For quite a while, the annual number of fatalities from auto accidents has been a kind of shorthand for health issues that are big and important. Suicides now exceed deaths from crashes. And the middle-aged have seen the biggest increase in suicide rates.
TFJCK Presents Good Drugs Gone Bad to Northwest Journey Youth
Together for Jackson County Kids presented the Good Drugs Gone Bad program to the students at the Northwest Journey in Black River Falls on December 6th. The Good Drugs Gone Bad program is a 45 minute educational program on the dangers of perscription and over the counter drug abuse. The students were broken into two groups and the group wasn’t in the Good Drugs Gone Bad presentation were given information about the lasting effects of smoking and dangers of secondhand smoke. The students also got to try a Carbon Monoxide test to see what their CO levels were.
We would like to thank the Northwest Journey students and staff for letting TFJCK take some of the time from their busy schedules to talk about some important topics. We had a great time coming to visit and hope to come back in the near future to offer other programs.
If any other groups are interested in having a Good Drugs Gone Bad presentation please get in contact with TFJCK we would be more than happy to facilitate a presentation.
The Black River Falls Teens Against Tobacco Use (T.A.T.U) went to Gebhardt Elementary today to teach the fourth grade class about the dangers of smoking and how the tobacco companies use flashy advertising to try to trick people into using tobacco.
It was a whirlwind morning with lots of different activities going on for the fourth graders. The T.A.T.U. presenters only had thirty minutes to present on the dangers of smoking, usually T.A.T.U. is a 40-45 minute presentation, but that did not deter them at all. The T.A.T.U. presenters did an fantastic job and were still able to get talk about what goes into cigarettes, and show off Clem’s Phlem(r), the Jar-O-Tar(r), and of course the imfamous pig’s lungs. The T.A.T.U. members even found time to play a few intense games of kickball against the fourth and fifth grade classes.
Black River Falls’ presentation today is the last T.A.T.U. presentation for the 2012-2013 school year. Melrose-Mindoro and Lincoln T.A.T.U. groups have already presented and also did an outstanding job. Thank you very much to all of the T.A.T.U. members for taking time out of your busy schedules to teach the fourth grade classes in the area about the dangers of smoking and a very big thank you to the T.A.T.U. Trainers for volunteering your time to help teach the presentation to the T.A.T.U. members.
Great turnout today at the Black River Falls High School for Forever Real, The sequel to Edge of Reality which we showed yesterday. The teens had a lot of really good questions after the movie again today and even asked if we could come back and show another movie tomorrow. Well of course we said yes to that! Tomorrow we will be showing for the first time No Second Chances a 2011 film produced by Haese Films and featuring Clintonville Wisconsin youth.
This afternoon we will be down at the Boys & Girls Club of Jackson County to talk about Red Ribbon Week and why it is important, then we’re taking the kids to beautify the sidewalks downtown with drug free slogans and messages.
Good news everyone! One hundred pounds of medications were taken during our last Pharm Sweep. With twenty to thirty pounds taken that day (Sept.29), a total of one hundred pounds of pills and liquids were destroyed! That is one hundred pounds of medications that won’t endanger our youth. We are very lucky in Jackson County to have a 24/7 drop box hosted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and also supervision from the Sheriff’s Department of the local Pharmaceutical Sweeps. Without their help, none of this would be possible.
The recent Jackson County Fair was great for our coalition! Not only did we gain new members for the coalition, but we also handed out 250 gun locks! Next year we are hoping to hand out even more. Watch for upcoming coalition events, educational sessions, and announcements! Also come see us at www.tfjck.org :)
According to federal officials, accidental poisonings, largely due to prescription drug overdoses, are now the leading cause of premature death in the United States, outpacing auto accidents and gunshot wounds. Prescription drug abuse accounts for more overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined. Of the 37,000 people who died of a drug overdose in 2009, roughly 40 percent — more than 15,000 — were using prescription opiates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Queer Guide To Surviving Middle And High School
Apr. 9, 2012
By Nico Lang
Nico Lang is the Co-Creator and Co-Editor of In Our Words and a graduate student in DePaul University’s Media & Cinema Studies program.
