him working four days a week outside of the classroom.

But, like Lindsay Hyde, who attends a high school in the Peel Board of Education (my archive is here), apart from keeping him out of the school as much as possible, the York Region board was unable to do anything to protect him from his harassers — even when their abuse was witnessed by teachers.  Meaning, that once again, it is the victim who has to make all the accommodations — including, in Daniel’s case, paying for private counselling sessions.

It boggles the mind. We hear so much about zero tolerance policies and anti-bullying programs. Yet, apart from the “wear pink” approach — which was initiated by students on behalf of other students — it seems the authorities can do nothing because, they say, their “hands are tied.”

Yet, in Ontario, with the “zero tolerance policy” essentially replaced last year by Bill 212 (Progressive Discipline and School Safety Act),  some changes are beginning to occur — although still focusing more on the perpetrators than on the victims. Bill 212, for example, was “designed to promote a more progressive and constructive approach to student discipline.”

However, some changes are happening. Specifically, in the Toronto District School Board, the additional funding has allowed them to increase the number of Alternative Safe School Programs from 18 to 33 for “suspended, expelled and other at-risk secondary and elementary students.”

But, what about the victims? As Daniel says: “There’s something in place for the aggressor but absolutely nothing for us. Why do we have to put out the money  [for counselling] to get help?”

Good question. Maybe all this publicity will bring about some positive change because, if all the school boards do is accommodate bullies, what is society going to be like when those same bullies are unrestrained? It is as though the authorities don’t seem to see that there might just be a connection between bullying in elementary and secondary school (with few consequences) and later domestic and societal violence.

Sept. 11th is “Wear Pink” anti-bullying day

September 11th is not just a remembrance of what happened in the U.S. in 2001. While it is certainly that, it is also “Anti-bullying Pink Day” thanks to two young men — David Shepherd and Travis Price and their fellow students — at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia.

Here is their own story, which is an amazing story, and here is their own website called “Force in Pink.”

Already given a citation by the Canadian Red Cross, I would like to offer my congratulations to Shepherd and Price for starting it all and to all those students then and now who wear pink in support of this anti-bullying campaign.