When is an insult not an insult?

11 05 2013


I want a poster of this for my classroom.

24 04 2013


‘Cool’ kids in middle school bully more, UCLA psychologists report

29 01 2013

My seventh-grade self would love to jump forward in time just so he can sarcastically shout, “Noooooo!” While I can’t say that all of my scrapes, bruises, broken glasses, and emotional scars came exclusively from the “cool crowd,” I’d say that roughly 90% did. And the other 10% came from those trying to elevate their status and impress the guardians of popularity. Frankly, that’s where all the bullying I participated in came from… trying to “be cool.”

Part of me feels somewhat vindicated by this study, but it’s also sort of silly that they had to do one in the first place. They could’ve asked any of us geeks who it was that did the bulk of the tormenting, and we’d all have answered the same. The only problem is, nobody ever cared to believe us.

– dEV

#     #     #

ucla‘Cool’ kids in middle school bully more, UCLA psychologists report

Study of seventh and eighth graders finds no difference between boys, girls

By Stuart Wolpert January 24, 2013

Bullying, whether it’s physical aggression or spreading rumors, boosts the social status and popularity of middle school students, according to a new UCLA psychology study that has implications for programs aimed at combatting school bullying. In addition, students already considered popular engage in these forms of bullying, the researchers found.
The psychologists studied 1,895 ethnically diverse students from 99 classes at 11 Los Angeles middle schools. They conducted surveys at three points: during the spring of seventh grade, the fall of eighth grade and the spring of eighth grade. Each time, students were asked to name the students who were considered the “coolest,” the students who “start fights or push other kids around” and the ones who “spread nasty rumors about other kids.”
Those students who were named the coolest at one time were largely named the most aggressive the next time, and those considered the most aggressive were significantly more likely to be named the coolest the next time. The results indicate that both physical aggression and spreading rumors are rewarded by middle school peers.
“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “What was particularly interesting was that the form of aggression, whether highly visible and clearly confrontational or not, did not matter. Pushing or shoving and gossiping worked the same for boys and girls.
“The impetus for the study was to figure out whether aggression promotes social status, or whether those who are perceived as popular abuse their social power and prestige by putting other kids down,” she said. “We found it works both ways for both ‘male-typed’ and ‘female-typed’ forms of aggression.”
The research is published online in the prominent Journal of Youth and Adolescence and will be appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal.
The study implies that anti-bullying programs have to be sophisticated and subtle to succeed.
“A simple message, such as ‘Bullying is not tolerated,’ is not likely to be very effective,” Juvonen said, when bullying often increases social status and respect.
Effective anti-bullying programs need to focus on the bystanders, who play a critical role and can either encourage or discourage bullying, said Juvonen, who has conducted research on bullying since the mid-1990s and serves as a consultant to schools on anti-bullying programs. Bystanders should be made aware of the consequences of spreading rumors and encouraging aggression and the damage bullying creates, she said.
Juvonen’s current research is federally supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Juvonen and her colleagues reported in 2003 that bullies are popular and respected and are considered the “cool” kids.
The rumors middle school students spread often involve sexuality (saying a student is gay or sexually promiscuous) and family insults, she said.
Like middle school students, Juvonen noted, non-human primates also use aggression to promote social rank (although gossiping is obviously limited to humans).
Co-authors of the new study are former UCLA psychology graduate student Yueyan Wang and UCLA psychology doctoral student Guadalupe Espinoza.
In previous research, Juvonen and her colleagues have reported that nearly three in four teenagers say they were bullied online at least once during a recent 12-month period, and only one in 10 reported such cyber-bullying to parents or other adults; that nearly half of the sixth graders at two Los Angeles–area public schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period; that middle school students who are bullied in school are likely to feel depressed, lonely and miserable, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to further bullying incidents; and that bullying is pervasive.
“Bullying is a problem that large numbers of kids confront on a daily basis at school; it’s not just an issue for the few unfortunate ones,” Juvonen has said. “Students reported feeling humiliated, anxious or disliking school on days when they reported incidents, which shows there is no such thing as ‘harmless’ name-calling or an ‘innocent’ punch.'”

