Introducing NIOS Bullying Prevention Resources in Spanish

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INTRODUCING NIOS BULLYING PREVENTION RESOURCES IN SPANISH

Republished from NIOT.org

Not In Our School (NIOS) is excited to publish this three-part series of three blogs about bullying in English and Spanish. In this first blog, we give an overview of bullying and share new NIOS Spanish materials. In the second blog, we share important information and useful resources on bullying from Spanish speaking countries. Finally, in our third series, we share the work of a Mexican anti-bullying activist.

Este blog también está disponible en español.

A student taking part in a NIOS workshop in Nicaragua
According to the 2012 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, Spanish is the most widely understood language in the Western Hemisphere, with significant populations of native Spanish speakers ranging from the southern tip of Patagonia to as far north as Canada. And in the United States, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by 38.3 million people aged five or older, a figure more than double that of 1990. So, it is important to share NIOS films and lesson guides with the Spanish speaking world.

At a recent workshop, a principal shared a horrific story of a little 8-year-old girl who was bullied for being different. In this case, she was different because her family was not poor like the families of her classmates. So, they teased her every day. They threw things at her and pushed her. Although she did not tell anyone about what was happening to her, one day she took her parents’ gun out. Her plan was to take it to school and shoot the classmates who were tormenting her. Her parents discovered it and took the gun away, but her peers found out. That day they pelted her with stones and rocks until she had to be taken to the hospital, beaten and bloody.

This took place in a small rainforest village in the region around Rio San Juan, in Nicaragua. Recently, I had the privilege of giving two NIOS bullying prevention presentations there, one to students and another to educators. Although some of the participating schools were one-room schoolhouses, miles from the next town, both the youth and educators who attended were very familiar with bullying behaviors and were seeking solutions.

The kind of bullying that happened to this 8-year-old girl is not unlike some of the torments that happen to children everywhere. The girl’s peers claimed the reason they did it was that she was “stuck up.” Every day, children explain their cruel behavior with similar comments, like actor Christian Bale, bullied in England as a child because he was an actor; Rihanna from Barbados, bullied for her skin color and breasts; or a fifth grader in a California school where I worked as a principal, who nonchalantly told me he bullied a younger child simply because he had been bullied.

In Russia, like Nicaragua, the English word “bullying” is now being used because there is no fully comparable term. I wondered about other languages. After searching, I found a forum discussion about the word for “bully” in other languages. Different forum contributors indicated that Arabic, German, Hebrew, and French do not have exact translations for a specific word that means bullying. That caused the forum conversation participants to ponder if bullying was an American phenomenon and whether the US is making a word become a reality. The story of the Nicaraguan 8-year-old should put that theory to rest.

NIOS Director Becki Cohn-Vargas leads a workshop in Nicaragua
I believe that forms of bullying and intolerance have been around since the beginning of time. The difference now is that people across the world are recognizing it and doing something about it. With the little Nicaraguan girl, the school has gotten involved to not only help the girl and her family (who did end up changing schools), but also to work with her elementary peers.

Not In Our School is reaching out across the globe to share stories and materials in places like Hungary, Australia, Slovakia, and most recently in South Africa. We believe that this effort brings us together to make a difference and strengthens the work we are all doing. Do you have an international story? Please share it. It brings out the humanity in all of us.

As a way to share our materials with Spanish speaking countries and hispanic populations within the US, Not In Our School is now pleased to be translating our most popular films and lesson plans into Spanish. You can find our growing list of Spanish resources by clicking here.

NIOS thanks Vivianne Hiriart for her generous help doing these excellent translations pro bono.

NIOS PRESENTA SUS NUEVOS MATERIALES EN ESPAÑOL
No en Nuestra Escuela (NIOS) se complace en publicar esta serie de tres partes conformada por tres blogs sobre bullying en inglés y en español. En el primer blog damos una visión general sobre el bullying y compartimos nuevos materiales de NIOS en español. En el segundo blog, compartimos información importante y recursos útiles sobre bullying de países de habla hispana. Finalmente, en nuestra tercera serie, compartimos el trabajo contra el bullying de una activista mexicana.

