Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bully beware.

I have this week off work, so yesterday Doug and I decided to take a little impromptu trip up to our northern property. Our property is situated a few miles north of Young, a small Arizona town that also touts itself as Pleasant Valley, Arizona.
Young, Arizona has a population of 800 residents. More than 50% of those residents are retirees, and a little research {ok, I Googled it} revealed that the number of students at its one and only public school is 65. We are talking small town, people. Even smaller than the California town I grew up in.
So, as we drove through town yesterday I was really surprised to read the school marque:
Um. Really? You have 65 students and there's a need for a bully PROGRAM?!?! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Now, I certainly don't mean any disrespect to the town of Young, Arizona. Obviously there is a situation that requires the attention of a committee, small town or not, but this really got me thinking. I thought about the power of "The Bully" - the trouble-maker that has stirred the pot to the point that school officials are having to provide a pizza dinner in order to entice a committee of parents to come and talk about the perpetrator. And really? Can't they just tell the parents of the bully? There are only 65 students, for crying out loud!
The small town where I grew up had a population of about 4,000 - big city compared to Young, Arizona! I remember a time when I was in the 7th grade. One of the girls I went to school with (Gloria M.) came up to me at the end of the day, put her face really close to mine and declared that the next day she was going to "kick my a**." Seriously? For no reason. I swear, I had done nothing to her at all, but somehow I had become her choice that day for someone to pick on. Her little group of friends giggled and supported her as I stood there, terrified and bewildered. And of course, my group of friends were all afraid with me - not one of us had the courage to take a stand and tell this bully to back off.
For the next few days I dreaded going to school. I rushed to my classroom, spent extra time in the cafeteria, and did everything possible to avoid further confrontation with this bully {not easy to do in a small school!}. And you know what? Nothing ever happened. Nothing ever came of it.
I wonder whatever became of Gloria M. I wonder what prompted her to be a bully at school. Maybe she was picked on at home? I wonder if she was ever really afraid of anyone else the way my friends and I were afraid of her. Maybe she was just as insecure about herself as I was but chose to compensate in a different way.
And so, my blog readers, I'd like to know: Were you ever the victim of a bully? And if so, how did you deal with it? Does your local school have a bully program? And what would you do if you found out that your child was the bully?


Maria Ontiveros said...

wow, Deb, what a powerful post! Our schools have assemblies on bullying for the elementary and middle schools. I think because people are finally becoming aware of how much psychic damage a bully can do. The high school just added a unit on cyber-bullying to the social studies curriculum (one quarter each year covers social issues, drivers ed, sex, drugs, drinking, etc.).
No personal experience with bullies for me or the kids, thankfully!

Amy said...

This is really interesting Deb, firstly, perhaps the progam in Young is a preventative measure? Our school focuses a lot on preventative measures - -they work on building self esteem and resilience and they run great programs in a really positive manner .... bullying doesn't seem to be too much of an issue and if it is it is dealt with very quickly.

Recently I saw someone I went to high school with and they were talking about how a fellow student confronted her and told her she was responsible for making the other persons life a misery. This made me feel very sad because I could see that happening when I was young but I was too shy/quiet and lacked the confidence to stick up for the other person.

Liberty :) said...

I was 'reported' by one of the Mum's because her child had told her that I wouldn't sit by her in class (we were about 8). I barely knew her and I'm sure I just wanted to sit by my own friends, I have no recollection of a conversation about sitting by here let alone an 'incident'. My Mum was hauled in about my "bullying" (!?), my Mum then hauled me into the classroom and told me to tell the truth (which literally was "what the hell are you talking about?!") and then my Mum told the teacher she knew I wouldn't lie and as far as she was concerned, she was backing me and wouldn't be giving me any punishments. Thank God she did back me, because it appears the other girl had made up lots of added information for dramatic effect (which made me sound terrible) and did a similar thing with someone else later on in the year. I suspect it was for attention as her Mum had just had a new baby. I certainly DID NOT sit by her after that incident!! Whilst that's a story about bullying, it is really the reverse - I was being victimised overall and I'm just glad my Mum knew me well enough to stick up for me (another lesson was 'always tell the truth' because then Mum will always believe you!). I could have ended up with a really awful reputation as a 'bully child' all because of one horrible lying child! (still haven't forgiven her!)

Growing up, if I saw someone who looked left out or "the weird kid" (labelled by others) I'd go out of my way to talk to them and I never cared what anyone else thought of me for it, I wasn't going to be labelling them the weird kid just because others thought so.

debs14 said...

