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Sticks and Stones can Break my Bones ... But names can break my heart.
Beth Bruno returns with a collection of reader responses to her article, "Names Can Really Hurt Us." A link to the article these letters are referring to is included at the end of this article.
By Beth Bruno, ©1999, All Rights Reserved
The Anti-Defamation League program called "Names Can Really Hurt Us," is one of many programs available to schools nationwide, that offers extensive training to people who are interested in becoming part of the solution to problems of harassment, student alienation and hostility (sometimes leading to violence) in our schools.
Readers talk about some of the ways they have become involved in addressing these problems, which demand our attention, for prevention's sake, at every grade level Pre-k through 12. Other readers look to government leaders to help find solutions, as the sample letter quoted below demonstrates.
|Are schools doing enough to end student on student harassment?|
Conflict and Harassment Resolution Programs are Worth the Money
"The Anti-Defamation League is no longer only about the degradation of various ethnic or religious groups, but has branched out to show that you can be different in today's world and try to get those who think it's bad to be different to change their minds. While you can't change the whole world, if you get just a small piece to change, then it can become infectious. Then
maybe the school problems that have been in the news of late may get cut
off before more serious things happen. I hope this sort of program will
work and become accepted in the schools at minimal cost, so it doesn't
go down the drain due to budget cuts."
We're All Part of the Same World
"If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of 100 people,
leaving the existing human ratios the same as they are now, here's what
that village would look like:
Looking at the world population as represented by 100 people gives you
quite a perspective, doesn't it? After reading the above, I suddenly
felt very fortunate."
- 57 Asians
- 21 Europeans
- 14 Western Hemisphere (north and south)
- 8 Africans
- 52 females
- 48 males
- 70 non-whites
- 30 whites
- 70 non-Christians
- 30 Christians
- 89 heterosexuals
- 11 homosexuals
- 59% of the village's wealth would be in the hands of 6 people and all 6
of them would be from the United States.
- 80 would live in substandard housing
- 70 would be unable to read
- 60 would be disabled
- 50 would be malnourished
- 1 would be near death and 1 would be about to give birth
- 1 would have a college education
- 1 would own a computer
Rumors Spread Like Wildfire
"In the shadow of the Colorado school shootings, a witch hunt seems to
be going on for students who might choose to act out in the way those
two young men did. Our son has attended high school in our new town for
two years now. It is very hard to fit into a student body that has been
together since kindergarten. As the new kid, you are naturally suspect.
"When he chimed into a conversation a few days after the shootings,
commenting about how easy it would be for someone to get into their
school because of the $20 million addition under construction, he
was immediately reported to the principal.
Now when he walks down the hall kids call him "Dr. Ka-boom." And the
other kids consider everything he says a threat, so he keeps getting
called into the counselor's office. One girl's mother won't let her
daughter go anywhere that he is visiting friends or going to parties or
to the lake. This mother said she would have her daughter's classes
switched next year if he is in any of them! Rumors spread like
wildfire; too bad reality doesn't. He didn't do anything except try to
fit in, and now he's branded as a troublemaker. I think his school
needs a program like "Names Can Really Hurt Us." "
There are Two Types of Teasing
"I think it's important for everyone to realize that there are two
types of teasing. The first is the more harmless kind and the word
"teasing" fits it very well. But the second kind is quite malevolent
and is dangerously misinterpreted as teasing. The first kind is used as
a method to establish a social pecking order and is probably unavoidable
throughout childhood and adolescence. The second kind, though, leads to
the selection of a few prime targets, who become the untouchables, a
childhood caste that is derided by those who consider themselves the
"It is this second kind that issues out the Dylan Klebolds
and Eric Harrises of the world and also leads to many teen suicides and
suicide attempts. This second type of teasing is more appropriately
called harassment and is about power and control. The targeted students
are chosen based on superficial qualities that society, either directly
or through the media, tags as "geek" or "loser." One example that comes
to my mind is the ads for Trapper Keeper notebooks that were so popular
when I was in elementary school. In the ad, one student who is trim and
athletic, owns a Trapper that keeps him organized in every way. Another
student, fat and ungainly, is seen fumbling with his papers and dropping
them all over the floor. Such ads contribute to the "geek" "loser"
stereotypes, something that I think is unacceptable and inexcusable."
"Teachers and Parents can't Stop the Harassment
"No matter what teachers and parents do, there is no way to stop the
bullies, jocks, skaters and other groups that harass kids. Skaters and
such will appear peaceful in front of parents and teachers when there is
the least chance that one of them is watching. Jocks and bullies laugh
off detentions, in-school suspensions and other methods of punishment.
