Superheroes Make a Difference
Last week in a small town in Minnesota, a group of dedicated elementary school teachers came to school dressed as superheroes.
Their mission: to serve as anti-bullying representatives; to educate and re-enforce the fact that bullying is NOT acceptable.
Not only did these teachers look great in their superhero outfits, these silly costumes were a great way to emphasize their school’s “PRIDE” program – a program designed to reduce bullying at school. Their PRIDE acronym stands for:
Practice respect and responsibility
Display a positive attitude and
Engage in learning
– skills we can all agree each student should practice every day at school.
Bullying is a terrible problem.
Nearly a third of all students aged 12 – 18 years old report having been bullied at school–some almost daily–according to the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Resource Center for Safe Schools.
These reports say middle schoolers (grades 6 - 8) deal with bullying more than in high schoolers. Middle school students, particularly sixth graders, were most likely to be bullied on the bus. The most prevalent type of bullying is emotional bullying (e.g., teasing, name-calling, spreading rumors), followed by physical bullying (e.g., pushing, shoving, tripping, or spitting on someone).
In addition to emotional and physical bullying that happens face-to-face, cyberbullying (using a computer to bully) has become a huge problem. Reasons for all types of bullying include appearance, dress, academic ability, disabilities, hobbies, or even a student’s social status or parent's financial status in the community. Kids and teens who are bullied have higher rates of suicide, lower self-esteem, poorer academic performance, and overall struggle harder to succeed.
Most importantly, bullying is often cited as a major cause or a significant contributing factor in school shootings like the one January 14, 2014 at a middle school in New Mexico, and others all over the country in recent years.
What can I do?
The most important thing a parent can do is listen. Ask often, “How are things going at school? Is there anything or anyone bothering you?” And, don’t be afraid to ask if your child has been bullied at school or has seen bullying occur.
If you find that bullying has occurred, you might be tempted to confront a bully yourself or call the bully’s parent. Greatschools.org says that it is important to remember that many children who bully others come from homes lacking parental involvement, so confronting parents may not be productive. And, when confronting another parent over child issues, it is often difficult to remain calm and objective.
Instead, if you think bullying has occurred, alert the school. Alerting a teacher, principal, or our school resource officer can help ensure a safe environment. If school officials are aware of dangerous issues on the campus, they are more likely to help prevent problems.
The website www.stopbullying.gov provides a number of tips for adults to stop bullying among children:
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Separate the kids involved.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Stay calm.
Avoid these common mistakes:
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t assume kids can work it out without adult help.
- Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
- A weapon is involved.
- There are threats of serious physical injury.
- There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
- There is serious bodily harm.
- There is sexual abuse.
- If an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, or property – is suspected.
A great way to keep your child from being bullied is to help them develop a strong sense of self.
Encouraging kids to learn about themselves and excel at being exactly who they are is a great way to start. In their article titled, “Top Strategies for Handling a Bully,” Psychology Today says that enrolling kids in classes and groups that develop competencies in activities that are valued by peers is especially helpful. It says, “Even kids who don’t love sports may like karate, tae kwon do, and similar activities.”
Encouraging courageous behavior is great way to help protect children from bullies. The idea is simple: the more confident your children are, the less likely it is that they will be bullied – and more likely they will not stand by and accept bullying of someone else. When groups of kids or teens stand together to end a bullying situation, a bully is more likely to back off and less likely to mess with those kids again.
The great news is that here in Ukiah we have superheroes of all kinds, working to eliminate bullying. Their costumes come in every size, shape, and color imaginable.
These superheroes are dressed as martial arts Instructors; Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders; 4-H advisors; youth football, baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball coaches; music teachers; choir conductors; ballet and dance instructors; tutors; Boys and Girls Club mentors, Youth Project counselors, and devoted school teachers who commit their entire career to engaging and developing students.
Stopping bullying is a constant struggle. It sure is nice to know that there are so many superheroes to help us in our efforts.
If you are feeling hopeless or helpless or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They understand bullying, and are available to help those who are being bullied
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.