De acuerdo con la Encuesta de la Comunidad Americana de 2012, llevada a cabo por el departamento de Censos de Estados Unidos, el español es la lengua más ampliamente entendida en el hemisferio occidental. Las comunidades de hispanoparlantes se extienden desde la punta más austral en la Patagonia hasta el extremo norte en Canadá. En los Estados Unidos 38.3 millones de personas mayores de 5 años hablan español como lengua principal en sus hogares; más del doble de las que había en 1990. Por eso es importante compartir los videos y actividades de NIOS con el mundo hispanohablante.

En un taller reciente, la directora de una escuela compartió la historia espeluznante de una niña de 8 años que fue víctima de bullying por ser diferente. En este caso, ella era diferente porque su familia no era pobre como lo eran las del resto de sus compañeros. Así que la molestaban todos los días. Le arrojaban cosas y la empujaban. Aunque no le dijo a nadie lo que le estaba pasando, un día tomó la pistola de sus padres. Su plan era llevarla a la escuela y dispararle a los compañeros que la atormentaban. Sus papás la descubrieron y le quitaron la pistola, pero sus compañeros se enteraron. Ese día la bombardearon con piedras y rocas hasta que tuvieron que llevarla al hospital, golpeada y ensangrentada.

Esto sucedió en un pequeño pueblo en la selva en una región cercana a Río San Juan, en Nicaragua. Recientemente tuve el privilegio de dar dos presentaciones sobre prevención de bullying en ese pueblo, una con estudiantes y la otra con docentes. Aunque algunas de las escuelas participantes se encontraban a millas de distancia del siguiente pueblo y contaban sólo con un salón de clases, tanto los jóvenes como los docentes conocían bien el bullying y estaban buscando soluciones.

El tipo de bullying que vivió esta niña de 8 años no es diferente a algunos tormentos que viven otros niños en muchas partes. Los compañeros de esta niña de 8 años afirmaban que habían actuado así porque ella era “estirada”. Todos los días los niños explican sus comportamientos crueles con afirmaciones similares, como el actor Christian Bale, quien fue víctima de bullying durante su niñez en Inglaterra por ser actor; Rhiannon, de Barbados, a quien molestaban por su color de piel y sus pechos o como un alumno de 5º grado en una escuela en California donde trabajé como directora, quien con total indiferencia me dijo que molestaba a un niño menor simplemente porque él había sido víctima de bullying.

En Rusia como en Nicaragua se utiliza la palabra inglesa “bullying” porque no existe un término que describa su significado de la misma manera. Me pregunté qué sucedía con otros idiomas. Tras buscar, encontré un foro de discusión sobre el equivalente de la palabra “bully[VH1] ” en otros idiomas. Diferentes participantes del foro indicaron que en árabe, alemán, hebreo y francés no existe un término que describa de manera exacta lo que significa bullying. Esto llevó a los participantes a plantearse si el bullying era un fenómeno estadunidense y si acaso Estados Unidos está haciendo que la palabra se transforme en una realidad. La historia de la niña nicaragüense de 8 años rebate esa teoría.

Creo que desde el inicio de los tiempos han existido formas de bullying e intolerancia. La diferencia es que ahora alrededor del mundo hay gente que lo está reconociendo y haciendo algo al respecto. Con la pequeña nicaragüense de 8 años, la escuela se involucró no sólo ayudando a la niña y su familia (quien finalmente se cambió de escuela), si no también trabajando con sus compañeros de la misma edad.

No en Nuestra Escuela (NIOS) está extendiendo sus contactos alrededor del mundo para compartir historias y materiales en lugares como Hungría, Australia, Eslovaquia, y más recientemente en Sudáfrica. Creemos que este esfuerzo nos une para hacer la diferencia y fortalece el trabajo que todos estamos haciendo. ¿Tienes alguna historia internacional? Por favor compártela. Sacan el lado humano en cada uno de nosotros.

No En Nuestra Escuela se complace a anunciar que se han empezado a traducir nuestras películas y lecciones más popularoes a español. Pulse aquí para encontrar la lista de recursos que se ofrecen en español.

Mil gracias a Vivianne Hiriart por traducir este serie sin cobrar para Not In Our Town.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT RELATIONAL BULLYING

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WHAT TO DO ABOUT RELATIONAL BULLYING

By Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director

This blog was originally featured on Who’s That Lady Entertainment.

