How to deal with a bullying problem

Your questions, answered by Cindi Seddon, cofounder of Coquitlam's Bully B'ware program, and a teacher as well as a school principal, and Halifax Regional Police officer Ian Burke, who conceived of and runs an Anti-bullying Hotline that receives hundreds of calls annually from both children and parents. Burke’s anti-bullying program is delivered to about 22,000 children each year, from pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford. His own three children attend elementary school and junior high.

Question for Cindi:
My son Greg is about to turn 13, he is in grade 8. He has been constantly bullied since we moved to this neighborhood. By our neighbor's son and a few boys up the street. Plus he tends to get a lot of name calling at school. Obviously, his self-esteem has taken a large toll throughout these ordeals. I have got in touch with his teacher this year and reported it to the principal. The boys up our street wrote on the school brick walls about him. The police were called and spoke with my son. They gave him their card. I have left two messages with the constable. But have not had any response. Also, since this happened a bully at school is playing this incident up. He is telling them to get lost but they are unrelenting. Writing notes to him and embarrassing him constantly in front of his peers. He does not want to report it. But I have told him it does not mean they will go right to the bullies. He gets very emotional and feels defeated. His father does not think he is doing enough fighting back. I believe he is. But his support of friends at school is not so supportive. I am at my wits end. I want to help him. I show him scenarios and how to deal with them. This daily name calling is getting a bit too much.

Response form Cindi
You and your son need some help! I am relieved to hear that you are not counselling him to fight back because that kind of action can lead to much more serious harm for your son. Please re-contact the school. You may want to consider showing them the email you sent. Your son deserves to feel safe at school, and it sounds as if he is being targeted. Set up a meeting with the teacher, counsellor and administrator. Write out your concerns and what your son needs in order to feel safe and successful at school. Contact the school liaison officer (police officer) and ask for some assistance. Expect some help and support from the school, for both your son and yourselves. If you are unsatisfied with the results of your meeting, contact the district superintendent or assistant superintendent. It is also a good idea to keep a written record of all phone conversations and meetings that you attend. Act right away. Your son needs you to advocate on his behalf. Good luck.
Cindi Seddon


Question for Ian Burke:
Ian, I hope you can help me. My son Alex is a 10th grade student. He has rather severe adhd, he has been the target of bullying since he started school. This year is especially bad. He doesn't want to go to school anymore. I hate to see him so miserable. He has no friends. Most of the abuse is verbal. How can I help my son? Thanks

Response from Ian:
First off, support is what your son needs right now and that can come from both you and the school. Secondly, maybe you can find out if your school does any sessions on learning disabilities or health and awareness days. These can be a useful tool to inform youth on different problems they suffer through on a daily basis. The last thing is to report all incidents to school officials so they can be documented and acted on by the school in a timely fashion. Hope things work out and any further questions feel free to write again.
Ian


Question for Cindi:
I have read all the questions and responses above and I can relate to them all. My son is going through many of the same problems as mentioned above he is only 8 and has been getting bullied since kindergarten. He has been through a lot. I now drive him to school and pick him up because he is afraid. Recently, I think there has been alot more going on because he has started to wet his bed at night. He hasn't done that since he was 4. I have talked to the principal and to his teacher, I have also written letters, but it doesn't seem to be doing anything. My son has been bullied for too long. I don't know what to do anymore. My son has also started acting out at home, he has started "bullying" his little sister saying things like "you're stupid", "you can't play with me but Katherine can" (3rd sister), he is becoming violent, and has developed an attitude. My husband and I have tried everything we can think of from talking to time outs. But it doesn't do anything and I don't think it will until he stops being bullied. We need help and I don't know what to do anymore. I even went as far as to check on him at lunch. But that hasn't solved anything. Please help.
Sincerely,
Tracy from Ontario

Response from Cindi:
Please contact your Parent Advisory Council group as soon as possible and ask what kind of parent ed. topics are being addrressed this year. There are also steps you can take if you are not satisfied with the results of the meetings you have had so far at the school level. Our Book, "How Parents Can Take Action Against Bullying" will provide an outline of the steps you need to take. I agree that your son needs some intervention. You might want to start documenting this behavioural change at home. Keep talking to him about where he learned to treat others like that (exclusionary, physically violent) and record his responses. Take this information to the school. Give them specific examples, and let the staff know that, in your opinion, your son needs help with this problem. It sounds like this could be reaching a critical point and MUST be dealt with as soon as possible. Good luck.
Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Ian Burke:
My child is being called names and being physically bullied. The school has a zero tolerance rule for bullies. However, my son tells me almost daily about incidents where he is bullied in the schoolyard. The supervising teacher has not witnessed any of the events and does nothing. My son's teacher did overhear a threat toward my son while he was in line. The result was a verbal warning to the bully. His teacher wants me to report any problems that my son has with bullies. I'm afraid that the bullies will be angered to be in trouble and take their anger out on my son! How should I hanle this?
Margaret

