Bullying Legislation in Colorado – The Time is Now

Bullying Legislation in Colorado – The Time is Now

Most experts will agree that bullying that occurs in schools is at an epidemic level. According to www.stopbullying.gov, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. There is a litany of research telling us that a child who has been bullied not only struggles while the bullying occurs, but it can also lead to complications later in life.

Probably the most frightening outcome of bullying is a child taking their life. It is not uncommon. I have met a number of these heartbroken parents. It is not fair to say that bullying causes a child to choose suicide however there are compelling statistics that should be mentioned.

  • Nearly one-quarter of tenth graders who reported being bullied also reported having made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to a Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.
  • Half of the 12th graders who reported being bullied also reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row, according to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.
  • Among 15- to 24-year-olds, suicide is one of the leading causes of death, according to Suicide Awareness Voices for Education. Additionally, 16 percent of students consider suicide; 13 percent create a plan; and 8 percent have made a serious attempt.
  • Cyberbullying caused kids to consider suicide more than traditional bullying according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics

Furthermore, the statistics about youth suicide in Colorado paint an alarming picture. According to the September 17, 2019 CPR News, the following statements are worth noting.

  • The rate of teen suicide in Colorado has increased by 58% in the last three years making it the cause of 1 in 5 adolescent deaths.
  • Colorado has the highest increase in the teen suicide rate in the US since 2016.
  • In the past three years, teen suicide in Colorado rose from 12.9 to 20.4 deaths per 100,000 adolescents ages 15-19.

With these things in mind, Bullying Recovery Resource Center and Rick Padilla have joined forces with other concerned parties to propose “Jack’s Law.” Jack Padilla was a freshman at Cherry Creek High School when he died by suicide on February 14, 2019 where bullying was a contributing factor.

Rick formed JackStrong and is taking a stand against bullying and teen suicide. We are honored to be working side by side with such a courageous advocate of teen mental health.

We cannot continue to allow so many of our Colorado youth to be relentlessly bullied and to contemplate and commit suicide. It is time to put some real foundations in place in Colorado to help protect our youth. The following is our desired outcomes that we are proposing to Colorado State Representative Lisa Cutter who desires to be the sponsor of the bill (lisa.cutter.house@state.co.us, 303-866-2582):

  • Schools would be required (not just “encouraged) to create policy that elevates bullying complaints and investigations to the same existing timelines, standards, due process, internal appeal procedures as complaints of discrimination or harassment.
  • Intentional false reports of bullying shall constitute bullying.
  • An anti-bullying team must be established, and it must include at least 2 parents and an external anti-bullying expert.
  • Parents of students involved in a bullying incident would be entitled to receive a written finding about the requisite investigation, and the school shall affirmatively outreach to and meet with the bullying victim and his/her parents within 20 school days to confirm that the bullying has ceased.
  • When a school learns that a student is the alleged victim of bullying, the school must immediately assess whether the student is at risk of self-harm and provide appropriate resources to the bullied child.
  • Parents shall have the right to appeal the School District’s decision related to bullying findings to the Colorado Department of Education.
  • Bullying directed toward a victim under age 18 with the intent to provoke suicide or self-harm would be considered a criminal offense.

The time is now. Our children and their families deserve fundamental laws in place to protect children who are targets of bullying. These proposals will not stop bullying; however, they will give parents and targeted children the attention they need and deserve. This law will help provide more transparency and methods of dealing with
bullying.

Bystander vs Upstander – Which Will You Be?

Bystander vs Upstander – Which Will You Be?

“In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Every child, in fact every adult has been a bystander at some time.  A bystander is someone who witnesses bullying and doesn’t get involved.  Being a bystander is easy – they aren’t the perpetrator and they are not the one being outwardly harmed or the target of the attack.

Bystanders can take on various roles in the act of bullying:

  • Henchmen – Take an active part but do not plan or start the bullying
  • Active supporters – Cheer on the bully and seek social or material gain
  • Passive supporters – Enjoy the bullying but do not show open support
  • Disengaged Onlookers – Observe and act as if it’s none of my business and may even turn away
  • Potential witnesses – Oppose the bullying and know they ought to help yet do not act

Even though bystanders are not the aggressor, or the main aggressor, their actions and lack of actions have devastating effects on the target of the bully.  The child being harmed feels alone and feels like those not aiding him or her don’t care.

