The Good, the Bad, and Where We Go From Here

The Good, the Bad, and Where We Go From Here

 The Good, the Bad, and Where We Go From Here

By Dru Ahlborg BRRC Executive Director

The Good:

As we come to a close for 2021, it is a great time for reflection, to look around and take stock of where we are, and to look forward to goals and possible answers.  For Bullying Recovery Resource Center (BRRC) 2021 was a year of tremendous growth and opportunity.  A few highlights of our charity has experienced would include:

  • Funding for a Community Outreach Program. Thank you to Colorado 1000 for believing in us, seeing the need to provide our services to many more families across the state, and for the tenacity of your fundraising efforts.
  • BRRC participated in the passing of Jack and Cait’s law in Colorado.  Several things this law addresses include: the CDE will use a stakeholder process when updating the Model Bullying Policy and include parents of bullied children, differentiate between conflict and bullying, differentiate between harassment and bullying, and to clarify the role of cyberbullying during online instruction which may occur on or off school property.
  • We have continued to partner with other community organizations to educate and bring awareness about bullying, youth mental health and suicide prevention.
  • We have onboarded a record number of families this fall in need of bullying education and advocacy services.
  • The Connect Through Magic brought families, supporters, board members and community partners together for an afternoon of magic, games, superheroes, food and fun.

We are tremendously grateful to help so many families, to make progress on statewide legislative changes, and to continue to meet so many individuals and organizations who are passionate about stopping bullying and defending bullying targets.

The Bad:

It will probably come as very little surprise that bullying is on the rise.  As a world we are dealing with much uncertainty, angst and fear.  I believe all these things feed into creating a time where kindness and fairness seem to be in limited supply at times.  As an organization who speaks to parents of bullying targets, we have noticed the following:

  • Bullying is becoming more violent.  The bullying we hear about the most is physical bullying and some of it is quite intense.
  • Children with any kind of disability, especially those with autism or ADHD seem to be targeted at an increased rate.
  • Some schools and school districts deal with bullying by either ignoring it or by treating it as conflict.  Both of these methods are a failure and will create even further harm.

Additionally, recent data from the report, Students’ Experiences with Bullying, Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and Victimization in Schools, provides some of the most recent data on bullying.  A few of the findings include:

  • Exposure to harassment and victimization can have lifelong consequences for student’ overall well-being if left unaddressed.  These may include: depression, anxiety, involvement in interpersonal violence or sexual violence, substance abuse, poor social functioning, poor school performance, and poor attendance.
  • Even youth who have observed and not participated in bullying behavior report significantly more feelings of helplessness and less sense of connectedness and support from responsible adults.
  • School officials were aware of students being bullied regularly in about 30 percent of schools and occasionally in about 64 percent of schools.
  • Students in middle school were more likely to be bullied than high school students.
  • Students in schools with 300 or fewer student were more likely to report being bullied than were students in schools with 1,000 or more students.
  • Fewer than one half of all bullied students (44% in school year 2018-2019) reported the bullying to a teacher or another adult at school.

Where Do We Go From Here?

BRRC knows the devastation bullying has on families and communities. We have trudged that path and know how lonely, frightening and despairing it can be.  We know that bullying should not be addressed or negotiated, but it must be STOPPED.  Here is what we plan to do and how you can help:

  • BRRC will be embarking on a community outreach program to partner with pediatricians, crisis centers and victim advocates.  We want to provide education and BRRC as a resource for these partners that support children and families.
  • We will be needing volunteers in the new year.  Volunteers will be contacting our new partners to provide them with materials and information about BRRC.  As soon as we roll out the program, volunteer opportunities will be made available through the BRRC website, through email, newsletters and social media. 
  • We will be training more advocates to respond to families in crisis and provide them with the support and tools they need to help the target of bullying.

We need you to continue to grow and reach more families who need our help.  Please consider recognizing Bullying Recovery Resource Center as you wrap up the year and participate in end of the year giving.  Your gift gives the opportunity for hope, education and advocacy for bullying targets.

