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HomeHealth & BehaviorBullying

How to start an anti-bullying program

Want to nip bullying in the bud? Start a program that stops the torment before it starts.

By Connie Matthiessen

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It even happens to presidents and starlets

From President Obama to tween idol Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) there is growing awareness of bullying and the toll it's taking on young lives.

That's the good news. The bad news is that bullying is still alive and well at many schools around the country, as Marie Newman discovered when her son started fifth grade in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, an affluent Chicago suburb. The boy was cyberbullied by classmates and taunted at school. When Newman spoke to school officials, she discovered that the school didn’t have an official anti-bullying policy, nor did administrators seem clear about how to tackle the problem.

"It wasn't that they didn't care," says Newman. "But principals and teachers these days have so much coming at them that they're overwhelmed." So Newman decided to do it herself. She teamed up with another parent, Jacqui DiMarco,  and the two mothers launched an anti-bullying program at their childrens' school.
 

Connie Matthiessen is a San Francisco writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Health, San Francisco, WebMD, and other publications. She has three children (who provide a close-up perspective on great and not-so-great schools) and two chubby cats.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/12/2012:
"I did not recognize that my five-year-old son was repeatedly bullied by his teacher until he told me that he didn't want to go to school. One of the so-called nonprofit school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, assured that the school mission was to help educate Cambodian children so that they have an equal opportunity to quality education. This profit-oriented school, as I may say, charged every student US$120 a year and would not any allow anyone who failed to pay the fee on time step into the school premises. I found that this school has had no anti-bullying measures because educators themselves are the bullies. "
06/5/2012:
"i have been bullied since 1st grade and the bullys whould not stop and i go to a christain school.that is why i am makeing a stop bullying program next year "
06/4/2012:
"Unfortunately my family is no stranger to Bullying. Recently my son a sweet 10 year old is still being bullied, and by a female! She punched my son in the face because she did not like his backpack. I am still be wildered by this.I called his teacher and she got the principle involved. In short he gave her lunchtime detention for 2 days, ok but she did not apologize. I talked to the "Principle" and requested she apologize to my son, I stated it is morals which are important this is the way my son was brought up, and this would make him feel better. The principle stated " Morals or not he does not know, but he cannot make her apologize, he further stated he does not know about morals." WHAT!!!! I am really tongue tied now how can the "Principle" say this?? He is obiviosuly a part of the problem, I then approached the teacher and she made the female student apologize. My goodness this is not over I am gonna take this issue to another level due to the Attitude of the principle.! Everyone who has been victims must must speak out!!!! You child is worth alot more, and it makes them feel loved and wanted just when they need it the most. Please speak out for them.... "
05/4/2012:
"Reporting it doesn't help. Get over it. Nothing helps. It only continues. It always will. It will never end. "
01/17/2012:
"School districts are not motivated to do what it takes to stop bullying. I'm an educator who has tried to stop abuse and bullying for years in multiple settings unsuccessfully. I'm in the minority. Most educators will not risk being uncomfortable and confronting bullying behavior whether in children or adults. Lunch room and recess bullying are rampant. Staff perceive reporting as tattling and don't end bullying when it crops up. Same dynamic occurs with adults bulling little kids. No one wants to stand up and identify bullying behavior, or too few take a stand to be effective. Stan Davis of www.stopbullyingnow.com has a great program but getting staff and community buy-in is almost impossible if it doesn't come from top down. So if you find yourself trying to protect your child from a teacher bully like I did you have to go up against a very powerful teachers' union who has very deep pockets and more control of school districts than parents do. We had to pull our! kids to home school them because our community wouldvrather support abusive teachers than stand united to protect kids. "
12/5/2011:
"i dont like bullys! "
10/20/2011:
"I really would like to know how I can start an antibullying program here in Anchorage Ak. "
10/6/2011:
