Big bully blockade
Community goals of National Bullying Prevention Month this October
Chinese teacher I-Chu Chang integrates personal stories within her lessons to her class . A high school boy comes crying to her. He’s had trouble bonding with others before. Chang encourages him to go out and make friends, only for him to return. Chang, his only friend, knows that he is being judged for his lack of companions. No one will talk to the boy, attempt to connect with him. No one cares, instead choosing to judge him for who he is. Until a girl offered to stand for him.
National Bullying Prevention month was established in October 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to raise awareness of bullying, such as the incident that Chang witnessed. According to stopbullying.gov, a branch of U.S. Health and Human Services, as many as one in three kids are bullied at school. Assistant Principal Mike White receives bullying cases, mostly cyber bullying issues, and works to prevent this problem from growing. White also notes that bullying may not occur on campus, especially with advances of technology.
“In the ideal setting, you want the student who received [the message] and the student who sent it to be able to sit down and have a conversation,” White said. “Often times, you don’t know who sent it because people are really good and it’s not easy to trace them. [Then] you can’t have that conversation. Social media has made bullying easier. It can be so easy to do it anonymously, that people don’t think about what they’re doing.”
Matt Soeth, the co-founder of the nonprofit organization #icanhelp, works to take down negative posts and accounts online. They contact the operators of the social media sites and make sure that those posts are deleted. According to Soeth, over 100 pages and posts have been removed with assistance from #icanhelp. Yet even after his success, Soeth wants to stop the bullying at its roots.
“Rather than acknowledging the negative statement, speak up for the person,” Soeth said. “You might see ‘go kill yourself’ on a post. Let [them] know, ‘Hey, this isn’t appropriate. This stuff is really serious. You shouldn’t say this to anyone, I think this is a great person. And here’s why.”
With assistance from #icanhelp, White works with students to alleviate the bullying process, even though he admits that it’s not always easy. According to stopbullying.gov, only 20 percent% of bullying cases will ever be reported to an adult.
“You just want the student to be safe and feel good about being here,” White said. “I get a little upset because they’re upset and it’s out of their control sometimes. It’s disappointing the way students sometimes choose to treat other students.”
Soeth sees that that one of the ways to help out the problem is to work towards accepting each others. However, he is aware of the challenges that come with acception.
“It’s in attitude and it takes effort,” Soeth said. “We’re all human, we’re all fallible. As a community, it’s really hard to constantly be the person where the glass is half full.”
In order to help people to become more tolerant of each other, Chang asks her students to share about a talent of theirs, in hopes of broadening students’ knowledge of others and initiating conversation with those who do not socialize as much.
“Everyone is unique in different ways,” Chang said. “I want people to respect each other. I feel like if we all do little things, [they] will count, including saying hi to people that seem upset, even people that are strangers to them. Just little simple acts can make a big difference.”
Soeth also brings awareness to bullying and the talents of others during the Digital4Good event his organization runs. Students bring their ideas to the table to prevent bullying and harassment, and some have really made taken an impact.
“One of our winners from Rochester, New York, put together a concert that not only raised awareness, but also worked on prevention in her community around suicide,” Soeth said. “If we can give them a platform, we really want to showcase the good things that are happening. We want more students take these ideas and run.”
According to stopbullying.gov, 70.6 percent% of youth say they’ve witnessed bullying. Yet staff will continue to work towards its prevention this October and beyond. Chang hopes people “keep an open mind,” Soeth wants people to “[appreciate] the value of each person” and White thinks bullying should be called out directly. White encourages this and hopes we improve on confronting the obstacle of bullying.
“Step up, call it out and help people,” White said. “[Don’t] turn the other way. That’s the hard part. I hope we all learn everybody’s here. Everybody has a right to be here. Let’s just go forward from there.”
Chang believes that people can step up and make that difference and she has seen the effect of what reaching out can do. It’s one of the reasons she tells her stories, even for a boy who just needed some comfort receiving what he needed and then deciding to pass on the same to others.
“[He] was really touched because he felt that someone cared,” Chang said. “All it took was one student that was willing to step up for him. Just little by little. I saw the difference. After he received some warmth from another student who cared, he was no longer lonely.”