Response from Ian:
Dear Margaret: his teacher is right as far as reporting incidents that may happen to him. If the bully does not have to be accountable for his actions then he will continue to bully. He will probably move on from your son when he realizes he won't get away with it. The problem is that someone must also work with the bully to try and help him get over this and stop bullying. I hope this answers your questions.
Ian


Question for Ian Burke:
My son is a gifted 10 year old boy, who has always been wise beyond his years both intellectually and emotionally. He seems to get along better with adults than with his peers. He has always been ridiculed and picked on at school because of his intelligence, and because he is different, yet he has always been happy and handled it very well, setting up meetings with kids, teachers and principals to resolve the problems. Last year he started at a new school because the old school was allowing or enabling violence and bullying without consequences, and there was not sufficient supervision for any of the children. The new school said they have a zero tolerance policy. Last year my son was hurt physically many times and teased constantly because he was a new kid and different. This year is no different. I have spoken to the principal, who is in denial, he tells me I don't know what violence is, compared to the ghetto schools. I have met with teachers and spoken to parents. My son is losing his confidence and starting to miss school because of fear of riddicule and violence. I really am desperate to know where to turn for help.

Response from Ian:
In response to this letter I would like to suggest that it does not matter whether it's an inner city school or a rural school — violence is violence, and to you as a parent, your child must be safe. You should bring this matter up to your schools PTA and see if as a group you can approach either the school administration or the school board itself to find a solution and take action against school violence. Also see what your local police dept or detatchment may have in place as far as speaking to youth on this issue.
Ian


Comment:
My daughter is 10 yrs. old. She has been dealing with issues of bullying and teasing for 3 years. She has been constantly called names, (some mild, others very sexually explicit), she has been told she's useless and basically put down for any efforts she make socially and academically. She is doing well academically and she does have SOME friends…but the harassement just doesn't seem to stop. She has spoken with teachers and been told that they don't believe her because they don't HEAR/SEE it themselves. She has also been physically assulted….punched in the stomach and kicked in the private area which resulted in vaginal bleeding (age 9). I have talked with school teachers and administrators about these incidents and was told she needs to learn to ingnore/turn the other cheek…stick up for herself, etc…..Well, Let me tell you, there is only so much a child can put up with. The response to most situations is the "bully" is made to apologize (including for the physical assults). Recently this all came to a head when my daughter's teacher (this year) and I spoke and she expressed some very real concerns about her class. The teacher is completely stressed out and can't believe what a bunch of "nasty" kids she has (It has been the same peer grow each year…kids my daughter's age). FINALLY someone else is aknowledging what we have been saying for the past 3 years.

I have done research on bullying and have put our school in touch with RCMP members to do some presentations on the subject. Also I have contacted a Human Rights Educator to come in and speak to ALL the students on Human Rights and Discrimination. PLUS, I am requesting a copy of the school's discipline policy…I am keeping a copy of every correspondence…every incident my child discuss's with me…EVERYTHING!!!! I will arrange follow-up meetings with the principal, teachers as well as set up a general school meeting to discuss with all parents this issue. We need to approach this for every angle. I will encourage/promote a zero tolerance on teasing/bullying in our school. We've HAD ENOUGH!

My daughter and I have a very good relationship and she knows she can talk to me about anything. My concern is what this will do to her (long term). You hear of kids committing suicide because they can't take it anymore. I want this to stop…no one should have to deal with this harassment especially not a child. She feels so alone. Some days I feel so helpless. But since I started pushing for the school to address the issue….Things are really starting to happen. It's a great feeling but it's far from fixed. WE ARE GOING TO BE HEARD!
Susan


Question for Ian:
Our son is in Grade 7 and has difficulties every day with other children in his school. We moved to our current residence in the summer of 1997. It all began with a couple of boys that lived near us, and attended the same school. Name calling has always bothered him the most. These kids, in no time at all had their school friends joining in on their idea of fun, at our son's expense of course. There has been many times that he has wanted to change schools, or just move away. We have made him understand that no matter where he goes, he may be faced with the same issues, or similar ones. These two children have since moved away, however the problems are still there. I am not saying that our son is an angel, because he has done his share of wrong doings just like any other kid. But here is the part I do not understand. The school says it has a zero tolerance rule, and I agree with them to a certain point. If another child has initiated the incident, then why is my child be repremanded more severely than the instigator? He always get in trouble, because he is not sly enough to do things or say things back to the other kids without getting caught. If the teacher doesn't see it then she/he blames only the one they catch, no matter what reasoning the victim has for his/her actions. After reading the article in this month's edition of Reader's Digest, I am wondering if the school has the wrong program in place, or if they are not applying it appropriately. Does our son need councilling, or am I just a over-protective parent? There is a lot more to this than I can put down right now. I guess a little guidance will suffice. Also what is this "League of Peaceful Schools", and how do I find out more info on it, or other programs??
Thank you
Paula in TO