LEFT OUT IN THE COLD, EVEN IN SUMMER: WHAT TO DO ABOUT RELATIONAL BULLYING

Relational BullyingIn seventh grade, I admit, I was not always the nicest person. One day, two of my friends and I went up to Louise H.’s house. We were giggling as we rang the bell. We had it all planned. When she answered the door, we were going to run. We just did it to be mean, for no other purpose. She came out and we took off. As we sprinted down the street laughing, I did not think twice about how Louise must have felt.

Then in eighth grade, the tables turned. I was in the locker room after gym class. Donna J. sprayed deodorant right in my face and told me nobody liked me because I stunk. I was devastated.

Many understand there are consequences for bullying—when someone gets hit, the perpetrator must make amends. Unlike a single, heated event, however, bullying involves repeated actions that hurt another person either verbally, physically, or through the written word, including online. But there are often no real consequences for another kind of bullying—a kind that is intentionally focused on excluding an individual from a group by bombarding him or her with rumors, gossip, or just plain group snubbing or direct insult. Often this behavior is stereotypical of teenage girls, but it can happen to anyone of any age. This type of treatment is known as relational bullying.

Relational bullying is usually done with a particular goal in mind. “If I pick on this person, I can raise my own status.” And who gets excluded? It is often a person with less social status because he or she is different from the rest in some way.

But it can also involve the opposite motivation. Often out of jealousy, those who are viewed as very pretty or smart get treated poorly with the intention of bringing them down in spirit or status to make them feel less threatening.

There is yet another motivation for relational bullying—by ostracizing a member of one’s own social group, it allows the person to feel he or she can climb up the social ladder by supplanting the other person’s status with one’s own.

Erica Harrold, Miss America 2003 shared her story of being bullied.

“When I was in the ninth grade, I was the victim of pervasive and severe racial and sexual harassment,” Harrold said. “It started out simply with name calling and teasing and taunting. Another thing the students would do is play this game called ‘The Un-cool Game.’ I would be sitting in class, and the students would sit there with clipboards and pieces of paper on the clipboards. For the entire class period they would watch and monitor everything I would do. And they would write it down. Then at the end of the class period they would actually be given the opportunity to read aloud to the rest of the students the list of all of the ‘un-cool’ things I had done. It was a degrading experience, to say the least. It started in ninth grade, and it was very difficult because many of the students who were involved used to be my friends during the eighth grade. So it was disconcerting to come back to school in ninth grade and to have the whole dynamic changed.”

THE DAMAGE

The damage from relational bullying goes deep. Often, out of shame, a youth does not tell anyone it is happening. A girl might think she is the only one being ostracized and not want to admit how bad she feels. Also, many adults and school personnel might just say to “chin up” or let it “roll off your back like a duck.” Yet the impact of being rejected or excluded can last a lifetime.

Even for an adult at work, the same might be true. Believe me, I have even heard about it from college professors and teachers. Shame causes the person to isolate him or herself.

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE?
YES, YES AND YES!

If it happens to you:

Don’t isolate! Find a trusted ally to share your feelings. It could be a peer, a family member, or a professional at school, church, or in the community. An ally is someone who will be there for you. We say trusted because you need to confide in the person, and you do not want any rumors to be spread.

Share your feelings, write about what happened, and even get counseling. If you are starting to feel depressed, know that you are not alone.

Once you have support, you might want to stand up to those who are mistreating you. Or, you might want to seek a whole new group of friends and or hobbies. Out of a bad situation, you might find a whole new and exciting path, like being in a school play, taking up a new sport, or doing community service to help others.

Whatever you do, be yourself: you do not need to change because of others.

If it happens to a friend or acquaintance:

The best thing to do is to speak up in the moment. “Hey, that’s not cool,” may be enough to get someone to stop. There are other ways to intervene that can also be effective. Find a private moment to approach the person causing the trouble and tell him or her to stop and explain why. Alert the adults, authorities, or someone who can step in to address the situation. And finally, you can reach out to the target of the relational bullying. A few kind and genuine words can make a lot of difference to lessen the impact.

Remember, anyone who excludes, teases, or harasses others could do the same to you.

If you want to stop it before it starts:

Creating a kind and accepting climate is the best way to stop mean actions from happening. Create a set of norms of how we treat each other—norms that include kindness, compassion, working collaboratively, and being allies for one another. Also, recognize that celebrating diversity and learning about each other’s backgrounds will help build trust and empathy and bridge the many differences.

