Friday, April 6, 2012

In Real Life | The Bullying Epidemic

Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. 
Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.

Often, in the emails I get 
from those of you smarter than me 
about your online trail, 
I get asked what I do in real life. 
The common guesses are:

master gardener
puppy chef

No one ever guesses that I'm an educator. 
(well, in real life, that gets assumed often)

What I DO do in real life is kind of complicated.
The easiest way to say it is that I work for a school district
in the evil central office
(booo...hiss!! I know, I know)
and I get to "lead"
(trust me, there are LOTS of people "leading")
our work on family and community engagement.

I also have 2 years, 7 months and 9 days to close
the achievement gap.
But that's the half of my job that gets controversial 
and we'll leave that conversation for it's own little post.

Back to the parents.

In my work with parents, 
we do parent education
about their rights and responsibilities
as partners in their child's education.

We also help to coordinate parent advisory groups
that help us figure out things like 
how to most efficiently get new products out to them
(ie, at the high school level,
we have a really neat "on track" website
that parents and students can look at
to see if they are passing their state tests,
getting enough credits, 
and attending enough school
to be successful once they graduate high school).

But the bulk of our parent engagement efforts at the 
central office/district level,
quite frankly,
is about family concerns.

And many, bordering on most,
of those concerns
are about bullying and harassment.

I work with a Family Engagement Specialist 
who does intake to hear what the situation is.
Often, parents are to the point that they have kept their kids 
out of school
because their child is just not comfortable
in the learning environment.

It's often hard to imagine the craziness we hear about
being remotely real.
Here is a great illustration of what we deal with.
This is the trailer for Bully.

The rating for Bully has just been changed to PG-13

So much of what is in that TINY trailer breaks my heart.
Every. Single. Day.

And the American school system's response to bullying
IS at a crisis point.

I see it in my own system.
I see it in my own state.

Just recently, 
our state Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction
(OSPI for short, basically our state dept of ed)
released revised bullying and harassment reporting, training and investigation guidelines.

It was not a moment too soon.

When I see the Bully trailer, 
I see some of what I see everyday:

kids bullied on the way to and from school
really YOUNG targets- not just middle and high schoolers
kids so uncomfortable with school, they take their own lives
parents who ring the alarm and are told "nothing is wrong"
the pervasive belief that "kids will be kids"

What you don't see in the trailer
(but maybe it shows up in the movie)
and you definitely see all the time in my district:

bullying has no color boundaries - it isn't just a white kid thing
it isn't just the geeks that get bullied
kids so uncomfortable with school, they stop going
privacy laws rendering actions taken by a school "invisible" 

Like any issue,
there are so many layers to bullying.
I plan to see the movie and to promote it as a tool in my district
for talking with kids about what is going on.

There are lots of great things happening across this nation
to stop this now.
At the risk of getting too technical,
I'll note that we're a school district that uses 
a system that promotes sharing with kids what 
positive behavior is supposed to look like
and providing supports for kids that don't 
meet those expectations.

While that goes a long way towards ensuring
no kid ever skips school because he or she feels unsafe,
that hasn't eradicated the problem.
Especially given how much bullying happens 
online, on the way to and from school and outside of school hours.
The link is that the kids know each other from school
and that school is where they spend the most time together.
But it does get difficult when it happens off school grounds
(kids can be savvy that way)
and we need school partnership to intervene outside of school.

That's to say it takes all of us.
This is not just an issue for those who have kids
or work at schools.
This is an issue for ALL. OF. US.

we can all ensure
that kids never
get so desperate
that they take their own lives
physically, emotionally, or academically.

Why does this matter to me?

This matters to me because he thinks sewing (and rockets) are cool.
For a black boy in a society that generally says kids like him
only fit in if they're good at sports, hustling, or "music"
he sticks out.

And when you stick out - for being different, for being good at something, for being your own drummer on a different beat,
that makes you a target.

I don't know what I would do if he took his life because 
someone thought his joys and talents were "weird".

Check that.
I know what I'd do.
And though orange is my favorite color,
I don't need a new jumpsuit anytime soon.

That's how outrageous this bullying epidemic is.


See the movie.
At least watch the trailer.
Definitely check out the page.

Please and thank you.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective
Find showings in your area for The Bully Project 
and buy tickets here.


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