I grew up in Cincinnati, OH, which combines Ohio’s love of xenophobia, racism and rivers catching on fire with the vernacular and dental work of Indiana and Kentucky. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got mad love for my hometown and get a little misty-eyed when anyone mentions Skyline or 98 Degrees, but it was also a crappy place to grow up sometimes, especially for a awkward-looking queer kid who was really into Agatha Christie and Drew Barrymore. I didn’t really have the luxury of hiding my sexuality, because my giant lisp kind of spread the word for me, and I learned a lot from being the only “Super Out” person around. Thus, if you plan on packing your Britney or Tegan and Sara CDs with you to school, this is how to deal.
Immerse Yourself in Your Interests and Study Your Tail Off
When I was 12, I couldn’t really talk to other people at school without it ending in being mocked or having my backpack thrown in the garbage. I had one real friend, who did the morning announcements, and beanie babies to stand in for the rest of a friend group. Sometimes, I found fleeting friendships with people, and I made up for a lack of community by finding that in books and movies, learning to inhabit other worlds where I could experience what love was like. And when I got to high school, I read almost every book our teacher recommended; I was that kid who asked for more homework.
I also enrolled in almost every school organization I could, which meant that I didn’t have to have that many friends and could cherish the few real friends I did have. Who even had the time to be popular?
Work on Your Coping Mechanisms
Queer kid, ice cream and reruns of Gilmore Girls are about to become your best friend for six years. When life, school and everything gets you down, you need to find those special places you can go to, those things that always make you feel good no matter what. Although other people can be great and helpful, learn to rely on yourself for your own happiness.
Find Supportive Friend Groups
If you live in a Gay Narnia — like that boarding school in Glee — where everyone loves you, awesome! Be thankful for how lucky you are, because Middle-School-me would totally hate your guts.
For everyone else, don’t make the mistake I did: Don’t try too hard to be liked by everyone. If you are queer or read as queer, not everyone in your school is going to be cool with it, and even if you don’t like that, respect their space. It’s actually good life training, because out in the real world, not everyone is going to be totally cool with your identity. (Hi, Dad!) You’ll want to learn how to start handling that now.
Everyone in existence might not accept you, but you can always fit right in with the Band Kids, the Drama Kids, the Art Nerds, AP English Geeks, the Academic Team or, if you’re me, the Intellectual Metal Heads. Not only are the latter surprisingly supportive but also they usually have the best parties and, because of that, are surprisingly well connected at school. All these groups of people end up becoming the cool kids when you get out of high school anyway, and so it’s best to get in with them now.
Develop Online Networks
Because I came of queer in the early aughts, we had this thing called AOL and M4M chat rooms that were helpful for me in coming to terms with myself. I was able to talk to a lot of older guys who weren’t looking for sex but looking for what I craved: connection. The internet isn’t just about porn anymore, and talking to people you only know online is a really low-stakes way to open up about what you are going through. I came out to my first person on the Internet, had my first sexual experience on the Internet (which kind of counts) and made some of my best friends through Xanga. In fact, some of the people I met on the internet meant more to me than the people I knew in real life. (I still talk to a few of them today.)
Talk to a Therapist or Counselor
Even if your family is supportive about what you are going through, you can’t talk to them about everything, especially if those things are sex things. If they aren’t supportive, it’s important to talk to someone whose job it is to be supportive and help you through this time. Having someone to talk to is so important, and a therapist or counselor can help you not only open up about what your dealing with but also equip you with some of the language to verbalize it.
Learn How to Protect Yourself
For some, taking community classes in tae kwon do or karate could be a useful way to vent your anger and frustrations and a means to even channel it into something healthy. The goal of these traditions to learn how to protect yourself without harming another person, which will be helpful for you. Learn how to stand up to bullies, but don’t become one yourself.
