“Parents, school staff, workplace management, and other adults in the community must understand how to prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe environment, and creating a community-wide prevention strategy.” ~ Heidi Higgins
(Transcript available below)
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Heidi Higgins: Hi there. I'm Heidi Higgins and you are listening to K12 On learning. Bullying can affect everyone, those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying can happen in schools, at the office, online, and even sadly within the home. Throughout October, you may see an extra push in communities throughout the country to unite, prevent, and help resolve the situation of bullying. The need extends to every day of every month all year long.
Parents, school staff, workplace management, and other adults in the community must understand how to prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe environment and creating a community wide prevention strategy. It's no secret that families choose an online school to remove the environment where a child may be suffering. Today I'm going to share with you some voices of students, teachers, and even a world renowned bullying prevention specialist who see this happening all around us. Their ideas may help you learn how to make the environment around you kinder and safer place.
Mason: When I'm laughed at or someone makes fun of me, I get really sad and want to cry. I tell my mom and she hugs me.
Heidi Higgins: When bullying happens when a child is very young, they usually recognize that something's wrong. Second grade Mason noticed right away that he needed some comfort. An article in the Harvard Gazette says victims of bullying experience intense emotions and often feel they have little control. They think something is wrong with them. They don't even know it's bullying. Victor shares how he became aware of what bullying was.
Victor: So when I first experienced bullying, it was whenever I was transferred to a different school. And there was this one kid who was just saying very rude things to me and I was more confused on why he was just mistreating me. I didn't know what to do or what to say. I eventually confronted him and he basically just said more mean things and then eventually I had to go up to the teachers. I think that's when we finally found some common ground. I think me and him were the outcast, but we just didn't realize until we actually just met with the teacher and the teacher just basically explained to us the consequences of bullying.
Heidi Higgins: Maggie moved into an online school in 10th grade and was surprised that she was accepted and found friends. She is a national student leader now thriving and making a difference in the lives of others. She tenderly shared her story.
Maggie: I've had a lot of encounters with bullying. And at first I didn't realize it was bullying because you're kids, you're just messing around. And then in high school actually, I was always the kid who never fit in and I got treated differently a lot. It went on to the internet actually. I had some kids who followed me on Instagram and I remember one day in class they were on my Instagram page and they were looking at it and laughing at it. And it's emotional, but it happens. Sorry. I never talked about it before.
I was picked out by a teacher too. She would make fun of me for what I wear and how I wrote. And I have a speech impediment and I mispronounced the word and she kept making fun of me for it. And when I went to the school about it, they didn't do anything. So I had to put up with it through ninth grade and I even almost dropped out of ninth grade because it got so bad. Bullying sucked. And sometimes I didn't even realize it was bullied until when I transferred schools for 10th grade and I realized that people treat you different. They're actually nice and they're not mean.
Heidi Higgins: Kayan took his bullying experience and found a way to lift himself above it.
Kayan: I can remember I was the fat kid in school. People made fun of me a lot. I can remember being bullied as far back as third grade. That really sucked, especially in third grade. I don't know. People would push me around. I came to school with a smile on my face and I was trying to be nice to everybody, but it was even physical at points.
I was in the bathroom in third grade, I was just trying to do my business. These kids that would always bully me, they push me for no reason. The difference with going to online school has been really good for me. People, they'll listen to what I have to say, they'll just be nice to me. And I've improved a lot since then. That bullying was part of the... It gave me motivation to improve myself. I started going to the gym, I joined the cross country team. So I turned the negative into a positive.
Heidi Higgins: Tiffany's experience is still fresh in her memory. She felt safe in an online school and she learned that she was in control of her choice in relationships.
Tiffany: It was heartbreaking. Unfortunately, often it would start with your friends, people that you trusted. And so it was earth shattering. Your foundation's just gone. It's difficult to navigate, because you then have to figure out what matters most and find a way to keep moving forward. I think that's the hard thing that some people struggle with is letting go of the relationships that are hurting them. And honestly, the sooner you learn that, the better your future may be. The future relationships can be healthier if you can learn where to find healthy relationships early on.
Heidi Higgins: Fabian Ramirez is an anti-bullying speaker and drug prevention specialist based out of Washington dc. Bullying prevention is near to Fabian's heart simply because he was bullied in middle school and he knows and understands the psychological impact that bullying can have on students. Fabian's personal mission is to get in front of as many students as possible. And he came and spoke with us about what may cause bullying and how to heal a bully.
Fabian Ramirez: So if you have any kind of counselor training, they'd tell you that hurt people, hurt people. People who have been hurt in their past, it's highly likely they might hurt somebody else in the future. You see? And so if you don't get help, what happens is it creates this vicious cycle, because somebody who is hurting, it is natural for every human being who is hurting, it's natural for them to want to transfer their hurts onto another person. And so hurt people, hurt people, but I don't like to just bring up problems and not try to give solutions. So not only to hurt people, hurt people, but healed people heal people. And that is why I always tell students, look, go get the help you need.