Some create “Kindness Councils” or community campaigns and pledges to stop bullying, teasing, and all forms of intolerance.

Relational bullying has been around since the cave days, but so has kindness and the golden rule. Yet, while we still have a ways to go to create a society with less discrimination and bigotry, and more kindness, and acceptance, we are moving ahead. Know that in the end, happy people are those who are true to themselves, kind to others, and optimistic about the future.

Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is director of Not In Our School and coauthor of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn

Intervene with Mean- Part Two Republished from Teaching Tolerance

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Intervene With Mean – Part Two

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Submitted by Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas on December 30, 2013

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Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionThis post is part two of a three-part blog series that explores how to help students transform bullying behavior. The series mirrors the three levels of intervention outlined in Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports(PBIS). Level One applies to the 80 percent of students who are responsive when explicitly taught about acceptable behavior. Level Two (the focus of this blog) addresses the 15 percent of students who need social skills training and tools to help them stop bullying. The third blog will address Level Three, interventions for the 5 percent of students with persistent bullying problems who need intensive supports.

Ben was a hefty fourth-grader who loved to play touch football, but he kept ending up in the principal’s office because he bullied other kids during recess games. His usual target was Julio, a boy half his size. Ben blocked Julio, pushing him down on the ground and aggressively tackling him. This happened several times before Julio finally reported it.

Ben promised he would be more careful the next time. When it happened again, he came up with his own solution. “Why don’t I go to help out in the preschool during lunch?” he said. “That will keep me out of trouble.” At the preschool, Ben was like a big teddy bear, and the little kids loved him. After a few weeks, Ben said he was ready to go out in the schoolyard again, but once again he “forgot” and knocked Julio down, this time kicking him too.

Ben represents the 15 percent of kids (Level Two in the PBIS model) who need help to learn not to bully. Restorative justice and social emotional learning offer valuable tools to help these students transform their behavior.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice (RJ) is an approach in which discipline becomes a learning opportunity rather than a punishment. It is based on the belief that those who harm others can change their behavior. In addition, RJ can help mitigate the negative impact on those they have harmed. The RJ framework shifts interventions away from blame and toward creating a safe and caring environment for all.

In the case of bullying, the RJ process involves the target and the perpetrator separately because the target often feels vulnerable and fears retaliation. One approach is to craft a set of agreements with the perpetrator and convey the agreements to the target. The following questions, adapted from The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools, can guide your conversation with the student exhibiting bullying behavior:

1. What were you thinking at the time of the incident? What did you do? What did you want to happen when you did that?

2. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who was harmed. How do you think that person felt?

3. Think back to a time when someone hurt you. How did you feel?

4. Everyone makes mistakes and hurts others. Do you want to be someone who fixes your mistakes and makes things better? What do you think (the target) needs to make things better? What else might be good to do?

5. You’ve decided to address what happened by ______. How will you do that, and when will you do it? (Make some agreements and write them down.) What do you think you need to do to make things as right as possible? (Practice how things will be said.)

6. There may be a time in the future when you feel like bullying again. What will you do instead?

The agreements might include “I agree not to enter your personal space,” “I agree not to address you as anything but your real name,” or “I agree not to follow you when you walk away from me.” Once agreements are made, share them with the target.

This process encourages reflection and a thoughtful response from the perpetrators without putting them on the defensive. Assure them that they can learn from their mistakes and change. Doing so builds a positive relationship and lets students know they can trust you.

It is critical that you follow up all RJ interventions and conversations. Monitoring and regular support for both target and perpetrator are crucial. Check with the target to be sure the bullying has stopped. Meet often with the perpetrator to ensure the agreements are being followed.

Social Emotional Learning

Social emotional learning (SEL) is an approach that complements RJ and includes strategies to help students understand and transform their behavior.

It is important to consider what might be triggering the bullying behavior in the student. Some students need support with personal issues they are facing at home. Others need help learning empathy, social skills and impulse control.

Educators can work with individuals or small groups to strengthen SEL skills in the five areas described below and to help students transform themselves. The goal is to create a sense of identity safety so students—whatever their background—know they are valued and appreciated and that their identity is an asset. They need to feel that although they have made a mistake, they have agency to learn from it and to change.

