Girl, 9, wins courage award — but the bullies win

When a group of fifth-grade boys were beating an autistic student at a Maui school, nine-year-old Eileen Parkman told them to stop. They cursed her, pushed her to the ground and stepped on her. A local autism center honored Eileen for her courage, reports the Maui News.

“It isn’t the right thing to beat up people. It’s the right thing to help people,” Eileen said in explaining her bravery in coming to the defense of a helpless student during a lunch recess at Kamali’i Elementary School.

. . . “Yes, I was very scared,” Eileen said.

The bullies made sure she stayed scared. After standing up to the older boys, the second grader became a target for bullying, said her father, Sean Parkman. He and his mother offered to volunteer as recess monitors, but were rejected, he said.

Parkman said school officials told him that if he pulled Eileen from the school, then officials would report him to Child Protective Services because he could be violating school attendance policies. So, he held off.

But after taking Eileen to doctors several times after getting beaten, doctors warned Parkman that Eileen was not safe. He then removed her from the school.

Eileen is being tutored at home. Apparently, the autistic boy still attends the elementary school.

Standing up to bullies

In The Bully Effect, Anderson Cooper follows up on children and parents in Lee Hirsch’s documentary, Bully. The show will premiere on CNN tonight at 10 pm ET.  February 28.

When Alex Libby was a 12 year old in Sioux City, Iowa, the slurs, curses and threats would begin even before he boarded the school bus.

. . . Today Alex has become an anti-bullying rock star with appearances on national television and a visit to the White House. He also regularly delivers speeches to capacity crowds as an activist, and considers himself a spokesman for the bullied.

Kelby Johnson, who came out as a lesbian in middle school, feels empowered, but still encounters hostility in her small Oklahoma town.

Kirk Smalley’s 11-year-old son TY committed suicide after he was suspended from school for fighting back against a bully.  ”I will fight bullying forever because my son will be 11 forever,” says Smalley.

A (anatomical) boy in the girl’s restroom

A boy who identifies as a girl has the right to use the girls’ restroom and play on girls’ sports teams, the Massachusetts Department of Education has told schools. Transgender girls have the right to use boys’ restrooms and play on boys’ teams.

The guidance said some students may feel uncomfortable sharing those facilities with a transgender student but this ‘‘discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.’’

Students who “consistently and intentionally refuse to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex” they choose should face discipline for bullying, the guidance advised.

Middle school bullies are the cool kids

Bullies who pick fights or spread nasty rumors are the “cool” kids in middle school, according to psychologists who surveyed seventh and eighth graders in Los Angeles, reports Live Science.

“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” study researcher Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology, said in a statement.

The study is published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Anti-bullying campaigns should focus on persuading bystanders to show they disapprove of bullying, advised Juvenon.

Bullies often target unpopular children who are less likely to be defended by onlookers, notes Live Science.

Via Education News.

California teacher ‘talks down’ shooter

Thanks to a heroic teacher who “talked down” a 16-year-old with a shotgun, nobody was killed at a rural California high school yesterday.  One Taft High School student was critically wounded, but is now in stable condition. Wounded in the forehead by a shotgun pellet, science teacher Ryan Heber talked to the shooter, letting 28 students flee the room. With help from a campus supervisor, Kim Lee Fields, who’d heard the shots fired, he got the boy to surrender to police. RyanHeber_1357858333303.jpg

About half of California’s high schools, 16 percent of its middle schools, and 5 percent of its elementary schools have police or resource officers on campus, and 83 percent of the officers at high schools are armed, according  an EdSource survey, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Taft High’s armed resource officer wasn’t at school because he was snowed in. However, police reportedly were at the school within 60 seconds of a 911 call from a neighbor, who saw the boy enter a side door with the shotgun.

The Kern County Sheriff’s office is investigating reports the suspect threatened students last year, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Angela Hayden, whose 16-year-old daughter attends Taft, said the suspected shooter allegedly threatened to kill her daughter and other students last year while they were on a school bus during a field trip to Universal Studios.

“He was telling everyone that he had a list of people who messed with him over the years and that he was going to kill them,” Hayden told The Times.  She said the boy allegedly said his brother would be the first victim.

Hayden said her daughter complained about the incident to a vice principal and that the boy was expelled for several days. After the boy returned, Hayden said, she called the principal wanting to know why he was not permanently barred from campus. The principal declined to discuss the punishment, citing privacy concerns, according to Hayden.

“Everybody knew about this kid,” Hayden said.

The shooter used his older brother’s shotgun, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. He had extra ammunition in his pocket.

In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the White House is now considering federal funding for schools that want to hire police officers and increase surveillance, California Sen. Barbara Boxer told NBC. The NRA, derided for proposing armed guards at schools, isn’t going to go along if it’s part of a bill also calling for a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.

When cruel is cool

As an eighth grader in 1986, John Cook urged a girl to commit suicide in the underground newspaper he briefly published with two friends. He accused another of promiscuity. He attacked black teachers and classmates with racial slurs. In Confessions of a Teenage Word-Bully, Cook tries to understand why he did it and the effect on his victims.

Ramming Speed was filled with gutter racism, written by me, that turns my stomach to think of today. It directed at two young girls the same sort of highly public, humiliating sexual slander and innuendo that helped drive 15-year-old Phoebe Prince to kill herself in 2010 in Massachusetts, and it literally called on one of those girls to commit suicide. As much as it was an act of defiance against a school administration we perceived as wanting, it was an act of brutal and indefensible bullying against children we knew to be vulnerable. It was wanton adolescent cruelty of the sort that routinely makes headlines today.

The girl urged to commit suicide by “Ramming Speed” did attempt suicide.

