The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 3, 2014

Bully prevention and education is clearly working

“I need your help,” Was the first thing I heard as I answered my phone the other day. The woman sounded calm but determined to get my attention.

She quickly said, “My son is a victim of bullying and I want to know if I am doing all I can to keep him safe.”

My first question was, “Tell me what is going on and what you have done so far.”

First she apologized for not introducing herself, she had been a graduate student of in one of my classes but now lived 300 miles away.

I was surprised but since I always tell my students they can contact me, I was pleased that she remembered.  

The bullying of her son began in the fall of this past year in his middle school when a female classmate said that she liked him.

He said he didn’t want a girlfriend and thought the subject was closed. The girl’s best friend got mad about his reaction and then threatened him with a knife.

Sadly, her story is not that unusual, middle school and high school relationships often provoke jealousy, fights, threats or tears.

Her son thought at first it would just blow over but after she showed him the knife he worried that she might be serious about harming him.

It still took him three more class periods to report what had happened.

Boys are often hesitant to report bullying or threats because they are raised with the idea that they should be able to handle threats and aggression.

Boys need to know what bullying is and that serious threats need to be reported.

According to www.stopbullying.gov. Bullying is a repetitive, unwanted, aggressive behavior that also includes an imbalance of power.

The site states that “Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” The young boy was clearly being threatened but still worried about getting someone in trouble.

Luckily, his friends did the right thing and went with him to report the incident to the principal.

At this point in the storytelling, his mom drew a big breath and sighed. She went on to say all the things that the school had done and what they had done as a family.

I was relieved that everyone was on the same page and following excellent procedures for the incident. Bully prevention and education was clearly working in this school district and for this family!

But the story wasn’t quite over, the girl was suspended for several weeks and would be coming back to school in a few days.

The mom and her son were feeling very anxious about how the school day would go.

We talked for a while about things that would help to make her son feel safer and conversations that she should have with the school administration.

As the call was coming to an end, I reassured the woman that she was doing everything right and the school personnel was doing a good job.

She told me that she had taken my class for her social worker credentials but was so grateful that she had the information she could use with her own family. She thanked me for teaching and being there for my students.

Being there for others is important. Being a teacher, mentor or a caring adult will make a difference in another person’s life.

Sometimes it is simply being a good listener and reassuring someone that they are on the right path. Today, be that person who is there for someone in need.

Remember, education and prevention are keys to making a difference in our community.

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