Response from Ian:
Paula, this problem does happen when zero tolerence policies are in effect in schools. The positive thing that comes out of them when kids are being bullied is that they now have somewhere to report a problem without fighting back. They can go to school administrators and explain that they did not fight back and want some help. Zero tolerence doesn't mean automatic suspension for the bully. Maybe there could be alternative ways with dealing with the problem; essays, research papers on bullying, etc. So if you can convince your son not to act out and tell the bully that he is going to tell the school if the actions don't stop, now you have empowered him to take non-violent action and seek help for his problem. The league of peaceful schools has a site: www.leagueofpeacefulschools.ns.ca
I hope I may have answered your question.
Ian


Question for Cindi:
I am currently involved with developing and implemtenting an anti-bullying program for my school. The number of questions you have received only further convinces me of the need for such a program. I was hoping you could send me some information on your program and on your hot line. Thanks
Jennifer Robertson

Response from Cindi:
Please have a look at our web site www.bullybeware.com for more information on the program that we have developed. I hope this is helpful to you, and I totally agree with you that we are in need of more awareness, understanding and effective ways to take action against bullying. Good luck with our work.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Cindi:
My son switched schools in grade 4, he has been the target of bullying since. In grade 5, 3 boys dragged him between portables and 2 held him while the 3rd kicked him. A teacher broke it up but didn't report it to the office. I did. This year, grade 6 started off wonderfully, he was tested for IPRC and has improved dramatically. This morning he reported to the principal about being kicked on the bus, principal, given the seating arrangement didn't see how. His day went from bad to worse, a sub teacher in class and his three tormentors went to town actually kicking him, punching him in the shoulder and slipping and hitting him in the face. One boy knocked all his markers off his desk every time he walked by. They have started pulling his shirt up to expose his abdomen and ridicule him about being fat. He made no further reports to the office after being sloughed off in the morning.

I have written a harsh letter still in it's rough draft stage, this is the last paragraph. I did view Edward's dramatically improved test scores. I was very pleased to see how well he has progressed. He was feeling comfortable and safe in the school environment, reporting frequently that he was not being bullied or picked on this year. I am sure this security directly manifested itself in improved performance. He was able to concentrate because he was not living a fearful school existence this year. He was not watching over his shoulder or anticipating the next inevitable humiliation.

I must be assured of my son's safety and demand to know what steps will be taken to provide him with a safe secure environment conducive to learning. He will not return to school until I am satisfied with the steps implemented to this end.

A written response is required.

Please advise.

Response from Cindi:
You are absolutely correct when you say that your son deserves to feel safe at school, and from the testing results, it seems that his high performance directly relates with an increased feeling of safety.

What you are describing to me sounds like assault. The school liason officers I am in contact with would want to know about something like this. Does the school have a Police liason officer? It might be worth inquiring about. Your letter sounds deservedly angry and frustrated. I agree with all of the points you have made. I think your letter (or at least the part I read) was well written and clear. However, not knowing your school community, I cannot comment on whether or not a written letter will be more effective than a direct approach. I think what is most important is what will best serve Edward's needs: i.e., the abuse to stop and stay stopped? Something that I always try to remember with young adolesents is that peers and belonging are hugely important to them, and when we publicly advocate on behalf of our children, particularly on matters such as this, we need to be sure that our actions as parents do not put our children at further risk. If you want the problem to be solved, the targeting of your son to stop, and for him to go back to being the happy, high achieving child you describe from the beginning of this year, then you will likely want to do your work with the teachers and the principal quietly, and approach this situation in a firm, problem-solving manner. If your son is being targeted, so are other children. You have every right to get satisfying answers to the questions you have outlined in your letter. Whatever action you decide to take, please discuss it with your son first. If he is fearful that the situation will get worse with your intervention, reassure him that you will keep him safe and not make things worse, but that you have to get involved. So does the school. Then let the school know about your fears and Edward's fears.

Edward most defintely needs your help. I have always found that the problem-solving approach works best. Good luck, and I know you will make the right decisions for your son.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question to Ian Burke:
My daughter is in grade 8, and she is being bullied by this kid, since elementary school. I have informed the school, and told them to fix it before I do. She has not had trouble with him yet, but I know he will find a way to get to her. I was thinking of home schooling her and I don't want her to be going through this again, and for years to come. I fear for her everyday, and wonder what he is going to do, and when? How can I be sure this will not happen, and how can I asure her that he wouldn't do it again? She has the vice princple to go to, but he can't be there all the time. Every morning she says she is not feeling well, and I know she is afraid. What do I do, do I take her out, or do I let him keep bothering her till she's at the end of her rope, which I won't let happen. I hope you can help, don't know were else to go, I don't know if this is a police matter, or wait till something happends, that's what they say?
I await your reply to this matter.
Yours truly
Deanna Hennessy

Response from Ian:
Deanna: you have to reassure your daughter that you are there backing her 100%. It would be beneficial to me to know what type of activity the bully is inflicting on your daughter. One thing I have found and what I try to stress to people is not to run or assist someone to run from the problem. Your daughter has to stand up to the bully to let them know that they are not going to put up with it and they will seek help from the school or take criminal action if it should continue. As for your part you have to enlist the aid of the school and police, together they can come up with a plan of action. Whether it be educating students or talking to them, the most important thing for your daughter is that she feels safe in the school enviroment and that she knows people are willing to be there for her when she needs the help. Check with your guidance at school and wwith your local police to see if they have anything in place. Sometimes it takes just one person to be able to identify a problem and start a program in their community. Anything further I would be glad to help or maybe you could call me if you needed more information. I can contact you through your email if you wish.