Spread the Word to End the R-Word

22 12 2012

r-wordI have a rule in my classroom that all of my students are familiar with. They don’t use the word “retarded.”

Every once in a while, a student will ask why it’s such a big deal. “It’s pretty simple,” I reply. “It’s a word that offends or hurts the feelings of a lot of people. You say ‘retarded’ when you mean ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ or ‘lame,’ and special needs people know that you think they are stupid or dumb or lame. Don’t say it. Take it out of your vocabulary, because it’s demeaning to people.”

Earlier this year, a student thanked me for taking a tough stance on the “r-word.” He lived with a foster child with special needs, and knew how much it hurt to hear it, even if it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.

I encourage everyone, especially teachers and others who work with young people to take the pledge to end the use of the word “retarded,” and to make sure that kids around them know that even words that aren’t meant to hurt can be very hurtful.

– dEV


TODAY: Are Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang too mean for today’s kids? Good grief!

24 10 2012

Is there a difference between teasing and bullying? Are the pranks and name-calling that he constantly endures a bad example for kids? When I read stories like this, I think we may be taking things a little too far. It does raise some interesting questions about where the line is, and if the things that we enjoy watching with our kids are maybe not as wholesome as we think they are.

As for me, I’ll be watching ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ with my kids this Halloween. How about you?
– dEV


#     #     #


Are Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang too mean for today’s kids? Good grief!

By Dana Macario

As Halloween nears, many families will gather around the old television set for the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” But, one dad says it’s time to retire the classic cartoon because of its taunting messages and unkind words.

“The show is riddled with the kids calling each other stupid, dumb, and blockheads. There is continous teasing and bullying. Charlie Brown is supposed to be the hero, instead he is kicked and demeaned at every turn, even by the adults giving out candy,” Buzz Bishop, otherwise known as DadCamp, wrote at Babble.com recently.

Bishop argues that apart from a sense of nostalgia for parents, the Charlie Brown specials have nothing of value to offer today’s kids. He finds the shows’ acceptance of schoolyard teasing to be antiquated. And, as the father of young kids, he finds the constant use of words like “stupid” “dumb” and “blockhead” to be a bad message for those little ears. “Charlie Brown is always an outsider, the cool kids continue to play tricks, and nobody is ever held to account. In an era of hashtags like #RIPAmandaTodd, these types of attitudes are no longer appropriate,” Bishop wrote.

As the gang goes trick-or-treating, Charlie Brown is repeatedly given a rock while the other children are given treats. Bishop points to this as evidence that even the adults are in on the bullying. Of course, since Charlie Brown is wearing a costume, it could be argued that the adults aren’t intentionally singling the poor kid out.

Throughout life, most of us have times when we feel like everyone else is getting treats (or bags full of candy, if you will), while we get nothing but a sack of rocks. Maybe it’s helpful and reassuring for kids to know that everyone else has those “sucks to be me” moments once in a while. Admittedly, old Charlie Brown seems to have more than his fair share.

Although Bishop believes it’s time for a new era in children’s programming, not everyone is on board.

HuffPo: This Spirit Day, Take a Stand Against Bullying

17 10 2012

This is a great blog by a young man who wants to remind us of what many of our students are struggling with every day. Questions of identity, bullying, teasing, verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Feelings of being utterly alone.

October 19th is Spirit Day, a day to speak out against bullying, and to also show support gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender young people in our schools and communities. Many do this by wearing purple. These are issues that we can’t ignore any longer, and I hope that you’ll take the time to read Jordan Addison’s story if you don’t understand why.