Otherwise, try to have friends that have your back, especially if those friends are on the football team. In my case, I was friends with our school’s gossip queen, who had dirt on everyone, even some of the teachers. I couldn’t fight to save my life, but I could absolutely destroy you by letting everyone in school know about your burgeoning coke habit. Fear is a very powerful weapon.
Stay True to Yourself
This doesn’t mean you have to be out, because that’s not an option for everyone. However, don’t be like the token gay character in Easy A and go down the beard route, which is just painful for everyone. If you are gay, don’t make up a Canadian girlfriend, because that’s been done. If you are a lesbian, don’t go steady with any of the drama guys, even if they are good kissers. Even if it’s convenient now, you end up hating yourself later for putting up with the ruse.
Figure out how to express yourself in ways socially acceptable at your school. Channel your queerness into punk music and pink hair dye. Join a band and drum your rage away. Start your own zine or art project. Embrace your future power queer and run for student body president. High school may be all about blending in, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide.
Make an Impact
If being out and proud is an option at your school, don’t fall for the rhetoric of “It Gets Better One Day When I Move to a Big City and Get Out of Here.” See what you can do to make your town a better environment for other LGBT people, especially the ones who don’t have the option to leave. If you can start a GSA without getting beat up for it, do so. While you’re at it, be a mentor to other kids you know who aren’t out or come from bad family environments. Try to make your culture more accepting and safer than the one you inherited. Because it’s not just important that you survive, it’s important to help others to survive, too.
(When i wrote this, I had no idea just how deeply this would speak to people and how widely it would spread. So, I think a better title is I Dare You to Measure the Value WE Add.)
Tell me how you determine the value I add to my class.
Tell me about the algorithms you applied when you took data from 16 students over a course of nearly five years of teaching and somehow used it to judge me as “below average” and “average”.
Tell me how you can examine my skills and talents and attribute worth to them without knowing me, my class, or my curriculum requirements.
Tell me how and I will tell you:
How all of my students come from different countries, different levels of prior education and literacy, and how there is no “research-based” elementary curriculum created to support schools or teachers to specifically meet their needs.
How the year for which you have data was the year my fifth graders first learned about gangs, the internet, and their sexual identities.
How the year for which you have data was the year that two of my students were so wracked by fear of deportation, depression and sleep deprivation from nightmares, that they could barely sit still and often fought with other students. How they became best of friends by year end. How one of them still visits me every September.
How that year most of my students worked harder than ever, (despite often being referred to as “the low class” or “lower level” within earshot of them), inspiring me and the teachers around us, despite the fact that many of these same students believed they could never go to college because of their immigration status.
How that year many of my students vaulted from a first to third and fourth grade reading levels but still only received a meaningless “1″ on their report cards because such growth is not valued by our current grading system.
How that was the year I quickly gained 6 new students from other countries and had my top 3 transferred out in January to general education classrooms because my school thankfully realized I shouldn’t have 32 students in a multilevel self-contained ESL class.
How the year for which you have data was the year that two of my students, twins who had come from China just the year before to live with parents they hadn’t seen since they were toddlers, finally started to speak in May. And smile. And make friends. How they kept in touch with me via edmodo for two years after leaving my school.
How that year I taught my class rudimentary American Sign Language for our research project; inspired and excited, they mostly taught themselves the Pledge of Allegiance, songs for our school play, John Lennon’s Imagine, and songs for graduation, all in ASL. Then we created an online video-translation dictionary using their first language, English, and ASL. They wrote scripts for skits we videotaped to teach many of these words in context.
EAGLE POINT, Ore. — Last weekend, 14-year-old Ashley Long told her parents she was going to a slumber party. But instead of spending the night watching videos and eating popcorn two blocks away, she piled into a car with a bunch of her friends and rode to a condo in Medford, Ore., where police say the big sister of one of her friends was throwing a party with booze and marijuana.
After drinking on the drive, and downing more drinks in the condo, it came time for Ashley to take her turn on a tank of helium that everyone else was inhaling to make their voices sound funny.