Going and seeing and talking to a counselor is not a weakness. A lot of times students actually think it's a weakness. It's not. It's a strength. Everybody wants to be physically healthy. I'm going to go work out, I'm going to go pump iron. And I always talk to students about that because it's true, but no one wants to talk about being emotionally healthy. And so when you go speak and talk to a counselor and you can vent, just being able to just transfer your emotions and put them into words, it's a very healthy thing for kids to learn how to do. And again, that's a skill. It's a learned behavior. And so we need to teach kids how to vent.
And that's where parents come in. Parents, stop asking closed ended questions. How was your day to day is a closed ended question. How is your day to day going to get, good, okay. You know what that means? That means leave me alone, mom, leave me alone, dad, stop asking me. You need to go a little further, go a little deeper, right. As parents, we're collectors of information. That's what we are. I want as much data on my kid as possible. That way I can make the best assessment. And so I'll dig deeper. No. How was your day to day is not going to work for me. How about, on a scale of one to 10, how was your day? One being it was the worst day of your life, 10 being, man, I can't wait to come back to school tomorrow. How was your day rated? Give me a number.
See, I'm just getting information. Anything higher than a five is really good. Anything lower than a five, I'm going to dig a little deeper, right. I'm going to say, what made it a three? What would've made it a seven? Is there anything I can do as your mom or as your dad to help that number get a little bit higher?. You see that? And so that's the one. That's why you always got to go back to hurt people, hurt people. Man, let's get the kids who are hurting the help that they need.
Heidi Higgins: Whitney Crest is an elementary school counselor in North Carolina. She's counseled middle school and elementary school students in traditional settings in her past and now serves students online.
Whitney Crest: God, bullying is a tough subject. And I've seen many kids just feel so defeated in their confidence and esteem just being beaten down from how they've been treated, and it's really hard to see. So I'm definitely passionate about getting kids to being their best selves and not letting those things get to them and further preventing bullying.
Heidi Higgins: Jackie Schneider is a middle school counselor at an online school in Pennsylvania.
Jackie Schneider: I was our elementary counselor for years. And prior to coming to online school, I worked in traditional brick and mortar schools with elementary all the way up to high school and a few different alternative schools, which were really small settings. So I have seen bullying across all of these platforms. I've seen it happen with the large group of students in the larger schools, and I've seen it on smaller scale and those smaller schools that I worked at and really got to know the students that were impacted by bullying, whether they were the bully themselves or even just a witness to the bullying. So I definitely think there's a need for our students to know what to do if they find themselves in one of these situations. So I care about it a lot because I care about our students. And it's definitely, unfortunately prevalent, more common than we think sometimes. Happy to help.
Heidi Higgins: Whitney and Jackie, can you tell us what you're seeing in your schools today?
Whitney Crest: I'm not sure if you... I've seen the same in Pennsylvania as North Carolina, Jackie, but just coming from brick and mortar to virtual, the amount bullying I see is significantly less, because we're able to monitor so much of the children's interactions and their parents control their environment at home much more. We're not seeing all the stuff in the hallways or the recess and the bathrooms like you would in a brick and mortar school or the school bus. All those common places bullying would happen.
Jackie Schneider: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that at our school, things slow down a little bit when you're in online learning. It's not the hustle and bustle of getting up, getting ready, going to school, getting shuffled from class to class. I've noticed that it seems like our students have some time to reflect. And when we do things like bullying prevention month, we're hearing a lot of stories of things that have happened to these students in the past. And they're almost in a phase of healing now where they're finding other students to connect with that also experience that. We're hoping to run a survivors of bullying group at our school. A small group for students to join so that they can continue to make connections and realize that they're not alone. So it's just really interesting.
I love hearing about student stories because there's a lot out there. I know the statistic is, one in five students report being bullied, but I would guess that it's a lot higher than that. I don't think everyone reports. Sometimes our students don't know that what they're experiencing is wrong or is deserved. So it's important to educate them that what is appropriate, role model that behavior, respectful interactions with your child. I would say the biggest red flag for parents to look for is just a change in behavior. If you notice that they are upset and you can't quite find the root of the reason why like you would do with any problem with your child, you just want to try to investigate, ask them questions, have that foundation of open communication already there. But definitely a change in behavior.
I know with our students at school, if something is bothering them and I can trace it back to bullying, they will talk about what it is quite a bit if you just listen to them and ask. I have students that talk a lot about their online games. And then once I ask a few questions about who they're playing with and are there friends on the games with them, are they friends that they know in real life? Then we start to hear that maybe some mean things or just they witness something that they don't feel is right. But really it just comes from interacting, talking and gathering information from your child or your student.
Whitney Crest: Yes. And I would definitely say parent intuition is so true and real and you may notice the change that no one else does in your child. And I would definitely pay attention to that. You know your child best if you notice they're staying in the room more than they usually do, or just secluding themselves, less talkative. Just the slight things I would pay attention to. And be honest with your child and just having the simple conversation, I've noticed you've been doing X, Y, Z a little differently. Is everything okay? I just want to make sure you're okay because I love you. And those conversations can go far because even if your kid isn't ready or you took them off guard at that moment, they might come back later.
Heidi Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools powered by Stride K12, Stride career prep programs that foster lifelong learning, or any of the private school or individual course offerings, please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. Special thanks to Tree-K studios for providing the music for us. Remember to subscribe to this podcast and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next time for K12 On Learning.
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