– dEV

#     #     #

This Spirit Day, Take a Stand Against Bullying

Student, Radford University

Posted: 10/17/2012 1:15 pm

I am a 21-year-old college student at Radford University, in Radford, Va. I am from a place called Max Meadows, Va. Our community is itty-bitty and is mostly populated by individuals who have spent their entire lives in and around the area. It’s a small town in the South, so, naturally, the way of thinking there is several decades behind other places in our nation. It isn’t uncommon to encounter hate or discrimination; in fact, it can happen on a daily basis. As a gay male, I grew up in fear of how the community might react to my sexual orientation, so I kept everything all bottled up inside. However, I was perceived as being gay, and in high school that’s all the bullies need; they don’t care what the truth is. I went through elementary school, middle school and most of high school with very few friends. Many days I would make myself sick so that I could go home early.

I was called things like “fag” and “homo” every single day. I was shoved, punched, spit on, shunned and told frequently that I would be better off if I just killed myself. Sometimes I believed it. Once someone stole my backpack and urinated all over the inside of it. My locker was covered in shaving cream. I was hit with rocks and tripped, and my lunch and homework were stolen. There was nothing I could do to escape the torment of simply being what other people perceived me as being. My perfect grades began to slip downward. Even people who had claimed to be my friend turned their backs on me. Sleep became something that eluded me.

Books became my savior. Whenever I had free time, I read. Delving into a novel would transport me to another world, a world where I could forget about how much I was hurting. I learned to tune out the world around me and live in the worlds within the pages before me. Even now, you have to forcibly take my Kindle away from me to get to me pay attention to you. But there weren’t always times when words could carry me away from the pain.

In high school my family moved to a different part of the county. I’m happy to say that I endured little torment at Rural Retreat High School, but my parents separated, and my dad began to drink, something I had never seen before. He became distant, and my mom lived far away from where I was. The divorce was messy, brutal and horrifying. I bounced around between each parent so much that I felt dizzy. All the while, I was dealing with the fact that something was “wrong” with me, something that my family and my religion didn’t allow.

Why would the God that I had tried so hard to serve make me gay? Couldn’t he have given me something else to deal with? I prayed constantly for him to take it away from me. My life was a constant internal battle. My heart was split into so many pieces, and they were all at war with one another. What more could I do to escape? Pain was coming from all sides: parents, self-hatred, church, failing grades. I couldn’t take anymore.

The courts ordered counseling for my family. For months I would go to a lady named Heather, and she would try to get me to open up. I just lied, hiding behind the façade of my religion. But I’m sure she saw right through me. A balloon of emotion and truth was welling up inside me, and I wanted more than anything to burst it in that little room with Heather. But I never did. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had just confided my pain in her.

Finally, there was no more that I could endure. Suicide seemed to be my only way out, so that is the road that I decided to follow. Thankfully, I was not successful.

With nowhere else to turn, I moved far away and began to work. Being alone for a year forced me to be real with myself. Standing in the upstairs bathroom of my house in Beckley, W.Va., I forced myself to come to terms with who I was. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I said, “I’m gay.” It felt so good that I laughed.

I came back to Virginia and tried to make things better with my family. My dad was dating a really sweet lady, and I became close with her daughter. I told her that I’m gay, and she told my entire family. I haven’t spoken to most of them, including my dad, since.

Homeless and alone, I showed up at my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ronnie’s house. They took me in, fed me and gave me a place to sleep. I never left. They are my “parents” now. I’ve never been happier. These are the two kindest people I’ve ever met. Retirement was treating them well, but the two of them started working again to help put me through college. Whenever I need someone to talk to, home is the first place I call.

(Full Story)


NBCNews: Teen picked for homecoming court as prank shines at ceremony

3 10 2012

This is a great story. I really admire this young lady, and how she handled the situation with poise. Why let the bullies wine? Why let them get you down? Why not make it your moment?

I’m also impressed with how the community and students rallied around her. It really does say a lot, especially to the “pranksters,” who hopefully learned something from all this as well.

– dEV

#     #     #

By NBC News staff

In a red, ruffled dress and flowers in her hair, Whitney Kropp, the Michigan high school student picked by her classmates to be on her school’s homecoming court as a prank, took to her school’s football stadium Friday for the ceremony.

“I had thoughts about not coming, but you know what, I’m glad I changed my mind and actually came out,” Kropp told NBC News.