Relationship skills: Having strong relationships with perpetrators is the most important factor in supporting the transformation of bullying behavior. The first step is listening to them and helping them feel compassion for themselves and others. Ben was learning how to relate to others when he started helping out in the preschool. He liked the way the younger students looked up to him, and he began to see himself differently. I visited him there and praised his gentleness with the younger students.

Self-awareness skills: Students can learn to identify their own triggers. Ask them to remember and identify how they felt at a given moment, and empower them to seek support instead of react. Once Ben learned to identify when he was getting upset, we could explore other ways to act when he was feeling angry or agitated.

Self-management skills: Ben, like many students who bully, lacked impulse control. He needed to learn to pause and think before he reacted. Along with tools to calm himself (breathing, counting, walking away, talking to an adult), he needed time to practice. He tried out the techniques during role-playing. Then he needed to go back out and learn how to use the skills in the schoolyard.

Decision-making skills: Students need to practice thinking a few steps ahead to make effective choices. Ben needed to talk through the impact of his decisions and behavior. He then practiced telling himself, “If I hurt this student, I may feel better for a moment, but then what?”

Social awareness skills: When Ben got involved in the preschool, he began to notice how other children treated one another. He chose to be part of our schoolwide anti-bullying efforts, and he proposed that he and his friends organize a special friendship fair for the kindergarteners—a big success for him!

Transforming a Pattern of Bullying

The process of changing behavior in the Level Two subset of the student population can and does work, but it requires strong relationships, empathy, social skill building and an expanded emotional tool kit. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

References

Amstutz, Lorraine Stutzman, and Judy H. Mullet. The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools: Teaching Responsibility, Creating Caring Environments. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2005.

Olweus, Dan, Sue Limber, and Sharon Mihalic. Bullying Prevention Program. Vol. 9 of Blueprints for Violence Prevention, ed. D. S. Elliott. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, 1999.

Steele, Dorothy M., and Becki Cohn-Vargas. Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2013.

Cohn-Vargas is director of Not in Our School and coauthor of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn.

 

Intervene with Mean- Reposted from Teaching Tolerance

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Intervene With Mean – Part One

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Submitted by Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas on December 20, 2013

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This post is part one of a three-part blog series that explores how to help students transform bullying behavior. The series mirrors the three levels of intervention outlined in the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports(PBIS). Level One (the focus of this blog) applies to the 80 percent of students who are responsive when explicitly taught about acceptable behavior. The second blog will address Level Two, the 15 percent of students who need social skills training and tools to help them stop bullying. The third blog will address Level Three, interventions for the 5 percent of students with persistent bullying problems who need intensive supports.

When he was in third grade, California high school student Melvin Mendez was beaten up in the bathroom and threatened with more violence if he told anyone. In middle school, says Melvin, “anger built up inside of me and I wanted vengeance against those who made me suffer. I decided it was time for payback, so I started to bully others. … After seeing those kids who I bullied run into [the] bathroom to cry, I figured out that I was making a mistake because I saw myself in those that I harmed.” Melvin wrote these words in a blog sharing his path to becoming a student leader and an anti-bullying activist.

At various points in his story, Melvin could have been called a victim, a bully or a hero. The transitory nature of behavior and childhood identity illustrated by Melvin’s experiences led Teaching Tolerance to name the cover story of the Fall 2013 magazine issue, “There Are No Bullies.” The story explains that bullying is a behavior and not a label.

According to researchers Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee, bullying behavior is often triggered by youth—like Melvin—seeking to climb the social ladder. Faris explains, “Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status. It’s really not the kids that are psychologically troubled, who are on the margins or the fringes of the school’s social life. It’s the kids right in the middle, at the heart of things … often, typically highly, well-liked popular kids who are engaging in these behaviors.” These findings contrast with a popularly held notion that only socially marginalized youth bully. It also boosts the rationale for designing bullying interventions that target all students.

The study ultimately identified that both positive and negative behaviors are “contagious.” Faris notes, “…positive behaviors can also spread through social networks and … kids may be more likely to intervene in bullying situations if they see their friends … discouraging that kind of behavior.” Faris proposes teaching students that bullying has negative consequences for victims and perpetrators, and using this research to demonstrate that—in the long run—bullying will not afford youth the popularity they are seeking.

