*If a friend or loved one is talking about or planning
to take his or her life, reach out for help now.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
ADDRESSING BULLYING AND DIVERSITY IN OUR SCHOOLS
used to be that school was about the “3 R’s,” Reading, Writing, and
Arithmetic. “Bullies” were kids that stereotypically “stole your lunch
money” or physically abused others. They were stereotypically, from
broken homes or a poor upbringing and the way to address them was to
stand up to them or fight them. It used to be that two boys would have a
problem and they would “call each other out” or “take it outside” and
get into a fist fight. Someone would get a fat lip or bloody nose and
that would be the end of the fight. Today, things are a bit different.
Here are a few suggestions:
is the “Anti Bullying Model,” whereby the “bully” is educated on the
reasons why they choose to bully others and how it impacts other people.
Certainly, we cannot provide “psychotherapy” for every “bully” in
America, but school counselors and teachers can be taught to see who the
“bullies” are...and it’s not always the “big kid.”
It used to be
that the big kid or the tough kids were the “bullies.” We were told
that “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt
us.” What we now know is that words are the most powerful tool we have
as human beings and the scars that are left from abusive words can last
much longer than a bruise.”
Therefore, as we also now
know, the “bully” can be anyone from any background. It can be a sweet
little girl that comes from an upper middle class family that is well
educated and articulate. However, let’s call her “Sally,” little Sally
has learned how to manipulate people with her words and alienate other
kids that don’t do what she wants. These verbal skills are very
powerful and probably help Sally get very good grades, but used
improperly scar and damage other children that get in her way.
the “Anti Bullying Model” that has been created simplifies the process.
We must take the time to educate those children and young adults that
we see have the issue of trying to get their way by abusing others.
“Bullying” is no longer viewed as only the threat of physical abuse,
but verbal abuse and isolation.
This “isolation” or
being separated from the “pack” or the “group” is where a second and
more significant model comes in to play; “21st Century Multidimensional
Hierarchy of Needs”
Dr. Abraham Maslow was considered one of the
leading Behavioral Psychologists of his day and did a great deal of work
on human behavior and motivation. As the President of Motivate
America and Founder of National Motivation & Inspiration Day, I have
dedicated a great deal of time studying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is considered one of the foundational
studies of human behavior and dare I say “evolution.” There are 5
stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy; Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem and
Self Actualization. Dr. Maslow believed that each of the “stages” of
need had to be satisfied before you could advance to the next stage or
level of need.
Therefore, it used to be that a “bully”
would threaten people at the very base levels of physiological or safety
needs. These are frankly easier and more direct to deal with, because
our human instincts of “fight or flight” kick in. You either “fight” to
protect yourself or “flight” and avoid the physical altercation. The
nuance and danger now with “bullying” is that it occurs at higher levels
of need, and is especially dangerous for young adults as they are
trying to find self-esteem, love, and acceptance. Young people are
trying to “fit in” or determine their place in the world. We know as
adults, this changes dozens of times as you get older. A young adult’s
peer pressure, and need for acceptance, seems almost critical to their
survival. Hence, the high levels of suicide.
What’s the solution?
believe there is a national curriculum that must be adopted that must
be taught beginning in 2nd grade, and evolving through High School
Senior year, 12th grade. There is obvious movement with younger
children trying to teach the importance of acceptance of others and
other cultures, however, I believe the answer is found through
introducing young adults to some fundamental psychology and “how they
In the end, educating young adults about how
they work, their belief systems, and how actions may not be the best way
to interact with other people is a starting point.
those that are vulnerable to have a stronger sense of self and
self-esteem is important, however, they must also understand that the
world is not going to slow down or change for them. They must understand
how to change their view of the world and their position in it.
parents and teachers must take a greater role in the lives of
teenagers. There is far too much free time, and freedom, given to young
adults. We must dedicate more time to young adults through these
difficult years of young adulthood and transition.
Tackling bullying is a complex
issue. In the end,
we can’t look for some salvation through laws;
prosecute this problem away.
Obviously, we need very clear policies,
when kids are told what is acceptable
and what is unacceptable behavior,
more likely to behave appropriately. Whether
it’s behavior in the
virtual world or in the real
world, it’s the same rule: You don’t treat people
in hateful ways.
Some educators feel that
they are limited in their anti-bullying methods. “What do we need to do so we
get away from these educators saying, “Look, this is happening off-campus. We
don’t have the jurisdiction. We don’t have the legal authority here”
If we expect for teachers to
support these efforts, we need to come up with the funding or volunteers. We
need to add this language to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We
need to provide funding/volunteers so we can teach the teachers how to
recognize [cyber bullying], and how to intervene and mediate after it happens.
It’s funding, it’s getting
the word out, it’s professional development and it’s all of us joining forces.
We all need to be lifeguards
for each other, and learn the warning the signs of suicide, and how to help
somebody who’s suicidal, and to be somebody who can refer youth to the
I want to be very clear: I
don’t think we just need to punish these bullies; I think these bullies need
counsel. We know that bullies tend to come from homes where there’s been a lot
of control, a lot of dominance, and poor modeling.