Kropp’s appearance was met with thunderous applause and camera flashes from her fellow students at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Mich., and even members of the opposing team.

At Kropp’s side was Josh Awrey, the class of 2015’s male representative, the Bay City Times reported.

After the ceremony, Kropp, who said she had been bullied throughout her time in high school, told reporters that she was glad she decided to remain on the court.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Kropp said. “I’m so happy – this is so much right now for me. The school is fantastic they treated me so well.”

Sophomore homecoming representatives Whitney Kropp and Josh Awrey give each other a hug during the homecoming ceremony on the Ogemaw Heights High School football field on Friday.
John M. Galloway / AP

‘Easy target’

Kropp said last month she was initially surprised to learn that her classmates nominated her to be in the running for her school’s homecoming queen. But she said she soon felt humiliated and betrayed when she found out that it was all a joke.

“People had bullied on me, I guess, for my looks, how I did my hair, how I dress, my height, so I guess they thought, you know, maybe someone that is different is someone that’s an easy target,” Kropp said.

But, Kropp said she pulled through with the support of her mother and the rest of the town.

“You want to protect your kid, and you feel angry and mad at what has happened, but at the same time the outpouring to help her has been beyond expected,” Kropp’s mother Bernice Kropp said.

Word spread quickly through the community of about 2,100 residents in West Branch. Resident Jamie Kline started a Facebook support page, gaining more than 4,000 likes in Michigan and nationwide. Personal stories of bullying and messages of encouragement filled the page.

A salon owner in West Branch donated service to cut, color and style Kropp’s hair, and other local businesses paid for her dinner, gown, shoes and tiara for the dance.

Sophomore student Whitney Kropp never saw herself as part of the “in” crowd at her high school, so she was surprised to find out she was voted to homecoming court. It turned out to be a prank, but now the community is rallying behind Whitney to show their support for her. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

Before the game, a local company even made T-shirts in support of Kropp in her favorite color, orange, adding to the messages of encouragement that Kropp says helped her prevail.

Kristy Erway, Hannah Gebnard, and Paige Sharp of Cadillac High School hang a banner in support of Whitney Kropps in West Branch, Mich., on Friday.

“The kids that are bullying you do not let them bring you down,” she said. “Stand up for what you believe in, and go with your heart and go with your gut. That’s what I did and look at me now. I’m just as happy as can be.”

(Full Story with Video)


NBC News: Can kids be taught to become bullyproof?

19 09 2012

updated 5/31/2012 1:22:58 PM ET

NEW YORK — Teaching kids to become “bullyproof” is all the rage. Books, videos and websites promise to show parents how to protect their kids from being bullied; school districts are buying curricula with names like “Bully-Proofing Your School,” a well-regarded program used in thousands of classrooms. Even martial arts programs are getting into the act: “Bullyproofing the world, one child at a time,” is the motto for a jujitsu program called Gracie Bullyproof.

But can you really make a child invulnerable to getting picked on? And even if you could, should the burden really be on potential victims to learn these skills, rather than on punishing or reforming the bullies?

Parents and educators say when bullyproofing programs are done right, kids can be taught the social and emotional skills they need to avoid becoming victims. But bullyproofing is not just about getting bullies to move on to a different target. It’s also about creating a culture of kindness, beginning in preschool, and encouraging kids to develop strong friendships that can prevent the social isolation sometimes caused by extreme bullying.

Who’s got your back?
Bullies “sniff out kids who lack connections or who are isolated because of depression, mental health issues, disabilities or differences in size and shape,” said Malcolm Smith, a family education and policy specialist at the University of New Hampshire who has been researching peer victimization for more than 30 years. “So if you’re worried about your child being a victim, the best thing a parent can do from a very young age, starting in preschool, is ask, ‘Who’s got your back? When you’re on the bus, when you’re in the hall, who’s got your back?’ If they can’t name someone, you should help them establish connections to their peers.”

