We need to step up. We need to be the generation of parents who puts an end to bullying in our schools. No more excusing it, no more silence. No more thinking someone else will take care of it. No more kids feeling the only way to escape is to kill themselves.
Last week we learned about Michael, a kind and creative boy who was bullied by his peers because he loved My Little Ponies and the violin. They said he was acting like a girl. They said he was gay. Michael hung himself, and is now surrounded by family and love as he fights to wake up and resume his life. Michael is eleven years old.
“Girly” and “gay” must stop being used as slurs. All people have worth. Being a girl or being gay does not devalue a person. The way a child expresses their individuality has little to do with their gender or sexuality. Gender stereotypes are hurtful and we need to take action to make them unacceptable.
My good friend and colleague Carrie Goldman (author, “Bullied”) brings our attention directly where it needs to be: “We must continue to educate our young people on the fact that gender stereotypes are harmful, and that it is okay for boys and girls to play with all toys, not just the ones marketed to their gender.”
The silence of Michael’s school is also completely unacceptable. Become familiar with the bullying policy at your child’s school. Be proactive and talk to teachers and the principal. Look into programs like Buddy Benches or start an after school Kindness Club. Create a message wall where students can write kind messages to each other on post it notes. If you are at school and see students being unkind to each other, say something to them and set the example for the children around you. Finally, talk with your children at home about being an active witness when they encounter bullying and let them know they can always come talk to you and receive your full attention.
More info on Buddy Benches: http://magazines.scholastic.com/news/2013/12/Buddy-Bench
Interactive book for K-3 students on stopping bullying, “Jake and Riley’s Recess Rescue”: http://www.pigtailpals.com/jaandrirere.html
A special thank you to my dear friend Carrie Goldman, who is so passionate about this issue and a true champion for our kids. If you have not yet, please pick up a copy of her book “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (Harper Collins, August 2012)” and learn more about the issue and how we can stop it.