 

The Three P’s

The Three P’s

 Does Your Child’s School Take Bullying Seriously?

Look for the Three P’s?

By Dru Ahlborg BRRC Executive Director

“Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.” – author unknown

There are several pieces of information that I share immediately with almost any parent who contacts Bullying Recovery Resource Center (BRRC).  One of my recommendations is that parents read the student handbook cover to cover and pay special attention to information regarding harassment and bullying. A treasure trove of information is contained in those pages as well as what might be missing from the handbook.  A school that takes bullying seriously will lean on a community-based approach to bullying and it should include policies, procedures and programs embedded in the school culture and curriculum.

Three important pieces need to be present at your child’s school in relation to bullying.  The three P’s are: Anti-Bullying Policy, Procedures and Programs.  The following information is adapted from Barbara Coloroso’s book, “The Bully, The Bullied and the Not so Innocent Bystander.”  The descriptions of the three Ps follow, and why they are so very important for you, for your child, and your child’s school.

Anti-Bullying Policy:

Having a bullying policy is absolutely necessary.  It must have depth and not simply an inspirational saying or a “we don’t tolerate bullying” statement.  The policy must be clearly articulated, consistently enforced and broadly communicated.  The entire staff, (custodians, teachers, receptionists, administrations, etc.), should have a clear understanding of the anti-bullying policy.  It must include a clear definition of bullying, the ways bullying occurs and an understanding of the impact of bullying on the school environment.  The policy should include a statement of responsibility of those who are witnesses to bullying incidents and try to stop it by intervening, helping the targeted student escape and a way to make it safe to tell a caring adult.  

Procedures:

In my opinion, this is where the rubber meets the road.  A best-intentioned written policy has absolutely no teeth unless there are specific procedures in place to deal with bullying.  As with so much in life, the procedures to deal with school bullying should have some latitude and common sense in play.  A one size fits all approach is not optimal and lacks common sense.

Consequences for the bully and any active bystanders who played a role in the bullying event should be clearly outlined.  Procedures should include measures that hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.  Ideally, some form of restorative justice is ideal that involves restitution, resolution, and if possible, an attempt at reconciliation (only if the targeted student is agreeable to that). Lastly, the parents or guardians of the bully need to be notified of the bullying and asked to take measures at home to aid in the restorative justice process.

Procedures also need to include what measures will be taken to keep targeted students safe at school.  These procedures should include tools to aid them in standing up to the perpetrators, offering support, and tools to effectively deal with any new bullying situations they may face.  Safe, caring and trustworthy adults at school should be identified to whom they can safely report any further bullying to.  You, as a parent or guardian should be told of this plan and offered the appropriate protocol to follow up and also to report any further targeting of your child.  A school that takes action, comes up with an appropriate plan to end the bullying, and follows up with you and your child is a school that takes bullying seriously.

Programs:

An appropriate program for a school that takes bullying seriously is one that back’s up and reinforces the anti-bullying policy and works to create a safe, caring, and welcoming environment for all students.

A program that will have the greatest success is one that is embedded in the curriculum and culture of the school.  The once a year anti-bullying rally, or posters that claim this is a “no-bully zone” that does not reinforce those ideals the entire school year will not succeed.  Bullying and becoming an upstander can be taught through literature and character education lessons.  Empathy and feelings can be part of writing assignments.  Some schools offer mentorship programs to aid students new to a school or new to a grade, so they have a companion to turn to.  A “no one sits alone” lunch policy will curb bullying behavior and create a caring environment.  There are many creative ideas that the staff and students can come up with to create a culture of inclusivity and caring.

Every member of the school staff needs to be properly trained in bullying.  They need to know what bullying is and what it isn’t. They need to know the definition of bullying and what measures they should take when they witness it or when it is reported to them.   Conflict-resolution tactics will not work with bullying and can cause even greater harm. It is the adult’s job to STOP bullying.  Finally, there should be a standard way communicated to all the school’s stakeholders of how to report bullying, and what the target and their caregivers can expect with the school following up with them.

