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Article:   Bullies Not Bad, Just Troubled Kids

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
July 13, 2007

The topic of bullying in our schools is a frightening and challenging one.

A just-concluded two-part Daily Record series examined the treatment of gays in schools. Some reported being called "faggot" and other derisive names by fellow students. Others said they were bothered by a seemingly innocuous phrase of "That's so gay." Whether it's students who are gay, fat or whatever, bullying in school is a serious problem.

According to one study, up to one in three high school students reported being bullied. Bullying can lead to low self-esteem, which leads to a whole host of other problems, including lower grades, isolation, depression and much more.

Shockingly, as many as 15 percent of students in one survey contemplated suicide as a solution. Viewed as his only option, one 13 year-old in Georgia actually took his own life to escape the torment he was suffering at the hands of his classmates.

Bullies target those who are physically smaller, younger, or who appear to be weaker in any way. Also at risk are loners, those who don't have many friends, or who are different in any way. Without intervention, bullies run a higher risk as adults of drunk driving arrests, spousal and child abuse and are more likely to end up with criminal careers.

But bullies are not bad kids. They are misguided and troubled and need immediate adult intervention, as do their targets.

Teaching tolerance is not the solution. Tolerance means putting up with something or someone we disapprove of or don't like.

Compassion and appreciation are key (although not the complete solution).

Compassion means caring about another's feelings and being sensitive to them.

Appreciation means finding value in each person's uniqueness and being grateful for those differences.

Teaching both (by example as well as word) will instill values in our young people that will dramatically reduce incidences of bullying.

Students also need to be encouraged to stand up and speak up against bullying and intervene when an incident arises, as long as to do so does not put the observer in any danger.

Reporting bullies to the appropriate adults is a vital role in protecting those who are being targeted.

But this presents another challenge.

Children are often hesitant to report bullying for several reasons: they fear that adults won't take them seriously and intervene. That was the case with the 13 year-old in Georgia.

Also, they're concerned that others will view them as a troublemaker or snitch; and if the bully finds out who reported them, they may be the next target.

As one who provides training in our schools on bullying, I have created a system for reporting bullies anonymously as part of my profession.

That is an important first step in the solution.

No school is immune to bullying. And neither is your child. Everyone needs to take action to protect our children. It is our moral responsibility.

Janet Pfeiffer, Pfeiffer Power Seminars. Email:

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