By Vincent Lyles
President/ CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milw.
Jodi (name changed) didn’t know why the other students in her music appreciation class decided to start a fight with her that day.
The sixth grader was never one to start fights, always helpful to others and got along well with her peers.
One student, Ron, would tease Jodi about everything from her hair to her clothes to even how she talked. His words didn’t bother her.
However, that day in class his attack went from verbal to physical.
When the teacher left the classroom, Ron and his friends decided to isolate Jodi. Each one punched or hit her.
She fought back furiously. Then it was just her and Ron fighting.
None of the other students intervened to help Jodi. Fortunately, the teacher returned and immediately broke up the fight. The school administrators spoke with Jodi, Ron and the other students involved.
They also spoke with their parents. Ron and his friends were suspended. With help from her parents, teachers and some friends, Jodi felt safe again at school.
This story was shared with me by a Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee employee. Her experience is part of the reason why she’s committed to making members at her Clubhouse feel safe.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. According to the National Education Association (NEA), bullying occurs one every seven minutes in the United States.
The NEA also states that 1 in 3 students report of being bullied each week. Bullying happens to children and teens. It used to be bullying would only occur at school, in the neighborhood and other activities or places where youths gather.
Today, text messages and social media posts extend the taunts and harassment. Sadly, bullying and cyberbullying have pushed children and teens to suicide.
When it comes to bullying, it’s important to teach our children what it is, what to do if it happens to them, know how to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help. As adults, it’s also important for us to know how to talk about bullying, help stop it and show support.
Bullying is methodically and persistently inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on someone. Bullying can be physical, verbal or through social media and text messaging. In kid terms, bullying is being mean to another child again and again. For a child or teen, bullying can consist of:
• Talking about hurting him or her.
• Spreading rumors and gossip.
• Purposely excluding him or her.
• Attacking him or her hitting or yelling.
• Posting rumors on social media sites like Facebook.
• Posting embarrassing pictures or videos on social media.
• Creating fake profiles or websites about the person.
The youth or youths who are doing the bullying tend to do it because:
• They think they’re better than the person their bullying.
• Believe being a bully will help them fit in with peers.
• They are copying their friends’ behavior.
• They come from a family that’s often loud and angry and believes their behavior is a normal way to act.
If you know a child who is being bullied, listen to him or her to learn what’s happening and show you sincerely want to help. You also need to let the child know he or she is not at fault for the bullying. Give him or her advice about how to respond and what to do if the bullying happens again.
You can also help to prevent bullying by working with your child’s school, team or other organizations to have open communication and create a plan to address bullying.
Many times, like in Jodi’s case, students see bullying and may not know what to do. Some may join in or encourage the bully.
Others remain silent so they won’t become the bully’s next target.
If your student sees bullying, encourage him or her to tell an adult, stick up for the person being bullied, and it’s okay tell the bully to stop. It’s crucial for bystanders to know they’re accountable for bullying too.
For the bully, his or her behavior can change. If the negative behavior continues, he or she will have just a few friends left – those who act the same way.
Bullies can change if they learn positive behaviors such as how to treat others with respect.
Adults in their lives can have a major role in this shift by modeling what respectful behaviors look like.
Most of all, for the child being bullied, adults must listen and be open, help the child create responses and plans – including working with other adults, and be consistent in their support.
One of Boys & Girls Clubs’ community partners, the Vistelar Group, has valuable information for parents and anyone else who works with youth at its Manage Bullying website at www.managebullying.com.
Until my next column, keep up-to-date about Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through www.facebook.com/bgcmilwaukee, on Twitter at bgcmilwaukee or at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.