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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Episode 48 (Epilogue): Bullying

Before we began tonight's Conversation, we spoke with Laura Irmis of the Tampa Birth Network, local coordinator for the National Rally for Change, taking place on Labor Day in over 100 cities around the country. Visit Improving Birth to find a rally near you, and gather on Monday from 10am to noon to be part of a full scale Birth Revolution.

We started the evening's Conversation about bullying with this powerful trailer from the film Bully, part of The Bully Project. We introduced the topic by citing statistics from this article, namely that: Bullying can take many forms:

  • Physical: hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack, or damage or theft of someone else’s belongings
  • Verbal: name calling, insulting, making racist, sexist or homophobic jokes, remarks or teasing, using sexually suggestive or abusive language, offensive remarks
  • Indirect: spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours, sending abusive mail, and email and text messages (cyberbullying)
  • Cyberbullying: Bullying through text message, picture/video clip, phone call bullying, email, chat room, instant messaging or websites/social networking (e.g. MySpace, YouTube and Facebook)
How Big Is the Problem? According to studies from 2010:
  • It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association.
  • American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims, says Dan Olweus of the National School Safety Center.
  • 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
  • 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
  • 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
  • 90 percent of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying.
  • According to bullying statistics, 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.
  • Among students, homicide perpetrators were more than twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied by peers.
  • Bullying statistics say revenge is the strongest motivation for school shootings.
  • 87 percent of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to get back at those who have hurt them.
  • 54 percent of students said witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.
  • Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.
(CNN) The Department of Education held its third annual federal Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. The goal of the event was to spread awareness of and brainstorm initiatives to combat bullying, an ongoing issue facing many students. In recent months, President Obama has endorsed two anti-bullying bills in Congress, the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act—both efforts to protect students and end bullying in schools. states that 49 of the 50 U.S.states have anti-bullying legislation in place. Florida's law, the "Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act", has been hailed as the best anti-bullying law written to date. 

Sarasota County Schools offers a website dedicated to pupil support services, and at the top it provides resources for violence prevention and highlights cyberbullying issues. Its website provides direct contact information including email addresses of school personnel who can assist with bullying issues and reporting.

We welcomed our first guest, Jen Hancock, to tell us about The Bully Vaccine. Jen says that the key to vaccinating yourself against becoming the victim of a bully is to not give the bully the response he or she is looking for. And that ANY threat of violence, or of course actual violence, MUST be reported--every single time. She also pointed out that we need to stop labeling bullying in an amorphous way, as it has become an almost meaningless term--and start calling out specific behaviors. On her website, Jen offers her book as well as a toolkit for children and parents. Consider signing the pledge to donate one copy of The Bully Vaccine to your local school or library.

We then spoke with Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Tim Enos. Tim urged parents to monitor their children's internet usage. If a child is being cyber-bullied, he recommends that everything be logged, saved and printed. He warned against sites like Chat Roulette, Tumblr, IMGFave and Facebook, and reminded us that with smartphones and gaming devices equipped with internet services, it is all too easy for this method of stalking to continue. He tells parents to simply be educated. He offers parent and teacher education through the Sarasota County School Board at (941) 927-4190.

Finally, we welcomed Sue Westcott and Maggie Davenport of ALSO Youth. ALSO Youth strives to end all forms of violence, harassment and discrimination based on real or percieved sexual orientation or gender identity. ALSO Youth is spearheading Stand Up Sarasota, a week of events September 4-7, to encourage our community to Stand Up against bullying and discrimination. On Thursday, September 6, from 5-8pm, you are encouraged to attend the Stand Up Sarasota Symposium: Standing up to keep your kids safe, supported and healthy. This a free event held at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 3975 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, 34232. Dinner will be provided. FREE copies of The Bully Vaccine will also be available. Space is limited so please RSVP by calling (941) 951-2576.

For a complete listing of events please visit ALSO Youth. National resources for kids and parents:

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