This week I am presenting the Hero Workshop to two schools that are conducting anti-bullying weeks. Mill Creek Middle School in Dexter and Baker Middle School in Troy have each put together schedules starting today that are designed to improve the awareness (and thus lower the effectiveness) of bullying in their school communities.
Last week I saw a piece on ABC News about an anti-bullying bill waiting Senate approval in Florida. The bill aims to provide a set of “bare minimum” rules that every school would have to enforce. Currently schools are responsible for their own set of rules and guidelines. My concern with the piece on ABC News was that they seemed to equate bullying purely with physical beating. They naturally showed the recent footage of young girls beating another girl after some cyber taunts. This kind of depiction of bullying is a shame as it continues to allow the more subtle types of bullying to continue to be in the shadows.
safenetwork.com has a great page on bullying and the various types. The best part is the series of photos visualizing those types. You can see some of them along the side of this post. Their definition of bullying: bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person. The behavior can be verbal, emotional, and physical. Their suggestion if you see someone being bullied: you should always try to stop it. If you do nothing, you’re saying that bullying is okay with you. The best way to help is probably to tell an adult. It’s always best to treat others the way you would like to be treated.
The idea that you approve bullying by doing nothing can be a strong message to students and it is one I plan to discuss this week. Jennifer Brooks has a post today on Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect blog that has some ideas on that point. She has a quote from Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” How apt for describing the bystanders in bullying situations. And she quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
The article then goes on to discuss the idea of standing between two warring parties instead of choosing a side. Her example comes from Henri Dunant who helped create the Red Cross who stood between warring countries to serve the cause of the wounded. By standing in the middle, you can show independent thought – show that you understand both sides, but decline to demonize one or the other. Zoe Weil talked about this idea of avoiding black/white, yes/no, Christian/Muslim kinds of thought.
This second point is important for potential heroes in school as they may not feel comfortable choosing sides in bullying, rather simply wanting the inappropriate behaviour to stop. By being confident that the act of bullying is not okay, students can feel safe to intervene without fear of favouring on party over the other.
To beat bullying we need to:
- recognize the myriad types of bullying: physical violence, social outcasting, cyber gossiping and intimidation, and name calling among others.
- understand that doing nothing is equivalent to approving.
- know that stepping in to stop the behaviour does not mean we have to choose a side.