Rock, paper, scissors can be friends

Be Together #NotTheSame is the theme of Android’s anti-bullying ad.

Via Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education.

‘No bullying’ programs don’t work

Anti-bullying programs aren’t protecting vulnerable students, charges Judith Yates in a guest column in The Edvocate.

At the start of the school year, a 14-year-old Tennessee girl killed herself with a kitchen knife in a public park, dying in front of classmates who’d called her a “ho.”

Sherokee Harriman

Sherokee Harriman

Now vandals have attacked the memorial placed where Sherokee Harriman died, writes Yates.

La Vergne, Tennessee schools have a “zero tolerance for bullying” policy. Sherokee’s mother helped Sherokee file “bully reports” in middle and high school. The last report “never went through the system” because Sherokee was dead.

“It’s not worth it” to report bullying, said one student. “They (the administration) don’t do anything” and “if you report, then you are (called) a snitch.”

Sherokee’s desperation may have other roots. A 20-year-old man has been charged with aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor based on information found on Sherokee’s cell phone after her death. Apparently, they had a “relationship” when she was 13.

Kids spread ‘buddy bench’ idea

Schools are adding playground ‘buddy’ benches to help kids make friends, reports the Deseret News. A child who has no one to play with can sit on the bench. Other kids are supposed to invite them to play — not tease them for being friendless.

buddy_benchSixth-grader Jaxton Winrow, pushed the idea at Grant Elementary School in Murray, Utah. “Now, if people get kicked out of a group or club, they can sit on the bench and the other people who get kicked out of a group can sit there, too, so they can become new friends.”

Jaxton and his committee asked students to pledge they would befriend bench sitters.

At Sage Creek Elementary School in Springville, Katie Blades raised money for a buddy bench to help her younger brother, who suffers from extreme social anxiety.

The idea may have started with Christian Bucks, then a second grader in Pennsylvania, who saw a friendship bench in a photo of a German international school. His principal liked the idea, the Today Show invited the boy to appear and it all went viral.

Muslim students feel safe, welcome

Fifty-five percent of California’s Muslim students say they’ve been bullied at least once because of their religion, according to a report by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA).

However, more than 83 percent said they feel “safe, welcome and respected” in school and felt “comfortable” telling classmates they are Muslim.

Of the 29% of girls who wear hijabs, xx% say they've been touched in appropriately.

Of girls who wear hijabs, 29% reported being touched offensively and 27% say they’ve experienced discrimination by a teacher.

CAIR surveyed 600 Muslim students, ages 11 to 18.

Three-quarters report feeling comfortable discussing Islam in the classroom, a slight drop from the 2012 survey.

“Girls who wear the hijab are often stereotyped . . . as uneducated or oppressed for wearing it and must constantly affirm to others that it is their choice to wear it,” the report said.

True friends

Five 13-year-old boys befriended a disabled classmate, including him in games and protecting him from teasing. Prepare for serious heart warming.

Don’t call me a ‘retard’

It’s Time to Stop Using the Word “Retard,” writes Kasey Studdard, a professional football player. Before he had his growth spurt and became a star athlete, he was a “slow, little, fat kid” with learning disabilities. He was “teased, ridiculed, and isolated.” 

His mother, a teacher, helped him keep up in school, despite his information processing problems, he writes.

In college and the pros, he had to work much, much harder than anyone else to learn the plays. “Even after I considered them memorized, I still made sure to go back to my diagrams, to stay late to ask questions of the coaching staff, and to sit for extra video sessions.”

With his wife, Studdard is launching a foundation to “allow children to experience the joys of the outdoors . . . without fear of being singled out on account of being disabled, or slow, or poor … or different.”

Studdard is part of a Special Olympics’ campaign to stop the use of  “the r-word” (retard). It’s often used as an insult.

Here’s an argument in favor of keeping “retarded” as an acceptable term for intellectual disability.

Stacie Lewis, who has a disabled daughter, agrees that the word “retard” isn’t the issue. “Treating the disabled humanely is.”