"That helium tank got going around," said Ashley’s stepfather, Justin Earp, who learned what happened from talking to Ashley’s friends at the party. "It got to my daughter. My daughter didn’t want to do it. It was peer pressure. They put a mask up to her face. They said it would be OK. ‘It’s not gonna hurt you. It’ll just make you laugh and talk funny.’"
Instead, she passed out and later died at a hospital, the result of an obstruction in a blood vessel caused by inhaling helium from a pressurized tank.
"It blew her lungs out," Earp said. "It exploded them. It created air pockets in her veins. Then it went up into her brain and blew it up."
It’s a common party trick — someone sucks in helium to give their voice a cartoon character sound.
But the death exposes the rare but real dangers of inhaling helium, especially from a pressurized tank. The gas is also commonly seen in suicide kits — mail-order hoods sold out of Oregon and elsewhere that can be attached to a helium tank by people who want to kill themselves.
Join the nationwide effort to stop underage drinking and alcohol abuse. April 2012 is Alcohol Awareness Month. With prom season and graduation just around the corner, now is the time to remind your students of the dangers of alcohol abuse and driving under the influence. Please click this link for information about our complete lineup of alcohol awareness videos and other materials: Alcohol Awareness
Last Thursday, we posted a draft of a new policy against blogs that actively promote self-harm, along with some PSA-style language to appear next to searches associated with self-injury. The reaction was overwhelming. The post itself provoked more than 25,000 likes, reblogs, and replies; and more than 2,500 of you sent in comments by email. Thank you.
By far, the most common comment was some variation on this:
This is really great, but what about people who just talk about it? They aren’t promoting it in any way, but like some of us just express ourselves through posting about it. I don’t promote self-harm or eating disorders or anything, but I do talk about my experiences with these things. Do those count as something that’s going to be banned?
That’s an important concern, so we want to be totally clear: While we won’t allow blogs dedicated to triggering self-harm, we will not act against blogs engaged in discussion, support, encouragement, and documenting the experiences of those dealing with difficult conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and other forms of self-injury. We absolutely want Tumblr to be a place where people struggling with these behaviors can find solace, community, dialog, understanding, and hope.
We will apply this policy on a blog-by-blog basis. There won’t be any wholesale suspension based on tags or text. We’re not under the illusion that it will be easy to draw the line between blogs that are intended to trigger self-harm and those that support sufferers and build community, but, thanks to the tireless efforts of our amazing Support team, we will do our best.
With the benefit of all your input, we’ve written a new draft of this policy, changing some wording and adding some clarifying language:
Promotion and Glorification of Self-Harm. Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or injure themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seeking counseling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions. Dialogue about these behaviors is incredibly important and online communities can be extraordinarily helpful to people struggling with these difficult conditions. We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness, support and recovery, and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification of self-harm.
In addition, we got some helpful suggestions from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to improve the language that we’ll start showing alongside searches for tags associated with the promotion of self-harm, such as “pro-ana”, “pro-mia”, “thinspiration” and “thinspo”. Here’s an example of the revised language:
Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that when left untreated, can cause serious health problems, and at their most severe can even be life-threatening. For treatment referrals, information and support, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association’s Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
We’re working with other health organizations to help us craft similar language around pro-cutting and pro-suicide search terms.
After the jump, we’ve pulled out several thoughtful messages from the community on both sides of this issue:
AeroShot will be sold over the counter with no age restrictions and is touted for its convenience and zero calories. If taken with alcohol, the mixture may have effects similar to caffeinated alcohol drinks tied to hospitalizations in the past, Schumer said. Doctors say it may carry neurological and cardiovascular risks.
You are all invited to the upcoming TFJCK quarterly meeting. At this meeting, we will teach a “Good Drugs Gone Bad” session, which teaches participants about the dangers of abusing Rx drugs and proper disposal methods for Rx drugs.
We would like you to keep in mind during this event that “Good Drugs Gone Bad” sessions can also be done for youth, upon request. We have different presentations for adults, youth, pharmacists, etc. This meeting will take place on
Thursday, January 19th, 2012, 11a-1p, at the UW-Extension office in Black River Falls, WI.