Good luck, Ian


Question to Ian Burke:
In the digest article and throughout the intro to this piece it is mentioned what a fine job Constable Ian Burke has and is doing regarding reducing bullying. There is only one thing missing, what is the phone number to reach this fine person and get some help. It seems a strange yet obvious oversight not to include the phone number after mentioning it time and again in the article. Perhaps some one "bullied" the editor into not providing it. Thanks.

Response from Ian Burke:
In response to this email I would like to try to clarify this point. The hotline was designed and set up as a response to the needs of the 25,000 or so students in our juristiction in which we police. Even for the outlying areas in Nova Scotia where I do receive calls from I can only give them information and be a resource person for them. If they request police involvement I advise them to call their local police deptartment or detatchment of the RCMP and am willing to work with those agencies in any way I can. The majority of time spent on the phone talking to the youth and parents is done on my off time as kids usually call after school or at night. MTT/Aliant provides local airtime and phones for us so that we are able to talk person to person with victims, bullies and families from 7am-11pm 7 days a week…I hope this clarifies why the number was not included in the article and I am extending an invitation to you that if you wish to contact me personally to speak in relation to a problem you may be having just send your email back to the Reader's Digest with a phone number where you can be contacted and I will call you. To anybody else reading this I will also do the same for you. Thanks for your interest.

Ian


Question to Cinndi Seddon:
Our son was born without a left hand two years ago. We expect to have to deal with some issues once he starts school but right now our 9 year old is being tormented by a girl in her class. This little girl is constantly on our daughter about her brother being a freak, how he is going to die any day now, how grotesque he is and so on. We have tried explaining to the other child, we have talked to the school and we don't seem to be getting anywhere. Our daughter doesn't want to go to school, she is constantly unhappy and we are at our wits end.

Response from Cindi:
I am so sorry that your daughter is being tormented by another. This really sounds like a situation that the school counsellor needs to become involved in. Individual differences in students (children) need to be acknowleged and explained to others, and then kids can ask questions about what they do not understand. My question to the other girl would be something like, "Why do you want to hurt (your daughter) so much?" If you haven't yet, please contact the school counsellor directly to set up a meeting to get some help to solve this problem. If you have gone that route and the problem still exists, you may want to contact the principal, or the District person in charge of Student Services to ask for assistance. And please, keep being pro active on behalf of your son. Meet with preschool teachers early and help him, the other children, and their families to understand his differences. Understanding helps to pave the road to acceptance and welcoming.


Question to Cindi:
My son has been the victim of bullying since moving 2 years ago. Since grade 1 he has been picked on by two boys. And now that he is grade 3, those same 2 boys are still picking on him, both physically and mentally. Now my son hates school and is becoming more agressive. I have talked to the principal and the teachers and they tell me that I have no right to question what they are "implementing" as to school regulations regarding what is done as far a Bullying. I have asked the principal to phone me should my son be sent to the office for any disciplinary action. They said that they won't do it because my expectations of the school are too high and I demand too much. They even went as far as throwing me out of the School Council because as said before, my expectations are too high. I am not an over protective parent but I do not like what my son is going through and starting to become. We have talked and said that he should stay away and not provoke, tell teachers or the principal. My son just says that they don't do anything anyway and starts to cry. What can I do?? Thanks you for your time.

 

Response from Cindi:
Once a child starts hating to go to school, it is a clear indication that something is going on. The principal is quite right informing you that it is not appropriate to know the consequences of the other children, however you have every right to know what kind of Anti-Bullying program is in place at the school, and what the school outlines as consequences. You may need to see the district superintendent if you continue to be dissatisfied with the outcome of your school meetings. This would be the next step. You also may want to find out, from the school board office, what kind of policies the district has against violence, intimidation and bullying in general. These policies may guide you in terms of action being taken for your son's sake. Every child deserves to feel safe at school. Good luck with your mission.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Cindi:
We are an expatriot Canadian family living in the Dominican Republic. Our son faces many challenges at his American accredited school. The teaching is in English but the children are mostly of Spanish speaking origins. Our son does well academically. The problem lies with acceptance into the set group of children. They want nothing to do with outsiders. He is teased, pushed, tripped in the playground and generally not accepted in games or after school activities. It is lonely for him and different from what he knew in Canada. He is trying to learn the language. Most of the children speak English well. How can we help him to break the wall of prejudice that he seems to face?

