I support Spirit Day – It Gets Better: Google Employees

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Probably my favorite of the It Gets Better videos because rather than celebrities, these are everyday people working at a very cool company, talking about their very real history & how they made it through to find a better life.

Also – in honor of Spirit Day:

Purple from head to toe!

Purple sweater and necklace to go with socks, earrings & headband.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Bullying stats – do not keep your head in the sand.

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As I mentioned last weekend, I spent this week supporting my friend Ooph as she addressed the topic of bullying on her Whatever Nation site. She gathered some remarkable stories from across the blogosphere of parents of kids being bullied, a parent OF a bully, and adults who lived through bullying. Every story opened my eyes to a new perspective in one way or another. Click on that Don’t be a Butthead button and scroll through the postings. Read the comments too because in one particular post it was a couple of commenters who stunned me more for their lack of awareness than anything. And the last one posted? Well she related her tale of how bullying left an indelible mark on her psyche – and then the bully herself left a comment! The following is what I put together for the series with my own commentary added on some very sobering statistics on bullying.

Whenever we come across hard topics in life, it often helps to look at things in black and white. For me, that means numbers. There is a comfort in knowing that 1+1=2. ALWAYS. No gray, no nuance, no opinions, just facts. As the mom of a teenager, it seems like every topic is hard. As Ooph put it so well, it’s like a million water balloons are being dropped down on you constantly and you spend all your energy just trying to stay dry. Bullying is one of those water balloons.

My family has been lucky. I was not ever a victim of it despite being the odd girl in almost every childhood social situation. My older son got a taste of it in middle school from a kid named Massimo and to this day (at 25), he won’t buy clothes at Target because of it. He was saved by the tormentor going to a different high school (phew!) My 14 year old got a taste in 6th grade and was also saved by the school split as he and his bully went off to different middle schools. Ironically they then came back together as freshmen in high school, but also as football teammates and suddenly they are on even footing and have not only come to a truce but even willfully hung out together at the varsity game last week. Like I said – lucky!

Still, both my boys would have had to answer “yes” if they were asked in a survey if they had been bullied. As the statistics show, they encountered it during those prime years of grades 6-10. Again, they got lucky – their bullies were removed from them thanks to district boundaries and school choice programs.

But is it all really that bad, or is it the case where the media has been focusing on it more and more so it just *seems* to be? I wish the numbers showed a rosier picture, but they do not. The following are from Groundspark.org and were from surveys gathered within the last 10 years:

  • 64% of youth are teased at least once a month and nearly 1/3 of youth are bullied at least once a month
  • 6 out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day.
  • For children in grades 6-10, nearly 1 in 6 – or 3.2 million are victims of bullying each year and 3.7 million are bullies.

Did you notice that last stat? There are more bullies than victims! That supports the stories you hear of one child being harassed by multiple bullies.

More on the reasons for bullying:

  • In one school year, ¼ of students across grades reported that they had been harassed or bullied on school property because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
  • Nearly 1/3 of middle schoolers have been the object of sexual jokes, comments or gestures. Another 15% have been harassed because of religion or race.
  • For every LGBT student who reported being harassed, 4 straight students said they were harassed for being perceived as gay or lesbian.

I’ll come back to LGBT issues. As we’ve learned with the stories recently in the news, they have sadly become targeted even more.

We know about the ultimate consequence to the victims – suicide – but what else?

  • An estimated 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students
  • 1 out of every 10 students who drops out does so because of repeated bullying
  • Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer physical problems such as common colds and soughs, sore throats, poor appetite and night waking.
  • The effects of bullying can be long lasting. By age 23, children who were bullied in middle school were more depressed and had lower self-esteem than their peers who had not been bullied.
  • Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75% of school shooting incidents, including the fatal shootings at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado and Santana High School in Santee, California.

What about cyber bullying? This is a relatively new phenomenon that has cropped up even since my oldest was in school. From the website Isafe.org are the following sobering stats:

  • 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening email messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 said it happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% of kids have not told their parents or an adult about the mean or hurtful things that happened to them online

Look at those last 3 in particular. More than half have been bullied or did the bullying online. More than half keep completely quiet about it.