Vigilance and knowledge are key.  Here are some questions you may want to ask your child’s school:

  • What is your school’s definition of bullying?
  • How does bullying get reported at your school?
  • What is the best way to report bullying?
  • How quickly does the school respond after bullying has been reported?
  • If a child has been found to be a perpetrator of bullying, what kinds of consequences can he or she be subject to?
  • What types of programs does the school offer to teach the students about bullying?
  • How is bullying taught/discussed in the classroom?  How often?
  • How long are your school employees trained about bullying?  Is there a special program they participate in?

And, my personal favorite question:

  • Does bullying happen at this school?

If the answer is “no”, you may need to pull up a chair and prepare for a long conversation with the school employee.  Unfortunately, bullying happens at every school and the real key is how effectively and quickly it is dealt with.  If a school has proper policies, procedures and programs in place, and adheres to those, the bullying can be stopped, and the target can be properly cared for.

Bullying Recovery Resource Center can also help you navigate the bullying your child is enduring.  We provide education, materials and advocacy services to help stop bullying.  If you have any questions, or if your child’s school fails to stop the bullying of your child, we are here to help.

www.bullyingrecoveryresourcecenter.org   |  303-991-1397

What is and isn’t Bullying

What is and isn’t Bullying

 What is and isn’t Bullying

By Dru Ahlborg BRRC Executive Director

Bullying is never fun, it’s a cruel and terrible thing to do to someone. If you are being bullied, it is not your fault.  No one deserves to be bullied, ever.
~Raini Rodriguez

The 2019 National Center for Educational Statistics reports one out of every five (20.2%) students report being bullied. That number has increased from one out of seven students about a decade ago. Additionally, the same study reports that 41% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they think the bullying would happen again. Another alarming statistic states that only 46% of bullied students report notifying an adult at school about the incident.

Our organization provides education about bullying and how to advocate for children who are targets of bullying. Knowing what bullying is and how to identify it is the first step in properly advocating for it to STOP.  It is also important to identify what isn’t bullying and to properly label and help children navigate that behavior as well. The following is adapted from Barbara Coloroso’s book The Bully, The Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander and will provide a quick review of what is bullying and also, what is NOT bullying.

WHAT IS BULLYING?

Barbara’s definition of bullying states, “bullying is conscious, willful, deliberate, offensive, malicious, or insulting activity that is intended to humiliate and harm the target while providing the perpetrator(s) pleasure in the target’s pain or misery. It often induces fear through further aggression and can create terror. It can be verbal, physical, and/or relational; it can have as its overlay race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, sexual identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, weight, allergies, or economic status. It can be, and often is, persistent, continual, and repeated over time, but it does not have to be. Once is enough to constitute bullying.”

Bullying will always include three markers:

  1. Imbalance of power: The bully has more power and/or influence than the bullied. Power imbalances can include age, size, number of people participating, strength, verbally skills, higher on a social or economic ladder, ethnicity or gender.
  2. Intent to harm: The bully intends to inflict emotional and/or physical pain, expects the action to cause hurt, and takes pleasure in causing and witnessing the hurt. The bully will mean to exclude, taunt and humiliate.
  3. Threat of further aggression: Both the perpetrator(s) and the target know that the bullying can and probably will recur. It generally escalates over time with the acts of bullying becoming more hurtful and humiliating.

When bullying escalates unabated, a fourth element is added:

  1. Terror: When bullying continues to progress, terror is struck in the heart of the targeted child. Once terror is created, the perpetrator(s) can act without fear of recrimination or retaliation. The bullying target is unlikely to fight back or tell anyone about the bullying. 

WHAT ISN’T BULLYING

Before we delve into what isn’t bullying, it is incredibly important to note that many times bullying is labeled as conflict. It is critical that an investigation be completed anytime bullying is reported. If the act includes an imbalance of power (real or perceived), intent to harm, and the threat of further aggression, the act is indeed bullying and needs to be stopped.