Please RSVP or call 715-284-6012 if you wish to attend, in case we need more space.
Salon has just kicked off a new personal essay series called “Interview With My Bully.” In the first installment, Steve Almond calls up the guy who, in eighth grade, launched a calculated campaign of humiliation against him — and ends up getting a heartbreaking explanation for his former bully’s behavior.
You can also submit and share your own story if you have any bullies you would like to interview.
No one person ever led the bullying I experienced as a child. When I try to remember that time in my life, I think of a mob of faces, and of the mercy I hoped for but never received.
I grew up as a fat girl in an unforgiving new money suburb. One time, I was going to play with a younger friend from my block when a group of girls surrounded us, some shoving me, some yelling “Moose!” (Moose was the nickname that plagued me throughout school, following me until I left for college.) The girl leading the mob, Stacy, had one year and at least four inches on me. Her golden good looks would’ve made her pretty if not for the furious expression she wore whenever she caught sight of me. I broke through the circle of screaming girls and ran till I got home. I never told anyone, though the violence frightened me.
NEW YORK (AP) - Parents of teens: If you think a drinking disaster at your kid’s party can’t happen at your house, not with your kid, because he’s a good kid, it’s time to wake up and smell the whiskey bottle tossed on your lawn.
Because of the high risk of underage drinking and driving this time of year, many parents open their homes to partying teens as a way to keep them off the roads. What some may not know is that liability laws can leave Mom and Dad vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and even jail time if underage drinking is found to be going on under their roof.
Parents can get in trouble even if they didn’t know about the drinking.
When people speak of drug abuse, one immediately thinks of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. However, people rarely think of the common drugs found in their homes and medicine cabinets. These pharmaceuticals typically are used for medicinal or “good” purposes; however we are starting to see an alarming trend of abuse of this medicine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. That’s more than the total number abusing cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and other drugs – and the number has increased 80% in the past 6 years.
Re: Teen drinking. One of the major 'causes' teen drinking, to me, is adult modelling. When adults drink alcohol, and I mean all members of society, it is portrayed as a normal adult behaviour. I think too much attention is given to teen drinking, and not the adult drinking happening alongside.
I agree with this, parents/adults can be the single greatest influence on their children and play a major role in shaping whether their child will use alcohol responsibly in the future.
Here are some tips for adults:
If you drink, let your child see you drink only small amounts and let them see you refuse a drink once in a while.
If you don’t drink, talk with your child about why you made this choice.
Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should not drink at all.
Treat alcohol like the dangerous drug it can be and don’t ask youth to serve you a drink or get a beer from the fridge.
Let your children hear you say that you don’t want a drink because you are driving. Don’t drink and drive or combine alcohol with medications.
Show your child healthy ways to handle stress. Don’t make comments about needing a drink to relax after a hard day.
Women should not drink more than one drink a day. Men should not drink more than two drinks a day.
Finally, count these sizes as one drink: 12 oz. beer, 1.5 oz. liquor, 5 oz. wine.
This blog is wonderful. I saw a lot of the posts relating to bullying and teen suicide. My father is the founder of the society for the prevention of teen suicide, he travels around doing talks and setting up schools and people with educational tools on how to ask for help or how to help friends if they ask for it. I think you might be interested in their program. sptsusa. org
I checked out the website and it is a great resource tool. I loved the video “Not My Kid.” Thanks for the info and tell your dad to keep up the good work. :)
Even though it’s been several years since I saw it happen, its impact on me is still strong. I was sitting in the stands at a Good Charlotte concert with a raucous crowd of young fans. At one point in the concert, the band stood on stage and asked for the houselights to be brought up. After quieting the 10,000 teens in the room, the band calmly asked, “How many of you here have ever considered or attempted suicide yourself, or know someone who has taken their own life?” I stood in stunned silence as what looked like every hand in the room went silently and slowly up in the air. It was a powerful encounter with a dark cultural reality. Then, after the young quintet of punk rockers told the crowd that suicide is a road they should never travel, they launched into their hopeful anti-suicide anthem, “Hold On.” I had a difficult time listening as my eyes kept scanning the crowd of young people in the room.