The strategies below are designed for the 80 percent of students who are not involved in chronic bullying but who need a clear understanding of bullying and its consequences. The list includes strategies for handling individuals who are engaged in a bullying incident and whole-school strategies for building awareness: 

  • Ensure the entire school community knows the definition and serious consequences of bullying and ways to report and take action. Consider showing or sharing Michele Borba’s Essential 6 R’s of Bullying Prevention.
  • Use a bullying prevention curriculum (e.g., OlweusSteps to Respect) that helps students learn the harm of bullying, build empathy, teach social skills and help students who bully learn other behaviors.
  • Give students a voice; taking the lead in identifying problems and solutions empowers students who may not otherwise have positive identity outlets at school. Create leadership groups that (carefully, strategically) include those who have been involved in bullying. They will rise to the occasion. Lancaster, CA: A City Unites to End School Bullying provides a model for how to build student leadership.
  • If the bullying incident involved targeting someone for being different, make it a learning opportunity about the difference (whether it is gender expression or identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, appearance, ability, etc.). 

Luckily—when practiced over time and every time—these types of strategies are effective with the majority of students and help support school environments where kindness is practiced as a value. Kids like Melvin show us that these positive changes are possible and can even multiply.

“I could have continued that cycle of violence, but I didn’t. I chose a different path,” he reflects at the end of his blog post. “As members of this community we all need to persist and strive for success. … We have the ability to make our community thrive as a supportive, unified and compassionate place and make … our world a better and safer place to live in.”

Cohn-Vargas is director of Not In Our School and coauthor of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn.

 

Suicide and Bullying: Getting it Right

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Submitted by bmcmahon on December 12, 2013 – 5:47pm

By Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director

Recently, a group of Not In Our School student leaders in Soledad, California shared with me an anti-bullying video they made to show at their high school. The video dramatized a fictional girl who was cyberbullied and ended up stabbing herself to death in the nurse’s office.

I asked them why they felt they needed to highlight suicide when they were appealing to their peers to stop bullying. “Kids today are used to high school drama,” they told me. “And besides, they won’t listen to us if we just talk about ‘not bullying’.”

With something as horrific and complex as suicide, there is no getting it right, there is no way to have the right response every time. And there are no easy answers. With more than 38,000 suicides in 2010, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause among teens, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

While it is important to drive home the serious harm of bullying, there are great risks involved with how suicide is presented. The important factor when talking about this and suicide is to be armed with facts and to become cognizant of messaging. It is my fear that some of the best intentions to get students to stop bullying by hammering the risk of suicide may indeed be driving youth to take their lives.

Bullycide is a Misnomer

Grammatically incorrect, the term ‘bullycide’ technically suggest that it is the bully, as opposed to the victim of bullying, who dies by suicide. Here are two misconceptions and potential dangers in the overly dramatic messaging that claims bullying is a leading cause of suicide, explaining the facts and risks.

Misconception #1. Bullying Causes Suicide.

The facts: While bullying is a risk factor in suicide, 90 percent of the people who take their lives have some form of mental illness, most often depression. A very small number of people take their lives after a dramatic bullying incident.

The risks: Young people who are bullied may come to consider suicide a typical reaction to being bullied. That might cause a depressed young person who gets bullied to become more likely to consider suicide.

Misconception #2. The person who is bullied and takes their life is a hero.

The facts: Large-scale media coverage leads to massive social media responses that put a spotlight on a person who chooses to die by suicide and may romanticize the person. Cases where the person who dies by suicide is turned into a hero have been found to contribute to a phenomenon known as suicide “contagion” leading to multiple similar suicidal responses. Approximately 10 percent of suicides are associated with contagion. Media coverage that also includes specific methods with detailed descriptions has been associated with repeated suicides.

The risks: Media coverage, social media posts, and even student-made videos linking suicide to bullying can influence imitative acts and possibly a “cluster” of suicides.

What Will Happen When Suicide is Not Part of the Bullying Prevention Discussion?

While suicide is one of the risk factors, other impacts of bullying are much more common. Bullying research has shown that targets of bullying can be impacted in a range of ways, including school absenteeism, lowered grades, higher risks of substance abuse, and depression.

While we suggest removing the emphasis on suicide as the major risk from bullying, it will be crucial to not underestimate the serious impacts of all forms of bullying and intolerance. LGBTQ students or those who do not fit gender stereotypes and special needs students report experiencing constant harassment. Sikh and Muslim students are routinely called terrorists. Students who are overweight or underweight, short or tall, or as one student said, “when you are different in any way, you are targeted.”