They get those punishments almost every day and it makes them appear
"cool" and "tough" in their friends' eyes. Then, of course, they will
beat up the kid who said anything to lead to them getting in trouble."
Schools Should Concentrate on Education, not Social Services
"The principals in my district have to get their contracts renewed
every year or so and are walking a tightrope. They try to please
everyone and try not to anger anyone, resulting in not getting anything
done. Parents just get lip service. Principals have turned into the
ultimate yes-men. Pass the buck is the term of the day. There are some
good principals who take the initiative, but they are usually sent
packing after a year or so. These days, schools are turning into
massive social service industries, with health clinics and breakfast
programs. These programs don't†belong in the schools, where the job is
to educate the children. Let's stop duplicating services in the schools
that are already available in the community."
Help Troubled Teens Now with Regional Schools
"If enough parents start vocalizing about what is happening to our
children, something will have to be done. That is why I wrote the
following letter to my state representative, Pamela Sawyer, and sent a
copy to the Governor as well."
"I am a parent of a 14-year-old freshman, who attends a regional high
school. This year I have had to stand by and watch my daughter be
harassed, insulted and threatened by a fellow female student and her
friends. I was finally able to have the harasser arrested, but it should
never have come this far. Something needs to be done to prevent this
from happening to any other child/family.
With the rise in teenager attacks we have seen across the country,
everybody stands by helplessly and feels hopeless. In the meantime,
these teenagers who are acting out are terrorizing student bodies so
much that the ones who do see what happens when another child is
threatened/assaulted, will NOT come forward due to intense fear and
retribution. These people should be protected!
"The school systems need to take better steps to protect their students.
Do I feel even slightly confident that my child is protected in school?
My answer is a resounding "NO". I should feel secure while my child is
in school, and I shouldn't have to worry about her well being and
safety. I shouldn't have to wonder if today is the day that I will get
another phone call telling me she has been threatened in the hallway or
yanked into a corner and thrown into a locker.
"The harassers in the meantime get a five-day suspension, which for them
equals a five-day vacation. Who cares? They obviously don't. School
administrations need to come up with a new game plan. If suspension
doesn't work, then it's time to come up with something else. After the
second suspension, why can't we have the parents of the problem teens
made answerable to the schools? There doesn't seem to be much of that. I
am told constantly, "I am sorry, but all that information is private."
"What about the safety of my child?
"I am tired of the problem children being more protected than my child,
who did nothing wrong.
I would be very interested in forming or participating in a group with
parents and students who have been squelched in our present school
systems. These are the people who should have more input into what
happens to our children. Alternate plans for constant problem children
"We as a society have to do something to help them now. There are always
warning signs; it's just a matter of whether those signs are ignored or
investigated. Most people who act out in this manner are looking for
attention that they are not receiving. We need to give the schools the
opportunity to act in a prompt and fair fashion.
- A regional school for troubled teens to help them before they grow up
to become criminals.
- Mandatory counseling for troubled teens.
"I am not looking for retribution; I am looking for a positive way to
handle troubled children/teens. If we don't even try, we could end up
being the next state on CNN with cameras blasting in our families' faces
while yet another parent and their child say, "Who knew?" This is not
what anyone wants. We need to take stronger action against constantly
Your Comments on this article - Subject: Sticks & Stones|
2safeschools Letters to Editor/Comments - Share your idea on how schools might end student on student harassment in the schools and on the school buses.
Teachers.Net - A national web site for teachers of all disciplines at all grade levels. Provides many resources. Beth Burno writes a regular column at teachers.net called "Schoolhouse Views."
2safeschools Teachers Webring - over 300 teachers nationwide ready to share their web pages. You'll find a nation's worth of ideas for all grade levels in this webring."
SNET's Internet Features Page - An excellent web site for parents and teachers, features articles relevant to the home, school and the community environment.
2safeschools Awards Centre - Does your web page include a safety suggestion, flyer or article. If it does, apply for your personalized 2safeschools "Helping Hand Award." No safety pages or flyers? Link to 2safeschools free templates page or to our directory or other 2safeschools page of your choice, then apply for your award; Directory Link: http://www.delphi.com/2safeschools
A Mother's Story - What this mom did when the school and therapy failed her out-of-control son. Excellent reading for Parents and School Staff dealing with an out-of-control teen and nothing else has worked.
A Librarianís Story - A 10-year veteran of the King County, (Washington State) Public Library resigned rather than carry out library policy of providing children with pornography.
How to help keep your child's school bus safe - A short article from "In Loving Memory."
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