Response from Cindi:
We are finding that many International schools are facing the same kinds of challenges such as the one your son is facing. More and more schools are ordering our program. The administration needs to know what is going on with your son, and how he is feeling. He is now the taget of racist bullying, from what you describe, and this situation needs to be dealt with. The school teachers, admin, support staff and parents need to get together to talk about this issue and hopefully put a plan in place. Your son deserves to feel safe and welcomed at school.


Question for Cindi Seddon:
Just as a note, I'm speaking for myself on this issue, because I have first hand experience on what goes on at school, and know how to explain the situation better.

I'm a very shy, quiet girl currently attending 8th grade, and while I'm at school, I'm constantly being teased and mocked about being 'different'. Not by color or looks, but by choice of television, music, style etc. I've been told I should try and socialize more, but the children there keep telling me to go mind my own buisness whenever I try to take part in a conversation. I've been around some of the same people for quite a while, and have had my unique tastes in things all my life. I think being around them after all this time has made such an impression that if I ever do try and change something about myself, it won't matter that much to them.

Anyway, in a nutshell, how should I ease my way into the more social group without become a slave to 'trends', and all that?

Response from Cindi:
Choosing to be unique is a wonderful, exciting, courageous thing to do, particularly for adolescents. Good for you!! We need people who will challenge the status quo, who aren't afraid to step out. You say you are shy, but it sounds to me like you defintely have spirit! However, having spirit doesn't matter if you are lonely at school. However, you should never try to change to satisfy someone elses' definition of what is acceptable. Having said that, there are some things you could do to make more social connections at school. Hang out with kids with a purpose. By that I mean, join some clubs or groups. They don't have to be athletic groups, if that's not your thing. What about band, chess, music, debate, crafts, bridge (or any other card game). Sometimes it is easier if you can connect with other with like interests. If your school or church? doesn't have something that interests you, ask a teachers if s/he will help you sponsor a club. Also, you may want to approach a counsellor or other adult that you trust at school and let that person know that you are lonely, and ask for help or ideas. If you are feeling this way, I'm sure there are others that feel the same. You may just need someone to help you connect. I hope these ideas help.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Cindi:
My daughter is in the 7th grade and has been a victim of verbal bullying since she began school. She's an "A" student and has several extra-curricular interests, including a music theatre group and dancing – both of which she excels in. She does not dress any differently than any other kids and she comes from a white middle class background, yet for some reason she is always coming home to tell me that this person or that person said this or did that to hurt her. I know that she's quite sensitive and a little insecure so perhaps the other kids sense this and pick her as an easy target. I've tried to tell her to ignore the hurtful remarks and try to pretend she doesn't care but she doesn't seem to be able to pull it off. Any suggestions? Cindi's reply:
Please consider enlisting the help of the classroom teacher. S/he can, DISCREETLY, set up conversations about name calling etc. If the teacher knows that your daughter is beign targeted, s/he is in a position to watch out for these behaviors and stop them. In your conversations with the teacher, be sure that the action that is going to be taken will not make your daughter even more susceptible to being targeted. Conversations between your daughter and her teacher about this problem need to be confidential and, again discreet. She needs some help with this. Ignoring has not been found to be an effective strategy.


Question for Cindi:
My 14 year old son used to be very happy, popular the kid everyone wanted to be with. Then we moved. On moving in day (he was almost 7) he rode his bike through the neighborhood the 1st thing the local kids did was put a stick in his front tire as he rode by. It flipped, he cried, the parents did nothing and they have been after him ever since. He started out home schooling but due to medical reasons we had to place him in the public system. These kids went after him like a pack of wolves. He went from happy to I wish I was dead etc….finally he was chased by a group of 6 graders with a knife and the school did nothing. He has been home schooled ever since and his self esteem has returned greatly. We are pacifists and discourage violence of any sort yet we have come to the conclusion the only way to get them to leave him alone is to let him retaliate.

This year he expressed a desire to return to the system, unfortunately we live in the same place. We let him, but in all these years the kids have still gone after him even in our yard so we have been nervous. Now we have had a call from the school, they are after him again, in the class even in front of the teachers. The teachers say he does nothing, he doesn't speak to them ignores them, yet they persist. The teacher in the last incident said she thought of letting him come to class for lectures and letting him go elsewhere to work. I told her it was unacceptable, to remove him would tell everyone else he had done wrong and if as she said he hadn't then she should move the wrong doers. She agreed saying she hadn't thought of it this way. Could you approach the school about anti-bullying courses etc….and how can we help our son. We don't want him to lose what little self esteem he has left. He has built up alot of anger over the years of constant harrassment and we are afraid he will do something desperate one day to himself or someone else most likely. He has started seeing the councillors though. He is mature for his age and easily commands respect with adults, communicates well and is generally a nice helpful boy yet with his peers it is hell. How can we help him fix this.

