Whitney Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High School in Michigan, was recently voted in as part of the homecoming dance court. For many teen-aged girls, this is an exciting way to start the new school year. For Whitney though, her election on the court was part of a cruel prank a la many a teen movie. This prank is only one example of the bullying Whitney has encountered; she's been ridiculed both in school and online as well. As a result, once-silent bystanders, both local and afar, have come to her side in a show of support.
As a yoga practitioner for 10 years I was delighted to read this post about yoga as a prevention tool against student violence. Rob Schware interviewed Dee Marie, who founded, Calming Kids (CK): Creating a Non-Violent World. CK has run pilot groups to prove that yoga indeed can help young people! A tenant of yoga that I learned early on in my practice was compassion - compassion for myself, for my fellow yogis in class and for my fellow man. Compassion - at least for me in yoga - comes in the form of understanding that if I cannot get into a certain position (asana) that's ok, this is where I am today. A lack of compassion can look like forcing yourself into a pretzel-like position to only hurt yourself, or looking at another yogi critically in class wondering, "Why can she do it but I can't!" I've found that without compassion in life or in yoga, the ability to accept where you are and who you are in this moment is difficult. So how does this help our kids and bullying?
The New York Times and our own PsychCentral.com site reported earlier this week that young people who are autistic are far more likely to be bullied than other children. Why is that? Autism falls under the category of pervasive developmental disorders, a group of disorders that manifest in delays or a lack of development of social and communication skills. We don't know why these disorders occur. The symptoms of the disorder are the exact reasons that make young people with autism vulnerable.
The weeks following Labor Day bring the start of a new school year. For some students, there is a palpable excitement to return back to school, to see friends and swap summer vacation stories and meeting new teachers. For others though, the there is a fearful hope that maybe this year is the year things will be different. Since bullying is in the forefront of public consciousness, let's work to make our schools safe for all students, teachers and staff; as we've seen over the summer adults can be bullied too. What can we do to help everyone in our school communities start off on the right foot? Here are some tips for students, parents, teachers and staff: For Students: There is a saying plastered all over the New York City subway system, if you see something, say something. The same is true about bullying in schools! If you see a fellow student being targeted, ask if he/she is ok afterward, encourage the target to talk to an adult, or step in stand up for the target (I know much easier said than done!) If you can let the targeted student they are not alone, it'll help them feel less scared and perhaps will be able to feel empowered to advocate for himself/herself.
Gabby Douglas won my heart -- and I'm sure others -- during the Olympic Games this summer. Her ever positive attitude and clear dedication to the sport is evident with her team gold medal and All-Around gold medal. She quite admirable. Yet, she was bullied by other gymnasts. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Gabby and her mother shared how she wanted to quit the sport if she couldn't change coaches or gyms. The sentiments expressed suggest that Gabby felt bullied because she was different. "I felt being bullied...isolated from the group and...just...they treated me...not how they would treat their other teammates." Racial and ethnic diversity is lacking in many US Olympic sports teams and it is quite unfortunate that it is so. I would go further to suggest that the combination of her racial differences and her exceptional talent made her an unfortunate target.
Huffington Post blogger Kergan Edwards-Stout posted an interview with Azaan Kamau, editor of the new anthology,"Letters To My Bully." Mr. Edwards-Stout wrote the preface to the anthology as well as a letter to his own bully. He was the target of cruel bullying for years after coming out as a gay teen. After reading Mr. Edwards-Stouts letter, I sat teary-eyed at my desk. Empathy. It was powerful, poetic with a twinge of sadness and regret. His voice, as well as the thousands who are/have been targeted, need to be heard. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Community has rallied to let their younger members know, it gets better.
You may have already heard about 14-year-old Nadia Ilse, who got plastic surgery after years of torment for having "elephant ears." Kids are cruel! Yet, as I read several different articles/blogs about Nadia, I wondered if the surgery circumvented an important process to unfold which could have lead to a "bully free" environment for in that community. Dr. Vivian Diller eloquently stated her concerns, which I share, in the ABC News interview: "When you surgically alter the victim of a bully, isn't it questionable that message we are sending is that the burden lies on the victim and not on a culture that is fueling some bullying trend that we know is going on." Nadia received the surgery pro bono from the Little Baby Face Foundation. Dr. Thomas Romo III, who is the foundation's President and performed the surgery, stated that Nadia was not picked because she was a victim of bullying but rather because her deformity fit the Organization's criteria.
Hello All! While away, I received an email from Megan Landry. She is a 15-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter who wrote the song, "Stronger." In her email she said: I wrote this because of a personal experience. I did the video myself too. I was not going to let them break me. Reality: if it shows that it bothers you, they'll just do it more. I hope this will help those that are starting to feel torn down — to rise up! Don't let anyone make you a victim. They aren't worth it. I hope my song will give other kids the power "to look right over their heads." Because in the end bullying is really about power. Why give anyone that satisfaction over you! I didn't, and I won't and I hope more and more kids don't either.
Hello All! "Beating the Bully" will be taking a summer vacation and will be back blogging on August 13th! Until then I'll have some of the most read posts up for your enjoyment. We all know bullying is unhealthy for one's emotional well-being, but a new study from Sweden shares its findings on how bullying from adolescence can affect one's physical health into middle age. Researchers have discovered that teenagers who are ostracized at school are more likely to be at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes when they enter middle age. They are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as being at greater risk of developing diabetes by their early 40s. Furthermore, the study found that girls were much more susceptible to the health risks associated with bullying.
Hello All! "Beating the Bully" will be taking a summer vacation and will be back blogging on August 13th! Until then I'll have some of the most read posts up for your enjoyment. "It's in my job description as your mother to keep you safe," is how one mother in a group of parents I've been working with explains why she does what she does. The question that plagues parents is: is my child safe when they aren't with me?* When a parent finds out that their child has been victimized by bullying, a myriad of emotions and questions arise: Why is this happening to my child? Has this happened more than once? If it has why didn't they tell me sooner? Why hasn't anyone at school done anything? What do I do? There have been two stories in the news recently: one parent wiring his son to catch his teachers bullying him and another providing her son a stun gun to protect himself from bullies. Both sets of parents took what some would call extreme measures to protect their children. But how extreme are those measures?