A New Twist on Fighting Bullying

My friend Lauren sent me this link from HuffPo, about a high school student who is taking a rather extreme stance on bullying. Frustrated by the lack of administration response to what she sees as a failure to act in response to complaints about a particular bully in her school, she posted a note to Reddit stating that she would end her life.

This extreme measure seemed to have worked. The publicity from the general media, as well as individuals taking the time to respond to her and the school have apparently caused action. In an addendum to her original post, she writes:

 I feel amazing knowing that even if people dislike me for it, I stood up for my own safety. I have a ton of support- both from you guys and my friends. Thank you everyone who sent an email (they kept mentioning some guy from Montana). There is no need anymore to contact the school or the county about this issue. I will be checking in every morning with the counselor, and she will give me a pass to see her if I ever feel like I’m being harassed over the next few days. You guys made this all happen overnight and sped up the process ten-fold! I don’t think I can say thank you enough for helping me, and everyone else, finally deal with the school cyber bully. I love you, Reddit!!!”

Although this outcome pleases me — follow up to a well-documented bullying complaint, the Reddit poster seemingly no longer suicidal, this scenario leaves me feeling uneasy. Are we to find her actions/statement parallel to a hunger strike? As an attention seeker? Would she really have killed herself to stand up against bullying? Thankfully, we will not know the answer. This time.

What are your thoughts on taking such extreme action?

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The desexualization of bullying

I was going to try to come up with a fancier more accessible title, but I can’t right now. But I sure better by May! I’ve been invited to speak at an bullying awareness event in Austin Texas this May. While I jumped at this opportunity to share my work (and support my friend who is organizing the event), I quickly realized that I am no bullying expert. But, for better or for worse, not being a total expert on a topic as not stopped me before…

I am an expert on adolescent sexuality and sexual development. I also have a pretty good handle on youth and technology and how that impacts their development (hence, this blog). So, how to use my strengths in the context of this upcoming event? Tie all of these issues together — sexuality, technology, and bullying. I have found my comfort zone!

What’s odd is that while so much of bullying has a sexual undertone or is blatantly about sex or sexuality or at least gender, most bullying curricula, anti-bullying campaigns, etc., do not acknowledge this important association. Bullying is seen as harassment, teasing, isolation, and assault. But under no circumstances should one put the word “sexual” in front of any of those terms and call it bullying.

Why this separation? Why not discuss sexual harassment while discussing bullying? Where is the conversation about sexual respect and self-worth in curricula that addresses the need to be nice to others? Are (anti) bullying experts afraid to talk about sex? Does it complicate things too much? Does it narrow their message?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of bullying has to do with sexuality. An obvious example is about name-calling due to sexual orientation and/or gender expression (and the “Think Before You Speak” campaign does a good job of calling this out). But what about sexting under pressure? Spreading rumors? Calling someone a ho or slut? These are unfortunately very common ways to bullying another, but where’s the conversation about the sexual components?

I hope to be able to speak more eloquently about this topic in the future. For now, I will continue to explore this rift and see if I can’t begin to bridge the gap between my interests and the important work done to decrease bullying among youth.

School-based Social Workers Unsure about Dealing with Cyberbullying

A recent study reports that almost half of school-based social workers do not feel prepared to handle cases of cyberbullying, even though they recognize it as a problem.

I read this, and felt sad — mostly because dealing with cases of cyberbullying should not be all that different from dealing with cases of face-to-face bullying. Sure, technology-based bullying may be harder to discover because it’s not overhead in the hallways, but the interventions should be the same — support the youth being bullied, identify perpetrators and decide on adequate consequences for their actions (interesting idea coming out of the UK — have bullied students help decide punishment). But maybe the fact that 20% of the respondents believed that their school’s policy on cyberbullying was inadequate had something to do with them feeling ill-prepared? I honestly don’t know how much school personnel rely on policy to back up their actions. Anyone out there want to speak out on that?

California Law Targets Cyberbullying

Happy New Year to All!

‘Tis the season for all things new –resolutions, calendars, and laws! In California, there is a new law on the books that makes it illegal to create a fake social networking profile “to harm others.” Violation of the law can result in a year jail time and/or up to a $1000 fine.

Will be interesting to see if something like this makes a difference — probably not until it is tested in courts and people become more aware of it.

CA schools could possibly take advantage of this by connecting it to safe school policies to strengthen those. It’s difficult to enforce a bullying policy if the actual bullying takes place either off campus and/or through the use of personal devices such as computers or cell phones. But, perhaps, with this impersonation law, schools can demonstrate that the bullying of students is still against school regulations even if it happens after the bell rings. I’m no lawyer (though I do love me some SVU!), but perhaps this logic will help build a case against a serious offender?