Smith, who is working on a program called “Courage to Care” that’s being tested in three rural New Hampshire schools, cited an example of a new boy who was being pushed and shoved by other boys in the hallway. “We didn’t know how to empower him,” Smith said, until the staff noticed that he’d become friends with a girl. “This girl is sweet but really assertive. What are seventh grade boys more afraid of than anything? Girls! So having her walk down the hall with this boy was the immediate solution to ending the bullying.”

Psychologist Joel Haber, a consultant on the recent documentary “Bully,” says kids should also have “backup friends” outside school through sports, hobbies, summer camp or religious groups. “That’s hugely important, especially as kids move from elementary to middle school.”

Emotional skills
Haber says “most kids can learn skills to make themselves less likely to have the big reactions” that feed bullies.

“Let’s say you’re one of those kids who, when I make fun of your clothes, you get really angry and dramatic. If I taught you in a role-play situation as a parent or a therapist to react differently, even if you felt upset inside, you would get a totally different reaction from the bully. And if you saw that kids wouldn’t tease you, your confidence would go up,” said Haber

One way parents can help is to normalize conversations about school social life so that kids are comfortable talking about it. Don’t just ask “How was school today?” Ask, “Who’d you have lunch with, who’d you sit with, who’d you play with, what happens on the bus, do you ever notice kids getting teased or picked on or excluded?” advises Haber, who offers other bullyproofing tips and resources at RespectU.com and is co-authored of a new book called “The Resilience Formula.”

Body language
Bullies “feed on the body language of fear. It’s a physical reaction — how the victim responds, how they hold their head and shoulders, the tone of voice,” said Jim Bisenius, a therapist who has taught his “Bully-Proofing Youth” program in more than 400 schools in Ohio and elsewhere.

Teaching a kid to appear confident physically can sometimes be easier to teach than verbal skills, Bisenius said. “If a kid who’s never been mean in his life tries to fake it, or tries to outdo a bully with a verbal comeback, the bully sees right through that.”

Lisa Suhay, a mom in Norfolk, Va., said her 8-year-old son Quin was helped by Gracie Bullyproof, a martial arts program taught in 55 locations that combines verbal strategies with defensive jujitsu moves. Quin had been bullied so much on the playground that Suhay stopped taking him there. But she decided to give the park one last try after he completed the Gracie training.

No sooner did Quin begin playing on a pirate ship than a bigger boy knocked him down and ordered him to leave. But this time, as his mom watched in amazement, Quin grabbed the other kid around the waist “and landed on him like a big mattress, all while saying, ‘That was an incredibly bad idea you just had. But I’m not afraid of you.'” The other boy swung again, and Quin took him down again, then asked, “Now do you want to play nice?” They played pirates for the rest of the afternoon.

“It’s about respect and self-confidence,” said Suhay. “You’re not teaching them to beat up the bully. But they’re not cowering. They make eye contact. They talk to the bully. So much of the time they avert the situation because the bully doesn’t expect them to say, ‘I’m not scared of you.'”

(Full Story)


NBCNews: Cyberbullying not as rampant as thought, study suggests

30 08 2012

I have mixed feelings about this study. I don’t doubt that there is some truth to it, and I’ve always felt that cyberbullying was a modern extension of the type of bullying that has always gone on. Rather than talking about someone behind their back in between classes, or spreading rumors over the phone, the same type of mischief is going on via text message and iChat. Rather than “slam books” being passed around, Facebook and Twitter are accomplishing the same goal. The tools are different, but the tactics are essentially the same.

The differences, though, are significant. It’s much easier to spread a nasty rumor than ever before. A wide audience can be reached nearly instantly, rather than the nastiness being spread through passed notes, hallway conversations, and after-school phone calls. There’s also that wonderful false perception of anonymity that goes with the virtual world. It enables people to be even more nasty, even more abusive, and even more vile that they would normally be because they think that it could never be traced back to them.

Maybe kids are finally figuring out that they are not defined by their online presence, and that the simple way to avoid harassment is to just unplug themselves. Maybe they’ve realized that internet anonymity is a false premise, and that they can be a target of retaliation when they take things too far. Maybe we’re just seeing some good come out of anti-bullying campaigns, and cyberbullying awareness. Or maybe, as the study suggests, it wasn’t that big of a problem to begin with.