"My heart goes out to the child who is bullied and the parents. I too have a daughter who was bullied and it is a living hell not only was she bullied but had her head bashed into a cement wall at schoollunch headaches for the rest of her life.lost all scholarships grades went down hated to go to school . went through the court system ,school board tried to get a order of protection and the girl is still allowed to attend that school. What is wrong with this picture. We live in a state with zero tolerance for bullying does any one follow the statue? The bully pleaded guilty. and her parents awarded her with a car. any help would be helpful. I believe I and my daughter feared for her safety as she attended school on a daily basis. Every one needs to be educated and parents need to be responsible for their childs actions. This is the future America what are we teaching our children.As parents the more people who speak out the loudest someone is going to hear that this is a matter that needs to be addressed right away. "
10/3/2011:
"Teachers are the bullies!~ "
10/3/2011:
"I am a parent but i remember the endless days of being teased. I want to be educated on what to do if that time comes whether it be they are being bullied or being the bully. I must say that I'm not surprised by the schools reaction nor the parents of the bully. When I was kid you were told that kids are cruel only to find that they can grow up and be cruel adults. "
10/3/2011:
"Champions Against Bullying applauds intervention. We also send accolades to PREVENTION! Because silence and denial and shame and blame keep the brakes off bullying at an earlier stage, parents need to learn how to recognize the signs of bullying and help their child safely, while preserving as much of their child's self-esteem as possible. As well, when choosing bullying prevention programs, find out what the success rate is before deciding on one. We are thrilled that Newman's son is doing well. Alexandra Penn, Founder Champions Against Bullying "
10/3/2011:
" I had this ugly experience. I know what it feel to have been a bullied and It isn't good. My son was bullied at public school that just wasn't just two kids involve also was 2 workers involve against my son and me that I have to take my son out of the school ( Claire Lilienthal - Scott campus ) Not one no even the Principal did nothing to stop and believe in my son and me and still are working there protecting each other. It is good to take action to prevent these things. Bulling has affected my son's life in a big way. It was so serious i had to take him to the physiologist and has to get this trauma out of his life and out of his mind. This also affected him academically lowing down his grades , emotional lower his self-esteem, constantly headache etc. I took all the steps possibly but felt that i wasn't heard and had to transfer him out of the school. luckily the new school was the best ever! We should all be aware of problem and start programs to one by one solve th! is problem, or at least try to make it better.And the most important thing have prove to be believe and act quickly. "
08/17/2011:
"An amazing program on school buses to address, bullying, health, fitness, obesity, education, safety. "
05/24/2011:
"how do you protect a child when the staff and administration with their lawyer join hands in defending themselves to save their jobs and become bullies themselves, hire a paid witness from your tax money to protect themselves who walks with your child all day in school just to negate everything that happens to him/her in school. the teachers feel very strong and protected and go a step forward to hurt the child therefore putting the childs future in the dark, taking an A student to the brink of failing, using every dirty trick in the book. i s there any help out there? or any suggestions? desperate to know"
05/24/2011:
"what do you do and who do you approach when in order to defend themselves the school (staff and administration) becomes a bully because they were not able to prevent bullying in their school. its easy to target one child and go after him/her . i would really like to know who to seek help from in such a case because it seems like a child or parents have absolutely no rights in a school setting which gives the principal the freedom to make laws and enforce them within the school while bullying the child and having the parents watch helplessly because they also have full backing from the lawyers provided to them by your tax money. the child also goes thru the injustice done to him. its a shame i would really appreciate any kind of information and help in this matter at the earliest so i can help my child . "
04/18/2011:
"Hope High School teachers in Hope arkansas are bullying kids as well!"
04/18/2011:
"This can get ugly, but no child deserves this kind of henchmanship. I am an educator and have had my share of administrators who seem to 'favor' the bully or are terribly slow in responding to the needs of bullied kids. This is what we recommend. Call the district office and state your problem. If you are not referred to those responsible in the district office then inform the laison with whom you are speaking that you have waited long enough (for those whom you have previously contacted) and are going to contact an attorney. Our experience is that most provide the first call free of charge and some are even willing to go to bat for you subsequent to this call without charge. Do not threaten. Just do it. There are times when administrators are delighted since they now have concrete ammunition to deal with other staff who are ignoring your child's pleas."
04/18/2011:
"Please do not send your child back to the school for more pain. Take it to the principal immediately. Your child is not tattling. Your child is reporting what happened and the school needs to protect their student - your child."
04/7/2011:
"It's happening to my family as well. My nephew has been bullied for last 2days. Just today he was bullied on the school bus(from school to home). When he arrived home he was in deep rage, he ran into the kitchen and a got a large knife and proceded to go after the bully, my sister and his stepfather ran after him. They talked with him again, stating it will be alright. Attempted to contact the parents, who r n denial(my son SAID he didn't do anything), ok. Called the principal, who say he will take cAre of it(3rd time). We will see what tomorrow brings. HELP, now I'm wondering if my nephew needs couseling?"
04/7/2011:
"excellent idea. Living in Caracas, Venezuela, I noticed many schools publics and private with bullying here, too. As a children's psychologist I'm very concerned about this situation. I'd like to contact those women to know about their work and how are they doing in the schools. thanks."
04/5/2011:
"i am a student in a private school and since it is such a small environment there is no bullying. at my old school there was, though. teachers didnt know anything about it and since the bullies were top students they didnt believe us when we told. Anyway, bullying iis definetly an issue i am glad someone is doing something about it."
04/5/2011:
"Bullying is a growing problem that our youth has to endure. As the Executive Director of S.U.P.E.R.B. (Students United with Parents and Educators to Resolve Bullying), a systemic anti-bullying program in South Florida, I would like to share with you some information on how to resolve it. Please check out our website www.flgraduates.org/superb and feel free to contact me at alwaysnagoodmood@yahoo.com for information on how to bring our program to your children's school."
04/5/2011:
"My daughter has been getting bullied by three other students in her class. She tells the teacher, but the teacher tells her to stop tattle telling. Also the other three students join together and lie on her so she always gets in trouble. The teacher believes them more then my daughter. It creates hostility and sadness for my daughter in which she has trouble learning."
04/4/2011:
"All excellent recommendations. One group to be sure to include is your PTA...the PTA at your school and your PTA Council at the school district level. Our PTA Council provides resources for parent education, brings in anti-bullying expert speakers and supports programs such as Olweus."
04/4/2011:
"I would make sure that every incident is documented both by you and the school in writing. My next step would be to obtain a temporary restraining order detailing any threats or actual physical harm in chronological order. Usually you can complete a court document and attend an ex parte court where if granted you then have the children served by law enforcement and appear in court a couple weeks later. I would also consider consulting an attorney regarding the enforcement of your child's state constitutional right to an education being violated by bullies and school districts inability or unwillingness to protect your child's right. "
04/4/2011:
"My daughter is going through this right now... I have done just about everything i know to do and nothing has helped... I have even called the School Board... Im guess the next step is pressing charges?? Can someone help please??"
04/4/2011:
"I like that your article gives specific information how to deal with the problem in the school. I believe that parents must be involved in a proactive way to protect and advocate for their children. Your article shows the steps to take to resolve a growing problem in all schools in a a very positive and effective way. Thank you."
04/4/2011:
"This is getting to be such a problem!! It gets worse every year. A good book to discuss this issue is: Short Mort and the Big Bully for boys and Meredith and the Mean Girls for girls. It helps open the discussion. Both books are available on amazon!"
04/4/2011:
"This is a huge issue for me because back in elementary/middle school, I was bullied/picked on like many kids today. I really think schools and parents need to create anti-bullying programs to control/abolish bullying! Bullying needs to end. When I got bullied, it really effected me mentally, socially and academically. I have moved on, but the pain I went through will never go away. We can't let our children or future children go through the same thing. We need to do something!"