Now on to the final topic – LGBT kids and bullying. We know that the 9 cases of suicide that were reported in the last three weeks were all related to being bullied of sexual orientation or perceived orientation. That is a topic for a whole post/rant of it’s own from me which would get very heated. Sadly, the statistics support my anger at the closed minded amongst us. This last group of statistics is from The Trevor Project. An invaluable website that is THE place to go for helping LGBT youth navigate these often treacherous waters.

  • 9 out 10 (86.2%) of LGBT students experienced harassment at school.
  • 3/5ths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.
  • 1/3 (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
  • 90% of LGBT students have been harassed or assaulted this past year.

How mind numbingly outrageous are those stats? Words fail me as I try to comprehend the nightmare it must be for these children. My normally reliable numbers have failed me completely. There is no reassurance here. No lovely black & white logic to make sense of this issue. I need to take a deep breath and see those stark numbers for what they are: proof that parents have got to keep their ever loving heads out of the sand and talk talk talk talk talk to their kids. Do not for a moment think bullying has not touched them. Specifically, do not for a moment live under the assumption that your child has is not capable of being a bully themselves. Take it seriously if there are complaints filed about him or her. Do not sweep it under the rug to save face. Because while you are saving your own reputation, another child’s life could be lost forever.

It gets better project.

This is NOT “kids being kids!”

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The recent news about the arrest of 9 teenagers for bullying has created a much needed (probably way too late) discussion of bullying. I saw a segment on Anderson Cooper’s show Monday night which highlighted not only this tragic incident which resulted in the suicide of the 15 year old victim, but he also put up the photos of 3 other recent (within the last year) suicides that were the results of incessant bullying.

I know I am probably way too uneducated on the topic, but I’ve always related suicide to some sort of chronic mental illness. Depression that just wont lift, not seeking help, ceasing taking medication etc etc.

It struck me though, reading this post from someone I’ve known on DailyKos for a long time that this woman does not fit that description at all. And yet she admits that had her parents not pulled her out of school, she was ready to take that ultimate step to end her anguish. It seems to me that these kids, had they not been bullied, would be alive. Does that make the bullies indirect murderers? I am sure it is hard for the parents of the victims not to think that way. Yet I think it’s not that simple as Dr Phil pointed out on the CNN program, at that age with their brains still not fully developed not only are kids not thinking those 2-3 steps ahead on how their actions might put *themselves* in danger as teenagers, they also are not in any way anticipating just how much psychic pain they are inflicting on the kids they pick on. On the flip side when you hear about some of the things they do these days in the way of cyber-bullying it is hard to believe they could NOT imagine how painful some of their actions would be. Some of them think of it as harmless joking around – assuming that the result will be laughter or maybe embarrassment.

Sportsboy just had a taste of that with a wrestling buddy who *did* take a picture of him that he didn’t want and posted it on facebook and then tagged SB. SB immediately removed the tag and asked the friend to remove the photo which was done, but not for a couple of days. Thankfully he told me about it and I told him I would gladly get it removed but it was cleared up between them. Still – another whole way of picking on kids that we adults have to police!

However, in the case of the arrested kids, their actions were not mere bullying. This is not ‘kids being kids’. In just about any other scenario this would be assault or stalking or harassment. What if it was a man treating his girlfriend like this? A boss-worker situation? A co-worker situation? Heck, just about any scenario involving adults? These are felony charges right? Yes, I realize that domestic abuse often gets swept under the rug like this too, but I also know that witnesses to domestic abuse are much more likely to report the situation these days than decades ago. Yet bullying is still largely excused and ignored!

I hope that the arrest of these kids continues to spark the discussion. I hope it sets some kind of example to schools/parents/kids on how bullying is NOT ok. That there are too many times when the kids do NOT laugh it off or just work it out between themselves.

I’m rambling and I’m sorry about that but perhaps because my child is at this age this story really has made me quite angry. I’m curious how my friends/readers who are teachers/administrators think this should be handled.