I doubt it, though.

– dEV

#     #     #

By Bill Briggs – NBC News
updated 8/10/2012 8:26:19 AM ET

A new study suggests cyberbullying among adolescents and pre-teens may not be the epidemic many believe.

In a presentation late last week to American Psychological Association, two nationally representative surveys totaling nearly 5,000 pre-teens and teens found that 15 percent said they’d been bullied on the Internet during the past year. (Updated: An earlier version of this story reported a cyberbullying rate of 17 percent. Based on a new analysis, Ybarra revised the estimate to 15 percent.)While that at first may seem high, past studies had pegged the cyberbullying victim rate anywhere from 30 percent to as lofty as 72 percent.

“We assume it’s this overwhelming thing, that everybody’s being bullied and that it’s inescapable — that’s not totally accurate,” says Michele Ybarra, research director at the nonprofit Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, Calif.

Her analysis of the two surveys conducted by Harris Interactive of randomly selected, anonymous adolescents was focused on debunking assumptions of how young people are using the Internet and their experiences online. High-profile cases of youth suicides blamed on cyberbullying —  such as Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to spy on his encounter with another man, or 15-year-old Phoebe Prince from western Massachusetts who took her own life after being targeted by hateful online messages –have helped fuel the impression that cyberbullying affects most young people.

“Because we’re seeing stories that are really serious,” Ybarra says, “it does give this sort of sense that it is happening all over the place.”

One leading cyberbullying expert, Dr. Joel Haber, lauds Ybarra’s painstaking work to finally accurately gauge the problem.

“What she tries to do is look at the bullying definition and see if it applies to cyberbullying,” says Haber, a clinical psychologist and authorbased in White Plains, N.Y., who has reviewed Ybarra’s research.

Indeed, there’s debate over what cyberbullying actually is. Traditional bullying involves repetitive episodes of abuse carried out by one person who is viewed to have more power, usually physical, over the victim. Ybarra has simply applied that narrow definition to cyberbullying to hone the statistics. But in the online world, power is also judged by status and digital popularity, such as having a higher number of Facebook friends.

“She’s trying to get to the bottom of the cyberbullying problem, which I have to give her credit for,” Haber says.

One reason for the lower-than-expected number could be that Ybarra, unlike other researchers, purposely omits cyber-harassment from her definition of cyberbullying. Unlike cyberbullying, online harassment is defined more as a one-time event. Haber agrees with that approach.

“Whether it’s kids being exclusionary online or being mean online, harassment happens more frequently than real cyberbullying, where somebody has more power over you and hurts you,” Haber says. “We can’t lump in all this stuff together.”

In the new study, as many as 41 percent of adolescents reported experiencing cyber-harassment, meaning those cases were more isolated or that the mean-spirited verbiage was sent by someone who didn’t hold any inherent power over the recipient.

Despite the new research, New Jersey mom Victoria Marin believes the 15 percent finding is lower than the true rate.

Her 10-year-old son was the target of a swarm of stinging texts after the fifth-grader with dyslexia mistakenly typed “hay” instead of “hey.”

“You are an idiot who shouldn’t have a cell phone,” read one message. “You are a retard who shouldn’t text anymore,” read another.

The “cyber campaign,” as his mother calls it, dragged on secretly for two months last fall, a private bullying war waged by other boys against an increasingly withdrawn victim. As the text assaults looped in more students, he was shunned from kickball games and lunch gatherings. Soon, his grades plummeted, headaches emerged, and he stopped talking. That’s when his mother Victoria investigated her son’s phone and discovered a blitz of vicious, undeleted messages.

The New Jersey mom immediately blocked the bullies, withdrew her so from classes and began home-schooling him.

“He’s afraid to go back,” his mother says.. “I would be putting him back into the same school, with the same kids.”

Victoria is convinced, “there more kids out there – like my son – who are not reporting it, even in a survey.”

(Full Story)


FAILBlog: Role reversal.

17 08 2012