I remember being about 14 and I had a friend called Tim. And that's all he was - a friend. But we lived close to each other and he used to wait for me after school so we could walk home together. We used to get on really well and he was such fun to be with. But there were a group of girls who used to terrorise our year group, led by a girl called Ayesha. They were mean and nasty and if they sat behind you in assembly they would often cut chunks out of your hair! So one day Ayesha was waiting for me in the reception area and her friend Susan had fallen for Tim. I knew for a fact Tim did not like her as to be honest, they weren't a likeable crowd! But Susan thought that if it wasn't for his friendship with me, Tim would go out with her. I was told that they were going to beat me up in the underpass next time they saw me if I didn't stop walking home with him. I was so scared! Because I think they weren't bluffing! I avoided Tim for a couple of days and then he came round my house to find out why and when I told him he went mad. He went and found this girl and told her in no uncertain terms he wasn't interested and it had nothing to do with me. I remember that horrible sick, scared feeling so clearly though.
I think the sign you saw was a preventative thing too, we have an anti-bullying scheme at the school I work in. When a girl starts with us, she is allocated a girl in an older year group who is her 'buddy' and they are encouraged to offload any worries to them. Also we have a 'drop in' meeting with a local policewoman once a fortnight where girls can go in confidence if it is more serious. Plus our deputy head has an open door policy and zero tolerance of bullying. I think the main problem nowadays is cyber-bullying, messages on Facebook and texting.

Ruth said...

A post worth serious consideration, Deb. I was bullied at school (I can see her now and shuddering!) It was all in the form of nasty messages left on the class blackboard, although she did once spit a me (I can remember being absolutely horrified that she had done that, thankfully it landed on my coat and not on me). I don't know why she chose me; we had been in the same class at Junior school, but when we got to High School, the year became streamed by ability and I was placed in the top sets for most subjects and she was someone near the bottom. I suppose, looking back now, that she was jealous. I never told anyone in authority at school and spent my time avoiding her, even to the extent of walking home the long way round!
I'm already talking to DS about kind words and kind hands and will be appalled if he is ever accused of being the bully.

scrappyjacky said...

I also think it's probably a preventative measure,Deb....and probably good to get the parents involved in that.....schools these days tend to be very proactive on bullying...and quite right.
I do remember when DD1 was 8...her teacher calling me in and saying she wanted me to know what a kind little girl she was as she'd been choosing to sit next to a lonely little girl nobody else liked...and trying to include her in things....made me want to cry!

helena said...

great post Deb. I don't remember bullying at school but about 4 years ago one of my close friends suffered from bullying at work, so bad that she left that job. I was appalled that the bosses higher up did nothing about the bullying and since then have been more aware of other situations of work-place bullying and said something about it to the bosses when I have access to them.

Sian said...

What a strong post Deb.

I'm moved by the other stories I have read here. I never came across any bullying in my school and I'm glad to say my kids haven't either. I tried to bring them up to be kind and look out for others and I think they are both capable of standing up for a friend if they ever needed to. I think it's the cyber bullying that is so frightening at the minute - there must be a lot of sad and confused young people out there if they feel the need to inflict misery on others.

traci said...

you got us talking this morning. bullying has become a terrible problem anymore. with the town of young, you would think that the higher ups could just go the the parents and discuss this problem, but the parents would say - "My Johnny would do anything like that!" and there lies the real problem. just my two cents.

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

It has become an epidemic hasn't it? You would think in a small town, this wouldn't be as much as an issue - deal with it one on one as you said. But sad to say, there are bullies everywhere. I hope the kids who are on the receiving end find the strength to stand up and get help. I had a similar situation to yours - this girl out of nowhere started picking on me and saying she was going to "get me" and "kick my a**". After the first day of feeling a little wobbly, I was at the bus the next day waiting to go home, and I pulled myself together walked up to her and said "WHAT is your PROBLEM?" Do you know, she never bothered me again? Definitely got us talking this morning Deb - great post and food for thought!

Mom said...

I remember that. Whenever one of you kids had a problem at school, I was always going to "call someone" but you all were afraid it would make the matter worse so in those rare instances, silence worked. Times have really changed and I doubt that solution would work now.

I agree with Traci--if more parents would own the fact that their kids are brats/bullies and make them face up to their wrongs, we would see more of a change.

I also remember your efforts to love the unlovable. One person in particular, Judy B, was very rude but you'd always invite her for sleepovers. I asked you one day why you put up with her and you said "If I wasn't her friend, she wouldn't have any". And Lorre C who was so obese she broke your bed on a sleepover--same thing, no one else liked her. I hope your other blog friends revisit your post today and see my comment. Says a lot about you and your character, my DD! In fact, I have amazingly sweet, caring kids!! xo

Maria Ontiveros said...

What a sweet mom you have- obviously the apple doesn't fall from the sea.

humel said...

Really interesting and thought-provoking post, Deb. Speaking as a teacher, I've come across instances of bullying - and was on the receiving end of some when I was growing up, too - it's such a horrible thing. The way it's handled can make such a difference to the life of the bully as well as the person being bullied, too. It's been very interesting to read everyone's comments on this topic, thanks for starting the debate! xx

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