Witnessing bullying is upsetting and affects the bystander too. Statistics say that even though most bystanders don’t like to watch bullying, less than 20% try to stop it.  This happens because they don’t know what to do or there is fear around taking action.  The bystander may be afraid of retaliation or becoming the target of bullying themselves.  There may be worry that getting involved could have negative social consequences.

Bullying stops in less than 10 seconds, 57% of the time when someone intervenes on behalf of the victim. 

So, what can a child do?  It takes courage to be an upstander. Upstanders are kids who do something that prevents or reduces the bullying they see.  An upstander comes to the aid of another child who is being bullied by showing them kindness. Moving from being a bystander to becoming an upstander may not happen overnight. It may start with becoming more aware of the bullying behavior and how it is affecting the lives of the victims.  Upstanders are able to see the pain the target experiences and take action.

Stompoutbullying.com offers ways to bridge behavior to becoming an upstander:

  • Don’t laugh
  • Don’t encourage the bully in any way
  • Don’t participate
  • Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
  • Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
  • Reach out in friendship
  • Help the victim in any way you can
  • Support the victim in private
  • If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
  • Include the victim in some of your activities
  • Tell an adult

We can model and speak to our children about upstander behavior.  Doing nothing about bullying sends a message to the bully that their behavior is acceptable.

Talk to your children about what it means to be an upstander.  Ask them if they have witnessed bullying.  Brainstorm ideas about how they might engage the next time they see someone in need of an upstander.  When we all feel empowered to take action – even a small one – we build a world of upstanders.

Resiliency and Bullying

Resiliency and Bullying

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness and the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”

Resilience and resiliency have become major buzzwords in mental health communities, especially those dealing with children.  I have taken objection to this definition as I feel that it can be incredibly difficult for children who are relentlessly and severely traumatized to simply “recover quickly” and “spring back into shape” after being a victim of bullying.  I meet children who have literally been through hell enduring bullying of all kinds – physical, verbal, relational and cyber.  Asking a child to become resilient feels like blaming the victim and to come back to their original state seems near impossible.

In 2003, authors Henderson and Milstein expanded the definition of resilience as “the capacity to spring back, rebound, successfully adapt in the face of adversity, and develop social and academic competence despite exposure to severe stress…or the stress of today’s world.”  This feels a bit more achievable and encompassing.

Healing, recovery and resiliency are the goals for children we aid in the BRRC Peer Recovery Groups. Our groups enable children to learn from each other, honor their peers, learn skills to help with their recovery, work on service projects, and more than anything to have fun. The ultimate goal is to assist and watch bullied victims heal, recover and move on to a role of an upstander.  The Oxford definition of upstander states, “a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.”  The world needs more upstanders.

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop titled Bullying/Cyberbullying and Resilience.  The presenter, Dr. Ryan Broll, PhD researched this topic extensively by interviewing persons who had experienced bullying in their past.  One fourth of the interviewees experienced long-term consequences from their bullying experiences whereas three-quarters felt like they had experienced some resiliency and recovery from the bullying in their past.

Dr Broll’s research revealed three key findings about resiliency with these young adults.

  • Quality of friendships.  Notice it is quality and not quantity of friendships.  Even one close, intimate, and special friend is capable of aiding a bullying victim on the way to recovery.
  • Parents who listen and support.  Dr Broll expressed that parents who asked open-ended questions of their children, who took the time to listen and ask their children how they feel can and do make a profound impact on the recovery of their children.
  • A teacher who genuinely cares can be life changing.  The teacher who engages and takes a genuine interest in their students can be paramount in helping a child recover and learn to trust others again.

My personal belief is that after experiencing trauma, resiliency and returning to a former state of being is darn near impossible.  The good news is that with a few key people engaged in a victim’s life, recovery is achievable.  A bullied child who has adults and peers who engage and care with them has a much higher probability of moving beyond their experience.  At times, these young people can move beyond their former selves into a state of advocating and helping others.

Will you join me in speaking up and becoming an upstander? Each month we will share stories and strategies that will support you in helping us build a community – no a WORLD – of upstanders. Together we will make being an upstander and intervening the norm.