We are out of ideas, and love our son very much perhaps if you have time you could help us. Thankyou for your attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,
Deply concerned parents

Response from Cindi:
Your story makes me weep. I'm so sorry for you and your son. My questions is, what is the school doing if they know about this??? Have you taken your story to the superintendent? S/he needs to know about this. Your son deserves to feel safe at school. There are many programs that schools can adopt, not just our program, and schools, together with parents and students, need to work together to make a difference for kids. You need help, and you need it now. I am very worried about your son, as are you. Please keep me informed as to what is happening.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware productions


Question for Cindi:
I work in the school system, and we have a situation that just won't be dealt with. A high number of our students in the middle school where i work are native, and they are continuosly "bullying" we can't seem to intervene because we will be called racist by the parents for singling out their child. Also the administration appears to turn a blind eye, hoping that the problem goes to the next school down the road. We particularly have a situation of twin boys, that are FAS and big for their age, always being violent and very aggressive on their own types. They do not pick on non native kids, but it seems to be a "in" thing if the twins beat up on you. If we as adult supervisors attempt to interfere it becomes a "Racist, your pickin on me, or I didn't do nothin. ask him." situation. I'm beginning to wonder if this should go all the way to the justice system and board level and demand an answer.

H. In Victoria BC

Response from Cindi:
It might be an idea to include the leaders of the Native Band in on the discussions about the bullying problems, what kind of action/program the school is intending to put into place, and how to deal with charges of being racist. Once everyone agrees what kinds of behaviours can be considered bullying, what the consequences for such behaviour are (no matter who you are), and how the community can support this type of initiative, it may be a little easier to deal with this probelm. What we are trying to do is deal with the behaviour, not the person. Good luck with this.


Question for Cindi:
Any suggestions on helping girls deal with "girl bullies" of the subtle type – the kind that want to control the groups and seem to have the power to isolate certain individuals. This kind of bullying is very subtle and difficult to deal with, especially if there is a passive-aggressive slant to it. Thanks.

Anita, Ontario

Cindi's Response:
Girl bullies present quite a challenge. The bullying is usually social in nature, and quite often the group is reluctant to report. Also, after being targeted by being ostracised, girls who are then reinvited back into the crowd will often go on to ostracise others. Staff working at schools need to know that this kind of relationship bullying is common among girls, what it looks like, and how to act on it. Relationship bullying needs to be considered as serious as any other kind of bullying. Kids need to be taught about it, how to act on it, and the consequences for engaging in such behaviours.


Question for Cindi:
Last year my 11yr old daughter switched schools to one close to home. She had hoped to make friends close to home as she had many at her old school and it was hard to spend time with them. She made friends with a group of girls and spent time with them up until this summer. She told me all they do is talk mean about each other and they were telling her to be mean to others but she would not. They dumped her and she was lonley so she made friends with a nice pair of girls. And I helped her make friends with a shy girl, along with this girls mother. Since she has made friends with these three, the bullies have been very cruel to her and have even gotten one of the girls she was with to start being cruel to them to. I am tempted to talk to the mothers of these four girls but upon meeting them at a school function I realize they are under the impression that they do no wrong. My daughter asked me not to talk to the school even though they have a anti bulling program becaus she says the girls pretend that it is solved and then are put through further hell when ever there is not an adult around. This is quite possible as you never find the principal in the hall, she is usually in the office. This is a small school and if you are seen talking to the guidence counceller, principal or they are over heard on the phone, which happens quite often it gets worse. Please advise me of ways to help my daughter as a parent. She tells me everything and we have a agreement to keep it between each other I am reluctant to break her trust.

Cindi's response:
What a sad story, but I have to tell you that this type of thing is not uncommon. What I can tell you is that this situation will likely NOT go away unless you become involved. What I suggest parents do in this type of situation is to call up the school and ask what their policy is on keeping kids safe in the event of a disclosure abut bullying. Until you get a satisfactory answer to that question, don't say anything. If this school has an anti-bullying policy, they are concerned about this type of problem, and I suspect that they have measures in place to keep kids who disclose safe.

Let your daughter know that you are going to have to elicit the help from the school, but you promise not to make the situation worse for her. Quite often, when schools announce they are implementing an anti-bullying program, the bullying becomes even more insidious and underground. It is important that the staff continue to be vigilant in watching out for bullying behaviours. However, they need information. It is important that the staff knows when and where your daughter is being targeted, and by whom. When kids insist on anonymity (not uncommon among adolescents), adults need to find other ways to ferret out these behaviours, and that often takes longer. Good luck with this challenge, and I hope that our efforts are incredible successful for you and your daughter.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question to Ian Burke:
Ian, I have a grandaughter in school, aged 8 years, and I can see she is going through much turmoil and is showing all the symptoms. ie: don't like school, sick tummy, make fun of me. She was born with a twisted arm and has gone through painful surery to help correct it but it still shows. I am sure this is her problem. She lives in the city and goes to a big city school with ALL ethnic backgrounds. I want to know where I can get this information in writing and teach myself so I can go to these schools to help teach the children how much it hurts to be bullied. I suffered the same problems, being from a very large, poor family, so I can relate to what these children are going through. If I can help even one child stop "bullying" it would be worth it. Can you please help??

