For the first time at the National PTA Convention which is being held in Ohio, a National PTA Youth Leadership Summit was also being held. A panel on Bullying was moderated by National PTA President Betsy Landers and comprised of high school and college leaders, television host, Kari Byron, of Discovery Channel’s flagship show, Mythbusters; along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Sec. Duncan compassionately stated that it is powerful when children reach out and tell someone that they are being bullied as well as those who report when they have witnessed someone being bullied. “Don’t give up!” he repeated vehemently.
Secretary Duncan insisted that “Children must learn to be their own advocates!” I agree and this is why as president of our intermediate school’s PTA, we created a PTA Youth Leader group to whom we provided advocacy training while involving our high school, then took the trainees to Frankfort, KY to meet with state legislators, our Education Commissioner-Dr. Terry Holliday, and other leaders.
The youth offered very insightful comments about what they see happening in their environments with bullying. Young leaders such as Tharon Trujillo, TruKidz Founder; Shawyawn Sekhavat, Not in our School; and Meagan Gardner, National PTA 2013 Youth Advocate of the Year in Missouri, agreed there were many benefits in problem resolution, peer mediation and anger management. I asked the panel about their feelings on legislation that seek to make some bullying incidents a crime. One college student and Children’s Defense Fund community organizer, Alana Garrett, closed with her passionate thought that this is not the best approach. “Some of these bullies have deeper problems and need help themselves….They need compassion too.” As part of the Not in Our School initiative, this former high school anti-bullying mentor to fourth graders was featured in the short film seen by thousands.
Kari Byron also questioned Brent Burnham, a school counselor and district Vice President for Elementary School Counseling in Utah, on the panel who helped to bust some myths on bullying, including the issue of zero tolerance. Burnham felt that “Zero tolerance only causes frustration and doesn’t reduce bullying”. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “There are, however, a number of studies that show a correlation between zero tolerance and increased aggression and harassment at school. Why? The American Psychological Association’s task force on zero tolerance said in 2008 that these policies did little to standardize punishment and did not take into account the best developmental approach for teenagers. Other researchers have said that zero tolerance does little to build needed compassion.”
- Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
- 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4 percent of the time.
- Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
- 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
- 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
- Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
- 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
- 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
- 1 out 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
- Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.
- Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.
In addition to insightful conversation on information and solutions to bullying behaviors and how to access mental health assistance, a taped message from Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden was featured. As the Vice President says, “Step In, Speak out!” while Dr. Jill Biden reminds us to “Give them the love and support they need.”
- NIOS has a toolkit you can access here.
- StopBullying.gov offers a wonderful Youth Leader Toolkit and other valuable information.
- Please visit pta.org for more information on how we can take action against bullying! National PTA has adopted resolutions against bullying. “National PTA and its constituent organizations work with the appropriate agencies and organizations in a national effort to inform the general public about the risks and cost of bullying for both the bully and the target, as well as those who witness bullying, and bring about a change in societal attitudes toward bullying.”
- See Taped PTA Convention’s Youth Summit on Anti-Bullying
- National PTA and Discovery Education Hit the Road to Fight Bullying (socialearth.org)
- Back-to-School Bully Busting – A Safety Guide for Parents by SimpliSafe Home Security (simplisafe.com)
- Depression and Bullying: What’s the Link? (everydayhealth.com)
- Anti-bullying bill enacted (english.kyodonews.jp)
- Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention (horizonfamilysolutions.wordpress.com)
- Be the change. (atrowellblog.wordpress.com)