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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.

Are schools doing enough to end student on student harassment?

Your Thought

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.

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:

  • 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

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."

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

Helping Hand Award "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 ultra-elite.

"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."

You need Java to see this applet.
"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 could be:

  • A regional school for troubled teens to help them before they grow up to become criminals.
  • Mandatory counseling for troubled teens.

"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.

Author's Bio
"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 aggressive children."

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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