Response from Ian Burke:
If you would like to refer to a wonderful site on the internet www.bullybeware.ca that has a great video and teachers guide. also contact your local police agency and see if they are able to assist in any way. Most police departments have liason constables that go into the schools when requested and have developed programs in dealing with such matters.
Good luck,
Ian


Question to Ian Burke:
I had to remove my son from a preschool due to the fact that he was being bullied there. I was shocked to see how mean young children could be. Although it was only for two and a half hours twice a week my son quit trying to talk and cried all the time or was unresponsive. I went in to the class and I can't express how hurt I was for my son. He was name-called, teased and the other children refused to play with him. I talked to the teachers and they said they would try to watch more but I didn't feel comfortable with that so I hired someone to be with my son but that still didn't help. The children would not change their attitude about my son so to protect him I removed him.

In 2000 my son started JK I loved the school. They seemded to have my sons best interests at heart and there was a zero tolerance for violence. But I soon realized that one of the children that caused my son so much pain was now in his JK class and it started again. The child would accidently run into my son or quietly tease him or get the other children to refuse to play with him. I wrote a letter to the teacher as well as the principal and my son came home sobbing again! They said they woould watch more carefully and they would start a "helping hands" program will the entire class. That still didn't really solve the problem. My son is now in SK and the child is still a problem. The child is now careful not to leave marks on other children or harm anyone in sight of a teacher.

The child doing all the bulling is hurtful to the entire class. I know the teachers are trying to deal with the problem but is there not more that can be done to help the child? I am worried about my own son but I also feel there should be some way to help the child that is doing the bulling. I know he can be quite nice as I help in the classroom. If you have any advise help let me know.
E. Bowman

Response from Ian Burke:
For this question I went to CST Peter Myatt who deals with the pre school-grade 6 and speaks to them about respecting each other and looking out for other classmates. Children have to be able to speak up and tell the bully to leave them or a friend alone and advise teachers when things are going wrong. Also a meeting between the children and parents of same would be useful as sometimes parents of the bully are unaware of just how much damage their child is causing and that this type of action the child is engaged in could affect him or her for the rest of their life. There was a statistic from a Canadian site that says that 60% of all identifiable bullies end up within the criminal justice system by age 24. Should they continue these bullying practice they may end up by high school being alienated by the rest of the school as older kids will not partake in these activities.
Thanks,
Ian and Peter


Question for Ian Burke:
I live in a small town with an elementary school for children from primary to grade 6. Because it is a small town, you pretty much know the children and the parents in your child's class. I believe there is a "bully" problem; however, I have been told that it is not the case. My nephew is afraid to go to school, has nightmares and wakes up in a cold sweat because of a certain boy in his class. The same child I have heard other parents talk about. My sister has informed his teacher of the problem – her son has begged her not to talk to the other boy's parents, nor does he want anything said to the boy. My sister is hoping that the teacher will catch this boy in the act – it may end my nephew's problem but it is only the beginning for the next little boy that he targets. I brought this up at a recent home and school meeting that we should be doing something to deter bullying. That was when I was told there was no problem – that the school calls the parent and generally it ends there. I know this not to be the case. The bully simply picks another child. I am hoping you can help me. I want the children educated on what they should do when they are bullied or when they see someone bullied. Some of the children are afraid to speak up, but I feel that if a child knows how to handle the situation, they will be able to put an end to something before it gets out of hand. Can you supply me with some information or direct me to where I can get the information so that I can bring it to our next home and school meeting.
Thank you.
Alison
Nova Scotia

Response from Ian Burke:
First of all, I would like to commend you on your willingness not to drop the issue. I have been doing the hotline for 2 years now and I have heard schools say there is no bullying going on but that has not been the case… ALL SCHOOLS HAVE BULLYING ISSUES — it depends on to what degree they are. Some people say "it's just kids being kids" but if it is affecting them the way it is affecting their growth as a child then it has to be responded to by the schools. There are lots of resources out there for the schools to utilize, it's just a matter of knowing where to look. People also have to look beyond just helping the victim and look at why the bully is doing what he is doing. I just returned from a "Restorative Justice Conference" and many of the schools are training their staff on using healing circle to resolve conflicts and trying to help the bully deal with his issues also. If you would like more info you can contact me so that i may be able to assist you with finding someone in your community who may be able to help you further.
Ian


Question:
There are plenty of places to get advice about how to deal with a bully. But what about working with a 6 year old who sometimes teases and plays too rough? How do you ensure that a child does not become a bully?

