Chances are, you’ll answer “yes” to at least one of these questions:
1. Do you know a bully or someone who’s felt the wrath of one?
2. Have you ever been bullied?
3. Ever bullied someone?
4. Have you grown tired of hearing about bullying in the media?
Regarding that last question, I’ll offer one of the most upsetting examples of bullying I’ve ever seen by way of this schoolyard video – though it’s not for the faint of heart. The first time I watched it – last week -- I literally covered my mouth, screamed, and sat frozen for 30 seconds with my eyes clamped shut.
Allow me to introduce you to Evanston's own Carrie Goldman, whose first book, Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (Harper Collins, 2012), offers concrete advice for the bullied, the bullies, and everyone touched by their situations. Just check out these glowing reviews.
Background for Book
In 2010, Goldman's first-grade daughter, Katie, was teased at school for carrying a Star Wars water bottle. When Goldman's blog post about the situation went viral, she researched and wrote BULLIED at what I can only describe as a world record pace. She's got three kids under the age of 10, a loyal following for her blog, Portrait of An Adoption, and a talent for painting. And yet, with all the media attention BULLIED's attracting, Goldman still manages to stay relaxed in her interviews, as evidenced on HuffPost IMPACT.
Goldman and I are neighbors and fellow writers, and I’ve watched with excitement as Bullied neared its publication date. However, until I read the book, I had no idea how comprehensive it would be.
What about adults being cyberbullied? Younger kids bullied on school buses and in the corners of their classrooms? People singled out over gender struggles? Goldman addresses each of these factions and many, many more, offering online resources, recommending titles for a range of ages, providing examples of bullying surveys and examining two promising anti-bullying programs.
Citing studies by the 2010 National Center for Education Statistics and the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Goldman asserts in her introduction that “32 percent of students between the ages of twelve and eighteen reported being bullied within the six months prior to being surveyed …and that about one in five teens had been bullied at school in the last year, with nearly half of middle-school students being bullied.” And that’s a mere sliver of the population.
I found Chapter 20’s focus on Restorative Justice fascinating. As a resident of Evanston, I’m pleased to learn how well the practice is working here. Goldman’s interview with Arika Barton, restorative justice coordinator for Evanston Police Department Youth Services Program, revealed that every juvenile case is reviewed after six months and one year post-offense. In the book, Barton tells Goldman, “Our success rate is ninety-eight percent. That means ninety eight percent of our cases do not go on to reoffend. The national average success rate for traditional juvenile offenders is forty-eight percent. Only forty-eight percent of the cases that go to juvie court do not reoffend.”
I myself was an easy target for bullies. As a fourth grader, I was the shortest kid, new to the school, and often missing local weekend activities while visiting my father. And, it didn’t help that I cried all the time. But, whenever someone picked on me, I’d hear the same response from adults: “Don’t let them get to you. You know you’re better than that.” Still, I believed what the bullies said about me, especially when they ganged up, pointing to my bucked teeth or whispering that kids only played with me because they felt sorry for me. It still hurts to recall one particular walk home from school: two classmates followed me and rubbed a flour and water mixture into my long hair just to see how long it took to make me cry (immediately).
But make no mistake: I wasn’t always the victim. As I’ve written elsewhere, I, too, played the role of bully. My confessional blog piece wasn’t an easy one to write or share, but Carrie Goldman inspired me to write it just before BULLIED launched. Remembering that time in my life has given me a deeper understanding and ownership of my (immature yet completely) unforgivable behavior. It also makes me realize that even the best parents and teachers need specific tools to deal with bullying.
In this day and age -- and particularly in our town -- with recent accusations of racial profiling (itself a form of bullying), isn't it time we master a deeper understanding of the bully mentatlity and how to deal with it? Whether you see the anti-bullying movement as “hype” or as a national work-in-progress, Goldman’s interviews, examples and perspective prove there’s no one immune to bullying – and no reason to ever feel alone.
What do you say to someone who's being bullied? Tell us in the comments section below.