“Not in Our School” anti-bullying campaign launches

Is your kid reluctant to go to school every day? Does he/she feign illness at times?

Do you find missing school stuff, broken pencils or damaged school items?

Does your child come home always hungry or always asking you for more pocket money?

Watch out because your child might be the victim of bullying in school.

I was always told, in my younger days: “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words will never hurt me”. Never has a cliche been so wrong because spiteful words CAN hurt. Glaring looks can hurt. Destruction of one’s property can hurt. A person’s self-esteem can be impaired for life.

Bullying has long existed but I think it has gotten worse, judging from the growing number of bullying-related suicides whose victims are growing younger and younger. What makes matters worse, I think, is the almost dismissive, non-serious attention given to reported bullying incidents. Guidance counselors in schools don’t seem trained to handle these kinds of situations.

“Boys will be boys” (Bullying is NOT normal boys’ play)

“Just tell your child to avoid the bully” (You can’t avoid a bully who chooses to come up to you even if you try to stay away)

“Don’t worry. I will speak with him/her (the bully)” (Most times this strategy doesn’t really resolve the issue and the bullying sometimes gets even worse.)

Bullying is a reflection, I think, of the ills of society. The bully himself is a victim. Oftentimes, he is bullied at home and his only outlet is to turn into one himself with hapless victims in school. But of course, the real victims are the bullied children. Oftentimes, they choose to keep this to themselves, ashamed to let others know they are being subjected to abuse and harassment daily in school. Parents are oftentimes the last to know. And in some cases, the only time they find out is when their child takes the ultimate escape from the torture – suicide.

Well, I am finally happy that bullying in schools is getting its well-deserved attention with an anti-bullying campaign that is about to go nationwide and I hope it is eventually going to be nipped for good.

“Bully” the Movie

The Jesuit Basic Education Commission (JBEC) in cooperation with Solar Entertainment, is bringing in an acclaimed documentary film “Bully” to the Philippines. The film features actual experiences of bully victims in high schools in Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Two of the boys featured, Tyler Long and Ty Smalley), committed suicide after enduring taunts and physical assault.

Alex, one of the 5 bullied kids in the movie

What looks like an innocent bus ride became a torturous experience for Alex

A by-invitation premiere of “Bully” will happen at Robinsons Galleria Cinema 4 on November 13, 2012 at 6:30pm. That will be followed by a theatrical run, also in November, through several Saturday block screenings in Robinsons Galleria for schools that want to show the film for their communities. Campus screenings can also be arranged for a minimal fee. Teachers and parents will be provided with discussion guides to properly process the movie’s message.

Directed by Sundance and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, Bully documents the real stories of 5 bullied kids and their families. Filmed over the course of schoolyears 2009/2010, Bully shows us the painful experiences of bullied American kids, revealing problems that cross geographical, racial, ethnic and economic borders. The movie also shows how the affected parents began a growing movement to change how incidents of bullying are handled in their schools, communities and society as a whole.

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The Scars of Child Bullying Can be Worse than Physical Ones

My kids were not spared from child bullying in school. It was almost never physical. For my daughter, it consisted of snide remarks, teasing, name-calling, being ignored. For my son, the manifestations were more visible. There was one instance when he was “playfully punched” in the tummy by a classmate who teased him no end. And he’d return from recess with his pencils broken in half or find things missing from his desk. It came to the point where I had to make a special request for the bully boy not to be sectioned with my son the next school year.

For a mother to be witness to these things, I felt almost helpless except to continue calling the schools’ attention to these incidents. But I knew that my kids, even if they were not showing too much on the outside, were crying on the inside and suffering this kind of humiliation day in and day out during schooldays. And knowing that, I wanted to cry along with them.

In recent years, this problem has been addressed by the schools they went to as small kids and I am happy that they have actually made it a school policy that bullying is a serious offense. I feel it is very important for every child to know that the school refuses to condone this kind of behavior and that teachers and school officials are their allies and would actually do something to anyone who tries to bully them. By making bullying a school offense, the school is arming every student with a voice to speak out if he is bullied in any way.

But even if they are now all grown, I know that those childhood incidents have left scars on my kids that will take time to heal. I know….because when I was growing up, I had a taste of hurt too. I always was the youngest (and one of the smallest) in my class since I entered Grade 1 at an earlier age than my classmates. I remember what it felt like to be told I was too young to be included in “more adult-ish conversations” of classmates which at that time revolved around childhood crushes and boys. I still remember conversations they’d have that would stop as soon as I came near them. It was not bullying at all because they never called me names but that subtle exclusion from a group did hurt then. Can you imagine how much more hurtful it is to be called names outright by a peer? Or be subjected to forms of condemnation or derision by someone much older who is supposed to be respected – a parent, an adult, anyone with authority?

Whoever made this up — “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” — probably never experienced bullying or verbal abuse. Or maybe that person was himself/herself THE bully. Because it isn’t true. Words CAN hurt. And they leave lasting scars. Physical scars remain visible long after the hurt but you can function normally even with them. Emotional scars are so much more difficult to heal because they continue hurting the victim long after the bullying or abuse has gone. It affects a child’s self-esteem and can even affect how he/she deals with people and family in the future.

It is so important for us to protect the children.  All forms of abuse, particularly verbal abuse which is hidden from the rest of the world, cuts across all classes of society, even among the wealthy.

We need to raise a future generation of children free from any stigma of abuse if we are to have a generation of confident, hopeful, self-respecting citizens with their values in the right place. The only way to curb abuse is to recognize it for what it is. We cannot stop something if we don’t recognize it as a problem in the first place. So, while I have no answers at the moment as to how to go about ensuring that all children are raised totally free of abuse, I do know that firstly, we must know WHEN to recognize it as such. And this where our child protection laws, child-governing government agencies, and citizens equipped with the right knowledge skills come in.

I created this post for the Blog & Twitter Carnival: Child Abuse Prevention.

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