Response:
Sometimes, as children grow older, they do not realize that they are getting stronger and that the same physical force they used to excert is now hurting others. For such kids, it is really important that parents and caregivers talk to them frequently about controlling their bodies, and make sure that the child's intention, when they are interacting with others, is not meant to be hurtful. As well, teasing is often hurtful to the one being teased. Statements such as "that hurts my feelings", "stop embarassing me", or "don't say that to me", lets the child doing the teasing know that his/her comments are not fun or funny to both of the children interacting. As well, when young children are unable to use assertive statements such as those mentioned, it is helpful if the adult can say something like "if you talked to me like that it would hurt my feelings". finally, be pro-active with your child. Review, before the playtime with others, what kinds of behaviour can be seen as friendly, and what kids of behaviours could be seen as hurtful. Go over with your child how s/he can avoid behaviours that seem unfriendly.
Cindi Seddon,
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Cindi,
I am a teacher at Baker Lake, Nunavut. We have a serious problem with bullying in the school as well as in the community as a whole. In fact some students had to leave the community because they were that afraid. We want to do several inschool presentations with the junior high students. Our topics will include defining what a bully is, what to do if you are a victim, participant or observer, how to recognize a bully or admit you are a bully, and developing strategies. Do you have any suggestions on how this can be done generically? Also, any suggestions for good teacher friendly resources? Thank-you,
Marianne

Hi Marianne,
Many, many schools and districts have an issue with bullying and are doing great things to combat this problem. Please have a look at our web site www.bullybeware.com which outlines our program and resources. As well, there are many, many other programs which may have components that you would find helpful. The keys to success, as I see it, when implementing an anti-bullying program are: 1. Build time into the regular curriculum to teach the kids about Bullying 2. Be sure that all the staff agree on what bullying is and looks like in the school, 3. Invite parents to an information evening on the subject, 4. Develop a clear set of consequences for students who engage in bullying behaviours and be sure that the kids and the parents know what is expected, 5. Follow through and follow-up on bullying situations and 6. Ask the kids about the topic before you begin. Find out what they know and what they think they know. Good luck and congratulations on taking this issue on.


Dear Cindi:
When kids receive hatemail from classmates via email, is this also legitimately classified as bullying? They see each other at school everyday and pressure in social relationships are heightened by getting threats and obscene words thru email. Please advise.

Response from Cindi Seddon:
You are absolutley correct to think that hate mail on the internet can be considered bullying. Usually three conditions are present in a bullying situation. First, someone behaves in a way that is intentionally hurtful or designed to hurt, humiliate or embarass someone else. Second, there is a power difference between the person being bullied and the person doing the bullying. This can be social or physical power and/or status. Finally, the behaviour is repeated. This doesn't necessarily mean that only one person is always being tormented. It could be that the alleged bully has a whole host of people that s/he targets. Please contact the teacher right away and let him/her know what has happened. Please be sure to do this discreetly so that your child does not become further targeted for reporting what has been going on. Make sure that the remarks are removed immediately. As well, be sure that the teacher deals with is in a way that keeps your child safe. Good luck.

Cindi Seddon
Bully B'ware Productions


Question for Ian Burke:
My daughter had to change schools in the 3rd grade because we moved. She didn't have this problem at her old school at all. Since she's been at this new school, she's had a big problem with most of the girls in her class bullying her emotionally by name calling, turning her friends against her by lying to them, things like that. I've seen her come home depressed, crying and it breaks my heart. She's now in the 8th grade and can't wait to leave this school. I can't say that I blame her either. I have made numerous phone calls to the school principal and her teachers about this but it doesn't stop. My daughter struggled through all of her grades and I think that this problem had a lot to do with it. My daughter tells me everything so communication with her is not a problem. My question is this. Is there an organization such as the one in Halifax in Southern Ontario? This problem is nationwide with our kids and this concerns me immensely. I think our kids would benefit greatly education wise if they knew where to go for help. Real help, not just a classroom talk from the teacher or principle. Thank you for listening, I'll be waiting for your response.

Sincerely, Sylvie
Ontario

RESPONSE:
First off, your daughter's problem is one that I have on occasion had to deal with. You must first look at why your daughter is a victim (it could be jealous students, her body language etc.). If I were dealing with this problem I would ask those involved to participate in a healing circle. This is where all parties involved get a chance to speak about specific incidents and how it makes them feel (both bullies and victims) and come up with a resolution agreeable to all. Depending on where you live in Ontario there are groups out there that can facilitate such circles. If you could give me a better location I may be able to find someone to help. This problem will not go away as your daughter may deal with the insecurity of have this problem for a long time. Anything further, I would be glad to help.

Ian

 


Question to Ian Burke:
I must first thank you for your dedication to helping children. I have an 8 year-old daughter who was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome 2 years ago. She is laughed at by her peers and it breaks my heart for she is my shining star and so beautiful. The bullying has caused her much distress and she always says to me, she wishes she was someone else. I have tried everything in my power to help her. What more can I do?

RESPONSE:
I believe this issue goes beyond the bullying one. I believe its an educational problem within your school and community. Some of our schools had issues with multicultural and ethnic backgrounds. The schools addressed this by educating all students to why people were different based on their cultures. They had days set aside throughout the school year so students could become more knowledgeable. It has brought the students closer together and there is less ignorance surrounding this subject. A day or curriculum dealing with not only your child's tourettes but other medical issues may help educate the students. Then if things continue maybe a circle or family group conference involving the parents of the students involved could be held. I don't believe any responsible parent would want their child making fun of any student.

Ian

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