Why schools have bullies

The Bully Business is booming, writes Cevin Soling in The Atlantic. An entire industry has emerged to advise schools that “bullies feel bad about themselves, have deep insecurities and crave attention,” he writes. 

Bullying is a symptom of frustration, argues Soling. “The law requires children to be in a place many of them do not want to be, where they must associate with people they do not like, and where they must take arbitrary orders in a docile manner.”

Trapped and powerless, some will “bully others to attain some feeling of control,” he writes. More autonomy will lead to less bullying.

I share his doubts about the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs. However, Soling loses me when he compares The Bully Project‘s call for “safe, caring, and respectful schools and communities” to slave owners wanting their slaves to sing and dance.

cover_EPUB copy

Soling is the author of the Student Resistance Handbook, which advises students on legal tactics to “disrupt the operation of school, substantially increase the costs involved in its operation, and make those who work for and support schools as miserable as they make the students who are forced to attend.”

A commenter writes: “About the best I can say about the stupidity and injustices of the public school system is that they prepare you for the stupidity and injustices of life. This is not a sufficient reason to cripple kids’ curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm. Cevin Soling has written a book I wish I had when I was nine. It’s a bit late now. But every kid should have a copy. Handy.”

Honor students say they’re targets

Tracy Peoples

Tracy Peoples

Honor students aren’t safe at their St. Louis high school, charge parents. Fifteen to 20 students attacked a 16-year-old last week at  McKinley Classical Leadership Academy last week.  She was badly beaten.

Tracy Peoples, whose sophomore daughter was on the “attack list,” said she’d given the principal a list of the bullies the morning before the fight. Now students are threatening the daughter and the mother, says Peoples.

Whipping boy

As a 10-year-old at a Swiss boarding school, Allen Kurzweil was tormented by an older, bigger boy and his cronies, he writes in Whipping Boy in the New Yorker. Among other things, he staged whippings of the younger boy to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar’s 39 Lashes.

Cesar cast himself as the whip master, gave his sidekick the role of centurion, and decreed that I play Jesus Christ. Once my wrists were secured to the metal posts of my bunk, he ordered another roommate, a stockbroker’s son with a Philips cassette player the size of a shoebox, to cue up the music. In the Broadway musical, Jesus is flogged with clockwork precision. But Cesar sometimes lifted his makeshift flail (a belt, if memory serves) only to stop midway through the downstroke. Each time I flinched, Cesar’s face contorted into a grimace of ecstasy. The whip barely made contact, but the point was to humiliate and degrade me.

Years later, Kurzweil’s son asked him how to deal with bullies. He ended up writing a children’s book, Leon and the Spitting Image, in which a boy battles a bully.

Using Google, he discovered Cesar had served time in prison for fraud. When they met, the former bully denied any memory of his actions. But he did apologize.

Study: ‘It gets better’ prevents depression

Telling ninth graders that people can change can lower the risk of depression, according to a University of Texas study published in Clinical Psychological Science. 

Lifelong struggles with depression often start with puberty, says David Yeager, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

The study asked one group of incoming ninth graders to read a passage describing how individuals’ personalities are subject to change.

The passage emphasized that being bullied is not the result of a fixed, personal deficiency, nor are bullies essentially “bad” people. An article about brain plasticity and endorsements from older students accompanied the passage. After reading the materials, the students were asked to write their own narrative about how personalities can change, to be shared with future ninth-graders.

Students in the control group read a passage that focused on the malleability of a trait not related to personality: athletic ability.

Nine months later, “rates of clinically significant depressive symptoms rose by roughly 39 percent among students in the control group, in line with previous research on depression in adolescence.” However, students who were told personality is malleable showed no increase in depressive symptoms, even if they’d been bullied.

That jibes with research on the academic benefits of having a “growth mindset,” the belief that ability is malleable. And with the “it gets better” campaign aimed at gay teens facing abuse.