Ignorant Faux Pas

An ignorant faux pas occurs when a person uses a racist, sexist, ageist, physical-attribute or mental-ability stereotype statement to another person. A faux pas generally does not have the markers of bullying. Making these type of statements may be based on ignorance or apathy.  Examples of these type of statements may include: “He runs like a girl.” “She’s dumb as a doornail.” “That’s so retarded.”

Indeed, statements like these are hurtful. With children in particular, these crude and offensive statements can be learned at home, at school or through the media. Adults in charge can educate children about the stereotype or bias that the statement conveys and the impact it can have on others. Coaching can be used to let the child know that type of statement isn’t tolerated and to help them find more intelligent and creative ways to express themselves. These type of statements are crude and offensive and can set the stage for bullying, however at this point, it is not bullying.

Impulsive Aggression

Aggression that is spontaneous, indiscriminate striking out that has no intended target is not bullying either. These type of aggressive acts are usually reactionary and emotionally charged. Many times they are related to a physical or mental disability. They should not be dismissed or excused. It should be noted that impulsive aggression may also be a response by a child who is being bullied and is not bullying, but a reaction to by bullying.

Conflict

Barbara Coloroso states that conflict is “normal, natural and a necessary part of our lives.” 

Anti-Bullying Advocacy

Anti-Bullying Advocacy

 Anti-Bullying Advocacy

With a new school year starting, BRRC asked the Director of Advocacy, Tom Ahlborg, to share his experience about laying the groundwork for advocating and defending a bullied child.  Tom has worked with many families across the state helping to educate parents and school officials about bullying, discuss alternatives that work for individual families, and help advocate for bullying targets.  Here are his recommendations:

DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT

I believe that many administrators are inherently good and will do their utmost to STOP bullying.  HOWEVER, too many administrators, teachers, counselors, and staff don’t or just fail to STOP bullying.  

When it comes to getting called out for poor performance on their job by not STOPPING the bullying, administrators, unfortunately, just like many people these days, will LIE to stay out of trouble.  Therefore, it is so important to DOCUMENT everything from the start when it comes to reporting and communicating with administrators / teachers about bullying.  

REPORTING AND COMMUNICATING

When reporting, email is the best option unless your school has specific forms to report bullying.  Reporting via email creates a chain of documented conversations with the school and administration.  Further, should you have a conversation with teachers and administrators (see below) where plans and promises are made, it is crucial to document the meeting with a follow-up email stating what was discussed, planned, timelines and what was promised.  The email you send should request an email from the Administration requesting agreement.

Note:  If your school has handwritten forms or on-line forms, make sure to get a copy/picture of the form before delivering it to Administrators.  

RECORDING CONVERSATIONS

In Colorado and other states, individuals are allowed to record conversations that they are a partaking in.  In Colorado, the law allows you to record all conversations that you are involved in without notifying the other party that you are recording.  This is an instrumental tool in advocating for a bullied child.  Multiple times I have caught administrators in a lie from these recordings and used it in my pursuit in advocating for a bullied child.  

Many parents BRRC has worked with started out trusting the school (teachers/Administrators/Principal).  Many times, parents are told it will be handled, the other children have been spoken with, their parents have been notified, and/or that the instigators have received some sort of consequence.  Many times, this is NOT the case.  From my experience as an advocate, it may be a mistake to take the administrator at their word.  If the bullying continues keep reporting it and use the suggestions I have suggested.  If the school does not properly investigate and deal with the bullying, it is almost certain it will continue.  BRRC is here to help.  If you feel that the school is not addressing the bullying, please contact us and one of our advocates can work with you to properly advocate for your child.  

No child deserves to be bullied.

Racial Bullying

Racial Bullying

 Racial Bullying

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” ― Elie Wiesel

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.  This is observed to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.  Not only is this an issue that needs to be addressed, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for racial and ethnic minority groups to get access to mental health services.  Covid-19 has also opened the door for heightened harassment and bullying of Asian American and Pacific Islander.