That moment has come back to me whenever I read, hear about or discuss a teen suicide. Sadly, that’s been far too often. While there’s no way to really know just how many kids are pondering suicide, this hopeless and horrific act is the third leading cause of death among 10-24 year-olds, with 6.3% self-reporting having attempted suicide one or more times in the previous 12 months.1 In the United States, one teenager takes his or her life every 100 minutes. It’s recognized that this statistic is far too conservative as many teen suicides aren’t reported as such. What is known is that there’s been an alarming and steady rise in suicide among younger children and teens.
I don’t know Phil, but the brief story Phil told on his website offered another reality check. “My name is Phil and last year I lost my son to suicide. He was only 17. If you were like me … chances are you don’t know anything about suicide or noticing the warning signs … I know that I didn’t … but I do now. My wife and I have put this site together for both adults looking for some information on how to prevent this from happening to their children, and also for other teens looking for help.” Because I’m a father, I find Phil’s words somewhat haunting. One day his son was there. The next day he wasn’t. I can’t even imagine. For whatever reason, Phil didn’t see it coming. I’m sure Phil’s ignorance is admittedly shared by the great majority of parents who have experienced his same horror. One loving and involved Christian parent described to me what it was like for them after their 13-year-old son took his life.
The young man had endured a horrible breakup along with a change in schools before slowly getting depressed. The parent says, “We were frogs in boiling water and missed the signs of the rising temperature. No one ever thinks suicide will happen to them—we thought we were dealing with the highs and lows of a budding hormonal teen.” When you’re especially close to someone – even your own child – subtle changes that take place over time are sometimes very difficult to see. Sometimes it’s the things right under our noses that we so easily miss. This parent’s words are words we should all hear and heed. The parents deeply loved Christ and their son. They were active in his life. The signs were there. But still they were missed.
One of the most memorable moments of the 1992 Summer Olympics occurred when Britain’s Derek Redmond was sprinting around the track in the 400-meter run. As Redmond sped around the backstretch, his right hamstring tore. How did you and I know he was hurt? He showed us. He stopped running, limped a few steps and fell to the ground. His face contorted in response to the physical pain he was feeling. He grabbed his leg and rolled around on the ground. Those who were in close proximity heard him scream out in agony. We knew he was hurt because he told us not in words but through his actions. His physical pain was obvious to anyone who was watching.
Teenagers who attempt suicide give signs, some of them extremely subtle. About 80 percent of those who take their lives communicate their intention to someone prior to the act. While they may not always communicate their pain and intentions with verbal clarity, the signs are there. But they may never be heard unless we know what to watch for. Experts say there are five categories of signs teens give when contemplating or before attempting/committing suicide. No, they’re not all there all the time. But some signs will most likely be present. Carefully read through the descriptions of these signs, realizing that they will usually appear in some combination before a teenager acts on their thoughts.
10 Ways to Move Beyond Bully-Prevention (and Why We Should)
By Lyn Mikel Brown
1) Stop labeling kids
Bully prevention programs typically put kids in three categories: bullies, victims, and bystanders. Labeling children in these ways denies what we know to be true: We are all complex beings with the capacity to do harm and to do good, sometimes within the same hour. It also makes the child the problem, which downplays the important role of parents, teachers, the school system, an increasingly provocative and powerful media culture, and societal injustices children experience every day. Labeling kids bullies, for that matter, contributes to the negative climate and name-calling we’re trying to address.
2) Talk accurately about behavior
If it’s sexual harassment, call it sexual harassment; if it’s homophobia, call it homophobia, and so forth. To lump disparate behaviors under the generic “bullying” is to efface real differences that affect young people’s lives. Bullying is a broad term that de-genders, de-races, de-everythings school safety. Because of this, as sexual harassment expert Nan Stein explains, embracing anti-bullying legislation can actually undermine the legal rights and protections offered by anti-harassment laws. Calling behaviors what they are helps us educate children about their rights, affirms their realities, encourages more complex and meaningful solutions, opens up a dialogue, invites children to participate in social change, and ultimately protects them.
