Help prevent bullying

This week, the Milford Junior High experienced a nasty case of bullying.  I’m glad to say that thanks to some students who stepped up to make administrators aware of the situation, the administrative team quickly became involved to help the student and friends through it.  This situation involved not only incidents at school, but also cyberbullying – the bully created a fake Facebook page and was posting horrible things about the other student.  While administrators are working to get the situation under control, the “hidden identify” of the person makes this even more difficult – I pray nothing more than nasty thoughts are exchanged between the students before this is finished.

Friends of the bullied student are getting involved to defend that person, but as is so often the case, their attempts to help quickly degenerated into another form of bullying.  These are kids – they don’t know how to handle situations like these.  For that matter, it’s hard for most adults to know how to respond and to do so properly.  As the situation unfolded, you could observe the “group think” that was taking over, where those trying to defend the student were becoming more agitated, feeding off each other, and responding inappropriately.

Please, PLEASE talk with your children about bullying.  Help them understand what bullying is, and appropriate ways to react when they experience or observe it.  And please, keep track of your children’s Facebook pages and other electronic communications!  We want to believe our kids will never be involved in something like this, that we don’t need to “watch” them – but we do.  For most people, their children will never be involved – but sometimes things get out of hand and your child may be one of the “defenders” who gets carried away and doesn’t realize how s/he is responding.  Your children may not tell you about it, thinking they can “handle it” on their own, or not wanting to be labeled by others.  As parents, we must make the effort to keep tabs on what’s happening.

And even though it’s unlikely to be your children who are involved, you may observe something happening that school administrators need to know about.  If we as parents can be on top of what’s happening, we’ll be more likely to prevent serious incidents from occurring.

I’m thankful to say our administrators are willing to listen and react quickly in situations like these, but they need to know what’s happening!  As mentioned earlier, in this case, students stepped up to let them know.  This article about a Ramsey, NJ school is an unfortunate example of what can happen if school leaders do NOT listen – and a child’s life is changed forever.  And of course we know about the many situations where bullying has ended in outcomes much more distressing than this one.

In addition to administrators stepping in whenever needed, the Milford school district works hard to teach students what bullying is and how to respond.  One way is through the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program  (for which we receive a grant), which is proven to help reduce bullying.  But unfortunately, even with education and adult diligence, it can still happen.  And now with cyberbullying via cell phones, Facebook and other interactive options becoming more prevalent, making sure our children understand what is and isn’t appropriate, and what to do if any type of bullying happens to them, is more important than ever.

Summer is a great time to re-connect with our children.  Please spend some talking to your children about bullying.  Explain to them what you expect and how to react if they are the unfortunate victims of any type of bullying.  Encourage them to report what they see, and explain it’s not “tattling,” but could save a person’s life.  For older kids, share the Ramsey article – as a child especially, who would think that a punch could put someone in a wheelchair for life?  Our kids need to know this is a possibility, that real life does not always involve shaking it off and being a super-human like in the movies.  Try reading some of these books recommended by PBS with your children to educate them on the issue and keep anti-bullying messages top of mind.

We all need to work together to help stop bullying.  We need to work with our own children, and step up when we see something happening with other children.  Please, let’s make a commitment to support each other and keep Milford as safe as possible.

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4 Responses to “Help prevent bullying”

  1. Mary Gallagher Says:

    Thank you for including this story. My son is one of the students who was involved in defending the victim of the bully. I can tell you that not only was this a tragedy for the victim, it has impacted my son immensely. He has been distressed about what was happening to his friend and very worried about his friend’s safety. Oftentimes students think adults won’t “do anything” so I am thankful that the administration stepped in and got involved.

  2. andreabrady Says:

    Mary, kudos to your son for getting involved. Too many times other students won’t, for any number of reasons. I was told the number of friends who came to the victim’s defense really impacted that student and helped the situation immensely.

    Our students HAVE TO SHARE when they hear/see things like this happening, especially online! That’s the only absolute way adults can know what’s going on. It helps to “creep” on your child’s page, but even then, you can miss what’s happening with others. Scary stuff.

    I’m sorry your son is so distressed, but I can understand why he is. Lots of victims here. Hopefully it’s been stopped with no more consequences than what we’ve had already.

  3. Brenda Ely Says:

    I was one of several who reported this case of bullying. My daughter showed me the Facebook posts Wednesday night and I called the school Thursday morning. I know these kinds of things will happen among teens, but I am so shocked and disappointed at how the students reacted.

    I read pages and pages of posts from the bully, from the victim and from the many friends of the victim who tried to help. I was amazed that only once in that pile of posts was there a suggestion that someone should go to the principal – and when that suggestion appeared it was quickly dismissed.

    I know many of the children who were following these posts. They are smart kids with good judgement and maturity. They have strong support systems at home and good relationships with adults who can help. According to my child, she has been following this saga since January. I assume the others were as well. These kids have all had education and training on what to do in this situation, yet in reading their posts, they seem powerless to take action.

    What happened here and what does this mean in the bigger picture? Even though our kids can recite the correct course of action (Mine did within about 3 seconds of when I asked her) when the stakes are high, they cannot follow the path they have been shown. Some of the suggested resolutions were:

    Call police in 7 days if person did not reveal her true identity
    Walk into school and beat some………
    Punch her in the face (after figuring out her identity)
    Just ignore it – it is happening because the victim is “allowing” it

    No one mentioned reporting these posts to Facebook security, which has been beefed up in recent months and only requires the click of an icon right next to the messages. No one mentioned that she should talk to her parents. No one suggested going to a teacher or other trusted adult.

    How can we get through to our kids that bullying is a serious behavior with serious consequences and that there are specific things they can and should do to make it stop. Only a few years ago they were threatening “I’m gonna tell my Mom” at any problem. What happened?

    Does the district have plans to follow up with the students on what went wrong here? There is nothing like a real life example to highlight mistakes and help kids learn what to do the next time. The training they have already received has obviously failed them.

  4. andreabrady Says:

    Brenda, thanks for the info – I apparently do not have the whole story, as my understanding was this started just a few days ago, kids reported it within a day or so, and adminsitrators got involved quickly. I had no idea it was going on that long!

    It was disturbing to me how the kids were falling into “group think” about doing the same types of things to the bully as the bully was suggesting for the victim. Once again, though, I thought it was a fast flare-up of emotion – not the culmination of months of abuse. That is one of the problems with things like Facebook and kids – it’s so easy for them to feed off each other, get caught up, and not realize that they are reacting in inappropriate ways.

    I’ll check into this further. I appreciate the heads-up.

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