Thank you for being a part of the solution!

 

Parents, students accuse Douglas County School District coaches of bullying

Parents, students accuse Douglas County School District coaches of bullying

Author: Michael Konopasek

 

 
 
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — On Tuesday, the Douglas County School Board heard allegations that girls in four athletic programs  from three different high schools were bullied by their coaches. Bullying Recovery Resource Center was there and says the families from Douglas County, Chaparral and Rock Canyon high schools have had enough. Read the full story.
 

Listen With Love: How To Help a Child with Anxiety Prepare for the School Year

By Nora Hood   July 30, 2018

Reposted with permission from Bullying Recovery

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ~Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Sometimes, the hardest thing about being a parent is allowing your child to be him or herself. Children don’t always meet our expectations, but that doesn’t mean they should be forced to alter behavior they can’t help or be bullied into changing. That can be difficult for parents of kids who suffer from anxiety, especially when it comes to school.

School anxiety is a common phenomenon in the United States. According to a recent study, more than one in twenty school-age children and teens have anxiety or depression (“More than 1 in 20 US children and teens have anxiety or depression,” 2018). Unfortunately, working around such a problem when it’s time to go back to school in the fall can be a wrenching and heartbreaking ordeal. The problem is so widespread that schools nationwide have been forced to adapt to the situation. As a new school year approaches, here are a few points to consider in dealing with an anxious child.

No shaming

One of the worst things you can do is to shame your child for the way she feels (Åslund, C., et. al., 2007). Her nervousness is an honest and real reaction to a situation that frightens her – she can’t help it. Telling a child to get over it and forcing her into school in front of friends and teachers is far more likely to worsen a difficult situation than to solve anything. Instead, be supportive and try normalizing the way she feels. Assure her that she’s not alone, that many kids feel just like she does and that there’s nothing at all wrong with feeling nervous about going back to school. If your child continues to resist, try taking it one step at a time. Make arrangements for you, your child and a counselor to discuss any issues so that he or she feels more at ease.

Prepare early

If you’re concerned about your child’s return to school, start laying the groundwork during the summer (Csóti, 2003). Give yourself plenty of time to gradually get your child used to the idea, and allow him or her to share any fears and thoughts. Talk through them openly but patiently; don’t invalidate any feelings and make it clear you’ll be with your child every step of the way. A couple weeks before the first day of school, begin putting your child to bed as you would when she’s in school, and have her get up earlier in the morning so she grows re-accustomed to the rhythms and realities of the school year.

Talk about homework schedules for the coming year and begin to ease the transition by discussing how screens and handheld devices will be turned off during homework/study time and arrange a dedicated and organized study space, with all the necessary supplies near to hand. If your child’s school has a back-to-school event, be sure to attend with your child so she can meet her teacher, interact with classmates and get used to the feel of being in school again. Getting kids to do homework can be an ordeal. If you have a child who does better listening to music during homework, consider buying headphones. A good pair can be purchased for under $100.

Make it a positive event

Parents often dread the beginning of a new school year because it means overseeing homework, getting kids up early and preparing them for school, then rushing to get to work on time. Avoid airing these thoughts or acting negatively about school in front of your child. Try treating the first day of school as a time for celebrating an exciting new year (Csóti, 2003). Emphasize that your child will be reunited with old friends and can expect to meet new ones.

Talk about field trips and school fairs, sports and activities she enjoys. Plan a healthy, protein-rich breakfast for the first day so she’s energized and physically ready. Consider an after-school treat to celebrate that she made it through the first day and take the time to talk through the experience. What was she feeling? How did she cope with her fears?

Be open to your child’s fears and willing to discuss any concerns she has about going back to school. Sometimes, talking through issues can have a healing effect, so show that you’ll be supportive rather than demanding and let her know you’re a friend and ally.

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References

Åslund, C., Nilsson, K. W., Starrin, B., & Sjöberg, R. L. (2007). Shaming experiences and the association between adolescent depression and psychosocial risk factors. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry16(5), 298-304. doi:10.1007/s00787-006-0564-1

Csóti, M. (2003). School Phobia, Panic Attacks and Anxiety in Children. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

More than 1 in 20 US children and teens have anxiety or depression. (2018, April 29). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424184119.htm