3) Move beyond the individual
Children’s behaviors are greatly affected by their life histories and social contexts. To understand why a child uses aggression toward others, it’s important to understand what impact race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion, and ability has on his or her daily experiences in school?that is, how do these realities affect the kinds of attention and resources the child receives, where he fits in, whether she feels marginal or privileged in the school. Such differen-ces in social capital, cultural capital, and power relations deeply affect a child’s psychological and relational experiences in school.
4) Reflect reality
Many schools across the country have adopted an approach developed by the Norwegian educator Dan Olweus, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, even though it has not been effectively evaluated with U.S. samples. Described as a “universal intervention for the reduction and prevention of bully/victim problems,” the Olweus program downplays those differences that make a difference. But even when bully prevention programs have been adequately evaluated, the University of Illinois’ Dorothy Espelage argues, they often show less-than-positive results in urban schools or with minority populations. “We do not have a one-size-fits-all school system,” she reminds us. Because the United States has a diversity of race, ethnicity, language, and inequalities between schools, bully-prevention efforts here need to address that reality.
5) Adjust expectations
We hold kids to ideals and expectations that we as adults could never meet. We expect girls to ingest a steady diet of media “mean girls” and always be nice and kind, and for boys to engage a culture of violence and never lash out. We expect kids never to express anger to adults, never to act in mean or hurtful ways to one another, even though they may spend much of the day in schools they don’t feel safe in, and with teachers and other students who treat them with disrespect. Moreover, we expect kids to behave in ways most of us don’t even value very much: to obey all the rules (regardless of their perceived or real unfairness), to never resist, refuse, or fight back.
6) Listen to kids
In her book Other People’s Children, Lisa Delpit talks about the importance of “listening that requires not only open eyes and ears, but also hearts and minds.” Again, consistent consequences are important; used well, they undermine privilege and protect those who are less powerful. But to make such a system work, schools have to listen to all students. It’s the only way to ensure that staff members are not using discipline and consistent consequences simply to promote the status quo.
7) Embrace grassroots movements
There’s nothing better than student-initiated change. Too many bully-prevention programs are top heavy with adult-generated rules, meetings, and trainings. We need to empower young people. This includes being on the lookout for positive grassroots resistance, ready to listen to and support and sometimes channel youth movements when they arise. We need to listen to students, take up their just causes, understand the world they experience, include them in the dialogue about school norms and rules, and use their creative energy to illuminate and challenge unfairness.
8) Be proactive, not reactive
In Maine, we have a nationally recognized Civil Rights Team Project. Youth-led, school-based preventive teams work to increase safety, educate their peers, and combat hate, violence, prejudice, and harassment in over 250 schools across the state. This kind of proactive, youth-empowerment work is sorely needed, but is too often lost in the midst of zero-tolerance policies and top-down bully-prevention efforts. Yet such efforts work. According to a study conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, youth-led gay/straight alliances make schools safer for all students.
9) Build coalitions
Rather than bully prevention, let’s emphasize ally- and coalition-building. We need to affirm and support the definition of coalition that activist Bernice Johnson Reagon suggests: work that’s difficult, exhausting, but necessary “for all of us to feel that this is our world.”
10) Accentuate the positive
Instead of labeling kids, let’s talk about them as potential leaders, affirm their strengths, and believe that they can do good, brave, remarkable things. The path to safer, less violent schools lies less in our control over children than in appreciating their need to have more control in their lives, to feel important, to be visible, to have an effect on people and situations.
Bully prevention has become a huge for-profit industry. Let’s not let the steady stream of training sessions, rules, policies, consequence charts, and no-bullying posters keep us from listening well, thinking critically, and creating approaches that meet the unique needs of our schools and communities.