The definition of racism includes prejudice, discrimination and antagonism directed at others because of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.  Racial bullying therefore is a type of racism where an antagonist’s bullying focuses on race, ethnicity, or culture.  This type of bullying is also referred to as prejudicial bullying.  It arises from a misguided or learned belief that certain groups of people deserve to be treated differently or with less respect.  Sadly, and all too often, this type of bullying is severe and can open the door to hate crimes.

 

Anytime a child is bullied because of race, religion, or sexual orientation it should be reported.  Do not ignore the bullying or hope it will end.  There is too much risk it will escalate.

What creates a racist bully?

Historian George Fredrickson in his book Racism: A Short History tells us that “racism exists when one group or historical collectivity dominates, excludes, or seeks to eliminate another on the basis of differences that it believes are hereditary and unalterable.”  He further explains that racism is a social behavior in which the dominant group (bully) collectively oppresses the targeted group (target).  The target or targeted group is seen as different than the dominant group and therefore is “less than.”

Author, Barbara Coloroso in her book The Bully, the Bullied, and the Not-So-Innocent Bystander explains that racist bullying is a learned behavior.  She states “kids have to be taught to be racist before they can engage in racist bullying.  Racist bullying takes place in a climate where children are taught to discriminate against a group of people, where differences are seen as bad, and where common bonds of humanity are not celebrated.”

 

Why is racist bullying especially troublesome?

I ran across a statistic that brought me to tears.  Pediatrics Publication reported that between 1991 to 2017, suicidal attempts among Black teenagers rose by 73%, while attempts among white teenagers decreased.  Not all adolescents who attempt suicide have been bullied, however studies have suggested that as much as 50% of teens who attempt to take their life have been bullied. Stopbullying.gov reports that Black and Hispanic youth who are bullied are more likely to suffer academically than their white peers.  Furthermore, two separate studies report that bias-based bullying is more strongly associated with compromised health than general bullying and race-related bullying is significantly associated with negative emotion and physical health effects.

 

Take action/What you can and should do

The US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights declares that “if you believe a student has been treated unfairly – for example, treated differently, harassed, bullied, or retaliated against – because of their race or national origin, there are a number of actions you can take:

  1. Notify the school leader immediately.  If you don’t get the help you need, file a formal complaint with the school, school district, college, or university.  Keep records of the responses you receive.
  2. Write down the details about what happened, where and when the incident happened, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses. Do this for every instance of discrimination and keep copies of any related documents or other information.
  3. Ask the school or college/university to translate its documents and messages into a language you understand. Ask for an interpreter if you need help speaking to school staff in a language other than English.
  4. If the school or college/university does not take steps to address your complaint or the discrimination continues, consider filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education at https://www2.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html.”

Additionally, if you live in Colorado, you can contact the Colorado Civil Rights division and file a complaint there as well. 

Discrimination and racial bullying are wrong, unlawful, demeaning, and can cause grave harm. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance is prohibited.  Your educational institution must respond to instances of discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin that deny or limit your ability to take part in and benefit from your school’s educational programs and activities.

Bullying Recovery Resource Center can help as well.  If you know a child who is being racially bullied and are unsure how to proceed, we can help.  We offer advocacy help for parents and caregivers to empower them with the tools to stop bullying.  We can also help file complaints with Civil Rights offices, discuss options that work for your family, and create a bridge to healing.

 

Federal Action:

In May, the Pursing Equity in Mental Health Care Act (H.R.1475) passed out of the U.S. House and was introduced in the U.S. Senate (S.1795) shortly after.  This legislation would work to reduce racial disparities in mental health care in several ways, including:

  • Supporting research on racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care
  • Encouraging cultural competency training for mental health professionals
  • Designing mental health education programs for BIPOC communities

If you are interested in supporting the passage of S1795, please urge your U.S. Senators to support the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act.