04/4/2011:
"Even when there is an anti-bullying policy in place doesn't mean it is followed. I know because my granddaughter has been living with it. She is also in the 5th grade."
04/4/2011:
"The young actress is named Miranda Cosgrove, not Melinda. :)"
04/4/2011:
"I think when a child is being bullied, he/she should not hesitate to tell the teachers, parents and other adults in authority, maybe even a best friend. Although teachers say they are there to teach, I believe they also have an obligation to their students to make sure they are safe and any bullying should immediately be dealt with and parents, (including the bullies parent), principals and guidance should be involved so that the child knows he/she has people on her side and ready to protect her."
04/4/2011:
"Our school has a zero tolerance policy but that hasn't/doesn't stop a thing as it is not adhered to. We found help through the social worker that works for the ISD in our county. Oh and how about teachers bullying students? Not the stay in line kind of thing, but the smashing a child's self-confidence into the ground kind!"
04/4/2011:
"stop the bullying"
04/4/2011:
"My son has ADHD and is continuously bullied at his school. He has a reputation due to strange and hyper behavior due to his medical condition. As a result, he's very lonely. The kids all treat him badly, and his self esteem is extremely low. He's gone as far as to beg other boys to be friends with him, and have them reject him repeatedly. I wish I knew what to do for him. Things keep happening to him, and I'm feeling so frustrated. A child recently invited my son to a sleep over. That NEVER happens. When my son went to the boys house (he lives down our street) the boy proceeded to beat my son up. The sleep over was just a trick. I was bullied as a child and hoped not to have the same thing happen to my own children. Now I'm watching my son endure so much. He has a heart of gold, and his spirit is breaking."
04/4/2011:
"Nice job. When it comes to bullying, nobody gains. These policies should be the national standard so that parents everywhere don't have to make/enforce themselves."
04/4/2011:
"I agree with these Moms. I also have a child in school. I have had a complaining from her before, but I did not pay attention. After I read this article, it's kind of scare me. I will keep an eyes on my daughter and report to a school immediatly. Thank you for letting me know about this problem Thu Cuc"
04/4/2011:
"what happens when the bully is a high school coach with tenure who is savvy enough to bully people into silence ... so no one else will stand up and corroborate what's happening to your child and other children - because the kids want to play their sport and the parents go along with it so their kids can play their sport? and the school doesn't seem to care what 1 or 3 families are saying? seriously messed up :("
04/4/2011:
"My daughter was bullied for several weeks. I reported this to the anti bullying line and even spoke with someone who ran the anti bullying line NOTHING WAS DONE. Then my child was cornered in the bathroom by four girls and their taunting continued, Once I got the police involved because the school staff still did nothing, they fired back on me and said because u involved the police we are not doing anything! So I called the police again, the school dept and even the mayors office. I am so sorry this had to go this far, but they turned their faces for three months. Now, they know I mean business. BPS what a major slap in the face."
04/4/2011:
"Perhaps another vital step is to take proactive steps to ensure that your own child won't become a bully. I'm still trying to figure out just how to do this, but one tactic I have is to curtail access to violent TV shows, movies, and especially video games. Lots of people insist that the violence in the virtual video game world can't be directly linked to increasing levels of violence in the real world, but I disagree. At a minimum, I believe graphic video games do desensitize children to violence and the consequences of violent actions."
04/4/2011:
"This happened to my son at his school. He's also in the 5th grade. My husband & I went to the administrators and teachers and their solution was to tell the other boys to stay away from my son. Ultimately isolating my son and making him feel like he'd done something wrong. As big of a problem as bullying is, you would think they would be better trained to deal with the issue. I really appreciate you posting this article. I feel like I'm not alone in dealing with an inadequate system. We are moving our son to a new school next year; however, our daughter will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. This gives me ideas on making sure this doesn't happen to her. Thank you again!"
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