Daily insults, teasing, bullying, exclusion and hazing all MATTER and addressing them will CHANGE lives. Meanwhile, knowledge of suicide risk factors and careful messaging about suicide will SAVE lives. Ultimately, a more empathetic school environment will help everyone identify and support both those who are being bullied as well as also those who are depressed or at risk of suicide.

Stay tuned for Part 2, “Bullying and Suicide: Working for Solutions,” with specific ideas for students, educators and media.

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed. D. is currently the director of Not In Our School (NIOS). She has spoken on the subject of how to combat bullying at conferences, schools, and universities across the United States. Becki’s new book,“Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn,” co-authored with Dr. Dorothy Steele was published by Corwin Press. Prior to working at The WorkingGroup, she spent over 35 years in public education in California.

Anti-bullying ad sends gut-wrenching message to a different audience – adults

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Anti-bullying ad sends gut-wrenching message to a different audience – adults

By Donna Krache, CNN (interview of Becki Cohn-Vargas and Mike Nelson)

Editor’s Note: Not In Our School offers resources to help adults empower students against bullying.  You may also want to check out The Stop Bullying Speak Up campaign, sponsored by Cartoon Network, CNN and Time Warner, a student-centered approach that also offers educator and parent materials.

(CNN) – It’s an anti-bullying message designed to hit home with a different audience – adults.  And it hits hard.

The set is an office breakroom. The office bully calls a coworker names, then pushes and threatens him, even as horrified colleagues pretend not to notice. One gets up from his table and scurries away.  The victim is humiliated. The bully revels in the power.

In the end, the boss intervenes, but not to bring justice – just to tell the bully and the victim to “get back to work.”

Anyone who watches the public service announcement, “Break Bullying,” would  see no office would allow the scene to play out that way. In reality, it didn’t: It was based on actual experiences from the producer’s middle school years.

And that’s the point, according to the organization Not in Our School and Mike Nelson, the producer of the spot:  If we wouldn’t stand for bullying as adults, why do we allow it to happen in our schools?

When Nelson’s boss at production house MAKE told him to do a piece on bullying, he jumped at it. Nelson was bullied in middle school and fell back on that experience to create a story that would resonate with adults who saw it.

He decided to use real images and real language.  Even “bleeped out,” the expletives are obvious and stinging. Nelson says that’s the reality of bullying.

“This is how it happens,” he told CNN.

The Not in Our School program focuses on what adults can do to help kids address bullying and make schools safe for everyone. Its site offers a guide to start a Not in Our School campaign as well as a video kit and links to anti-bully supports.  It also features anti-bullying lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school classrooms.

Nelson’s anti-bullying message had a strong impact on Cohn-Vargas.  An educator and daughter of a family that escaped the Holocaust, she notes, “Many adults have taken action from personal experience.”

Now that he’s an adult, Nelson said, he’s taking his own action against bullying.

“I basically played out my own experience in school,” he said.  “I wrote that exactly as it was.

“That hurtful behavior sticks with kids for the rest of their lives.”

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Filed under:Behavior • Bullying • Issues • Parents • Policy • Teachers • video • Voices

Reprinted from CNN.com Schools of Thought Blog October 2012  http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/16/anti-bullying-ad-sends-gut-wrenching-message-to-a-different-audience-adults/?iref=allsearch

Students Standing Up to Bullying and Hate: Edutopia Interview

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Suzie Boss interviewed me for an Edutopia blog in February 2012

It takes courage to stand up to a bully or challenge hate speech. On K-12 and college campuses across the country, students and educators are coming together as “upstanders” to change their communities for the better. Their stories of everyday heroism are highlighted in a compelling new documentary and accompanying educational campaign called Not In Our Town: Class Actions.

Not In Our Town: Class Actions premieres premieres February 13 on PBS. The documentary captures the accounts of two colleges and a public school district that took a bold stand against racism, anti-Semitism, and bullying. Educators inspired by these stories will find a range of resources online to launch similar efforts in their own communities. To coincide with the new film, Not In Our Town is offering mini-grants for teachers and art and video contests for students.

Grassroots Movement

Executive producer Patrice O’Neill says the new film and accompanying social media campaign are part of a grassroots movement against injustice that she and her colleagues at The Working Group have been documenting for more than a decade. They launched a social media site for Not in Our Town in 2010 to grow this movement virally, and also to share resources for educators through a companion project called Not In Our School.

