Sunday, April 21, 2013

See it. Say it. Stop it.

Over the past ten years I've had the privilege of being involved, to varying degrees, with a high school program called DECA in which kids learn through experience the various aspects of marketing, from market research to fund raising and PR. Projects involve collaboration, extensive research, writing and the honing of presentation skills.

The teacher who recruited me to assist his Proctor DECA students in 2002 was Jay Belcastro. The things I saw him achieve with these kids each year was nothing short of amazing to me. The long hours and personal sacrifices they made was impressive. Likewise, the kinds of projects the kids embraced were important. It wasn't make-work. They were learning valuable lessons for life.

Jay moved on to the Two Harbors school district last year, but his passion for the DECA program hasn't dissipated. This week he asked if i would read on of the projects and make comments or suggestions. The students, in an effort to tackle the problem of bullying, created a PR campaign called "See it. Say it. Stop it." I asked permission to share a portion of it here on my blog.

Here's a statement that made me sit up: "On any given day 160,000 students stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied. That is twice the population of the city of Duluth, Minnesota. Bullying is one of the biggest issues in our nation’s schools today."

The Two Harbors DECA kids were aware of the problem but were not aware of how extensive it was. In order to address bullying they also had to learn about and understand its various forms.

"After researching the topic and talking with those with personal stories to share, we discovered that bullying happens in a variety of ways; but, those who target others do so in such places as locker bays, locker rooms, on the bus, and online where adults cannot witness these activities.

"Being bullied has a negative effect on students’ lives. Bullying can lead to students failing classes, dropping out of school, hurting themselves, committing suicide, or committing violent acts against others. In 1990, 12 of the 15 school shootings occurred by someone who had a history of being bullied."

Here are some other thought-provoking stats these youth noted in their presentation.

"One of four students in the United States reported being bullied on a regular basis. Seventy-seven percent of bullying is done verbally. Eighty-five percent of the time bullying occurs without any intervention from teachers or administrators. Suicide is the 3rd largest cause of death for teenagers and victims of bullying are 9 times more likely to consider it."

Bullying takes many forms including name calling, taunting, swearing, spreading rumors, gossip, note writing, whisper campaigns, laughing at someone's mistakes, making up stories to get someone in trouble, insulting nicknames, hate speech, mocking or imitating, sexual bullying, threats, and prank phone calls are all issues students deal with each and every day in each and every school across the country.

Children at risk of being bullied:
• Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider "cool"
• Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
• Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
• Are less popular than others and have few friends
• Do not get along well with others, are seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

The solution these DECA youth proposed was not only to educate the community about the harmful effects of bullying, but to also have young people themselves speak up when they see it. Because most bullying happens where teachers and adults are not, the young people need to say, "Hey, that's not cool. That's not right."

There were other recommendations as well, beginning with increased awareness of the problem, which is the reason I am sharing this here. Our schools need to be safe. Kudos to the Two Harbors High School DECA team for their efforts here in Northern Minnesota.

The source for some of the stats cited in this article can be found at bullyingstats.org

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