Many of you have sent me links to a recent article in the New York Times about bullying, At Last, Facing down Bullies (and their Enablers).
This is a great article that shines light on the power of changing the culture of a school by activating the bystanders who witness bullying. As some of you know, that is exactly what our program The Courage to Stand has been doing in 4th and 5th grade classrooms for the past 9 years to great success.
In our program young people learn how to be “Courageous Bystanders” who stand up to bullies who are harming peers. We use interactive theatre to show young people examples of times in history when people were targeted because of being different, including the Civil Rights Era and The Holocaust. We then apply what we learn from examining those real-life situations to current bullying incidents. By helping the students to see how hate effects people, we help them to build empathy and a desire to be an ally to their peers and to make bullying unacceptable.
We get hundreds of notes from young people each year telling us about the power of the messages we teach. Teachers and Principals tell us that after experiencing our program, their students change. Bullying incidents go down and students begin to see the power of being inclusive and caring towards all of their classmates.
Excerpts from the article:
“Dr. Robert Sege, chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and a lead author of the new policy statement, says the Olweus approach focuses attention on the largest group of children, the bystanders. “Olweus’s genius,” he said, “is that he manages to turn the school situation around so the other kids realize that the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior, and the victim is someone they can protect.”
The other lead author, Dr. Joseph Wright, senior vice president at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington and the chairman of the pediatrics academy’s committee on violence prevention, notes that a quarter of all children report that they have been involved in bullying, either as bullies or as victims. Protecting children from intentional injury is a central task of pediatricians, he said, and “bullying prevention is a subset of that activity.”
By definition, bullying involves repetition; a child is repeatedly the target of taunts or physical attacks — or, in the case of so-called indirect bullying (more common among girls), rumors and social exclusion. For a successful anti-bullying program, the school needs to survey the children and find out the details — where it happens, when it happens.
Structural changes can address those vulnerable places — the out-of-sight corner of the playground, the entrance hallway at dismissal time.
Then, Dr. Sege said, “activating the bystanders” means changing the culture of the school; through class discussions, parent meetings and consistent responses to every incident, the school must put out the message that bullying will not be tolerated.”
We can stop bullying in our schools. Bullying is not “just part of growing up.” It is a cultural problem that is deeply effecting the emotional well-being of everyone involved–the bullies, the bullied and the bystanders. This is a problem that occurs in every corner of Austin no matter what the socio-economic make up is.
Through educating young people that bullying is not acceptable and that it truly effects people and hurts them is imperative. We need to build empathy within young people so they understand that their hateful words and actions lead to real pain that can be long-lasting and destructive. While we might not want to admit it, incidents of school violence and suicide amongst young people are often the direct result of bullying amongst young people. We need to let young people know that they can be a part of the solution and that they have the power to make the problem better!
If you want to take a stand against bullying in our schools, please make a donation or help the spread the word about our program so we can bring our highly successful and powerful multi-day show to even more 4th and 5th graders all over Austin. If you want to see this program take place in your child’s school, call us.