“One of reasons we launched the social media site was that we knew there were incredible stories out there. People needed to see those stories and then build on them to create new ones,” O’Neill says. “That’s exactly what happened.”

For example, consider the story of Lauri Massari. A middle-school counselor from Antelope Valley, Calif., Massari happened to be on a trip when she turned on the TV in her hotel room and heard the school board in Palo Alto, Calif., discussing their district’s annual Not in Our School campaign. Intrigued, Massari went online to learn more and was impressed by the videos and testimonials about what the community had accomplished with its anti-bullying work. “She said, look what they did here. Maybe we can do something in our community, too,” O’Neill relates.

Girls signing a big posterStudents at Lancaster High School sign a pledge to end school bullying.

Credit: Anthony Lucero

Massari had good reason to be concerned about school climate. Neighboring communities had recently experienced teen suicides as a result of bullying. “She felt strongly that her community needed to do something,” O’Neill says. Borrowing ideas from Not In Our School, Massari got busy. Initial efforts at Del Sur Middle School soon expanded across Westside Union School District and eventually engaged the larger community of Lancaster, Calif. “She went on to create an event with 21 schools and the city involved,” O’Neill says, reaching some 35,000 students.

Massari and her community’s story is one of the three showcased in the new documentary. O’Neill hopes it will inspire more schools to plan their own campaigns. “We’re able to take everything Lauri Massari did and learned, put it into a public television show, and also post what she’s learned on our site so that other teachers can build on it,” the director says. “This is all about teacher-to-teacher efforts, about one town learning from another.”

Building the Network

Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, who helped start the Not In Our Town campaign when she was director of elementary education for the Palo Alto School District, currently directs Not In Our Schools national efforts. “We want to build the network of educators and expand this work,” she says.

What makes the initiative unique is that each school or district decides how it will address the issue of intolerance. “It’s not like you sign up and go through a series of prescribed steps,” Cohn-Vargas adds. Local campaigns maximize creativity along with compassion, with schools producing plays, organizing pledges, and even drumming up pro-tolerance flash mobs to drown out hate groups.

During her career in education, Cohn-Vargas has been part of various initiatives to close the achievement gap, address racial equity, and make schools safe for students regardless of gender or sexual orientation. “This brings all these issues together,” she says, by encouraging students to make their own schools safe places for everyone.

Although each Not In Our School project is different, certain characteristics define local campaigns. Projects tend to emphasize student empowerment. “It’s peer-to-peer, with students generating ideas. That’s what these films are all about,” Cohn-Vargas says. She has seen projects get started in the classroom, through clubs or after-school programs, or as part of student leadership efforts. Teachers or school leaders might initiate the conversation by sharing a video from the NIOT.org website, “but however it starts, you always want the project to come from kids,” she adds. (Cohn-Vargas explains how to start a campaign in this post.)

Not In Our School campaigns directly address intolerance, with a focus on issues of race, religion, or gender. “That makes this a little different from more general anti-bullying work,” Cohn-Vargas says. “This is about building safe, inclusive, accepting schools.”

Another distinguishing feature of these campaigns is an emphasis on encouraging students to be “upstanders” if they encounter intolerance. That’s a more active role than bystanders, whose silence can allow bullies or bigots to go unchecked.

Mini-Grants, Student Contests, and More

A growing online resource collection is available to educators, including lesson plans and classroom discussion guides. Teachers may want to borrow good ideas, such as one school’s project to map the places where bullying occurs. Or they may decide to share their own stories of how students are standing up to intolerance. Also available for order is a video action kit.

Special events for the Not In Our Town: Class Actions campaign include:

  • Mini-grants: Educators can apply for mini-grants to help to start classroom projects or schoolwide campaigns relating to Not In Our Town: Class Actions. Application deadline is April 15.
  • Student contests: Students can take part in two contests that are part of the Class Action campaign. NIOS Class Actions Art Contest is open to students in grades 5-12. Deadline is April 15. Young filmmakers are invited to enter one-minute videos in the NIOS What Do YOU Say? Video Challenge. Winning videos will be posted on the website.

Has your school taken part in a Not In Our School campaign? Please tell us about your experiences.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/standing-against-bullying-not-in-our-schools-suzie-boss