Every day, more than 160,000 children nationwide stay home from school to avoid being bullied. The average bullying episode lasts only 37 seconds, and school personnel are reported to notice or intervene in only one in 25 incidents. Not only are the effects of bullying on a child felt immediately, but they can also be lifelong and even tragic.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” And, for some, that might be true. Others have had to build a wall around themselves, or toughen up, so that gossip about them, or hurtful names they’ve been called, can’t get through.
However, some of the message often gets through, and can lead to depression and even suicide. In fact, in the last year, the greater Brookings/Harbor area has had 11 suicide attempts and six successful suicides. Two of the suicides were teenagers. While we never know for sure what the tipping point was, it is safe to say that verbal abuse may have played a part.
As Mr. Shue, a teacher at McKinley High, a fictitious school on the television show Glee, said in season three “Everyone has something that might take them up to that edge” and that’s a perilous place to stand when in that very emotional state. I know. I’ve been there.
Words hurt and can carry a lot of power over another person from “trash talk” on the football field, overheard gossip, or a simple Tweet. Words like dork, fat, geek, klutz, loser, nerd, redneck, retard, sissy, slut, spaz, stoner, tree-hugger.
Words like “fag”, “queer”, “butch” or “Lesbo” directed at someone can be very damaging in a homophobic culture. Often, when used on the elementary school playground, neither party knows what they mean but they do know that it’s something bad. Even the term “That’s so gay” doesn’t usually refer to a person’s orientation but still carries a lot of negative energy that often isn’t realized. Why not use “That’s so cheerleader” or “That’s so jock” instead.
According to psychologist J. David Smith in a paper entitled, “The Effectiveness of Whole School Anti-Bullying Programs: a synthesis of evaluation research,” “... anti-bullying programs don’t work. In it, he claims that 86 percent of victim outcomes on anti-bullying program benefits were negligible and negative while 14 percent reported a small benefit. For victims who “self-reported” bullying incidents, 100 percent reported the school anti-bullying program to be ineffectual. The general consensus by the self-reported victims is that no one cares.
One program that is being utilized in some Brookings-Harbor District 17C classrooms is the PBIS program. This is but one part of the solution but it does give students a different way to use their words to compliment instead of tear down. Of course, they have to be said with 100 percent sincerity and believability or they become just another way to hurt someone.
Last October we tried to get the movie “Bully” to show in Brookings during National Bully Prevention Week. We have finally received permission to bring the movie to Brookings (though the PG-13 version is now available for rent or sale locally and from the Chetco Community Public Library.)
We are sponsoring a free showing of the movie at the Redwood Theater on March 26 in loving memory of Dorothy Shull. The PG-13-rated version will show at 10:15 a.m., the G-rated version at 11:10 a.m.
After the movie, for those who are wearing the orange wrist band from last October’s program, we will have a raffle for gift certificates from Dairy Queen. If you had a orange band and it broke, you can trade it in for a new one. If you didn’t get one, sign the pledge that you won’t bully and donate a minimum of a dollar. One hundred percent of the funds will go to support the No Name-Calling program. The wrist bands will be available at the entrance of Fred Meyer Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. while supplies last.
After the movie on March 26, we will be holding a vigil at 6 p.m. on the campus lawn in front of Brookings Harbor High School, where we will place an engraved stone marker to remind us all of the incredible spirit, awesome talent, and giving nature of former student Dorothy Shull.
We believe the presence of this marker on campus grounds will be a living reminder of the importance of how we treat each other and that all of us — students, staff, parents and community — need to share the responsibility of making school a safe experience for every student so they will want to come to learn in an environment that is conducive to the learning process. For more information on bullying, go to http://bit.ly/NCZlk0
Join us, won’t you?