Cook was trying to impress the “cool kids,”  writes Emily Bazelon on Slate. The most promising strategies to prevent bullying rely on shifting the social norms, “figuring out how to make meanness socially costly, as opposed to power-enhancing,” she writes.

Bazelon links to a story on “slut shaming” on WNYC’s Radio Rookies. Reporter Temitayo Fagbenle, 16, interviews a friend who boasts of ruining a girl’s reputation by posting sexual photos of her online. He’s reveling in the “coolness points he scored,” writes Bazelon.

Safety first: Schools where kids can learn

Student learning requires a positive school climate and effective discipline policies, concludes Ed Week‘s Quality Counts 2013.

National initiatives to improve schools tend to focus heavily on curriculum, testing, and personnel. But a growing consensus also recognizes that the elements that make up school climate—including peer relationships, students’ sense of safety and security, and the disciplinary policies and practices they confront each day—play a crucial part in laying the groundwork for academic success.

I agree that a safe, orderly school environment is the first step to learning — though not the whole journey.

Ed Week looks at ”zero tolerance” discipline policies, now mercifully falling out of favor, and “promising alternative models that seek to reduce conflict and ensure schoolhouse safety without resorting to expulsion or out-of-school suspension.”

In the classroom arena, they document ways in which educators are working to bolster students’ ability to cope with academic and personal pressures that can interfere with learning and lead to peer conflict and bullying.

. . . Finally, this package examines factors often left out of the school climate discussion: the role of parents and community groups—and even of a school’s physical design and layout—in the learning environment.

In addition, there’s a survey of teachers’ and administrators’ views on school climate, safety and discipline. 

Teacher lets kids mark faces of slow readers

An Idaho teacher let fourth-graders scribble with markers on the faces of classmates who didn’t meet reading goals, reports the Times-News.

The Declo teacher had let the class pick a reward for those who met Accelerated Reader goals. Instead, the class picked a punishment — no recess or a marked face — for those who fell short.

When Cindy Hurst’s 10-year-old son arrived home from school Nov. 5, his entire face, hairline to chin, was scribbled on in red marker — including his eyelids. He also had green, red and purple scribble marks over the red, and his face was scratched by a marker that had a rough edge.

“He was humiliated, he hung his head and wanted to go wash his face,” said Hurst. “He knows he’s a slow reader. Now he thinks he should be punished for it.”

Nine of 21 students didn’t meet their goals. Three chose to go without recess and six chose to have their faces marked.

Karla Christensen, whose daughter met her reading goal, defended teacher Summer Larsen.

Christensen said if her daughter had come home with similar marks, she would have felt it was a reflection on her own parenting for not making sure her daughter reached her goal.

“I think (Larsen)is just a very creative teacher who was trying to do something to motivate the students and it went astray,” Christensen said.

LeRoy Robinson, a grandfather of two of the marked-up students, said Larsen made a “poor choice and basically, it was bullying.” Children had to wear the marker all day and then found it wouldn’t wash off,  he said.

The teacher missed several days of school after the incident, but it’s not clear whether she was suspended.  A complaint has been filed with the professional ethics board.

Ontario: Anti-abortion speech is ‘bullying’

Politicians are trying to suppress political speech by calling it “bullying,” charges Hans Bader. He’s got a doozy of an example from Canada: Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten says Catholic schools can’t tell students abortion is wrong because anti-abortion speech is “misogyny,” which is banned by Bill 13, the anti-bullying law.

Religious schools are subject to censorship, Broten said.

“We do not allow and we’re very clear with the passage of Bill 13 that Catholic teachings cannot be taught in our schools that violates human rights and which brings a lack of acceptance to participation in schools,” she said. …

. . . “Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.”

U.S. protections for free speech are much stronger than in Canada, but some school administrators have tried to bully students who disapprove of homosexuality, Bader writes.

When a Wisconsin high school newspaper ran dueling student opinion pieces on whether same-sex couples should be able to adopt children, the student who took the “no” side was accused of bullying – which can lead to expulsion – by the superintendent.

However, a conservative Christian student successfully challenged a school “harassment” code that punished students who oppose homosexuality, Bader writes. In Saxe v. State College Area School District (2001), a federal appeals court ruled there is no “harassment” exception to the First Amendment for speech which offends members of minority groups.

Town turns tables on school prank

The cool kids thought it would be funny to elect an unpopular girl to the homecoming court at Ogemaw Heights High, then taunt her for being an outsider, writes Francis X. Donnelly in the Detroit News. But the people of West Branch, Michigan, a small farm town, rallied around sophomore Whitney Kropp.

Kids pointed at her in the hallways and laughed. The boy who was picked with her withdrew.

Students told her that, in case she was wondering why the boy had dropped out, he was uncomfortable being linked with her.

“I thought I wasn’t worthy,” said Kropp, 16. “I was this big old joke.”

But her family persuaded Kropp to go to the game and have a great time.

“Going to homecoming to show them that I’m not a joke,” she wrote on Facebook. “Im a beautiful person and you shouldn’t mess with me!”

Then word spread, thanks to a Facebook support page, and backing the “free spirit” against the mean girls went viral. Local businesses offered to “buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a gown, shoes and a tiara,” writes Donnelly.
Josh Awrey, the football player who’d dropped out, decided he’d join her after all when the homecoming court is presented at halftime.
“Im sick of everyone blaming me. I had nothing to do with this,” he wrote (on his Facebook page). “I think what they (students) did is rlly rude and immature.”

“Team Whitney” — including graduates who hadn’t been to a football game in decades — vowed to pack the stands at the homecoming game to cheer for her. Normally dressed in black, she got a red dress for the occasion.