A while ago a reader suggested I do an article on bullying. I thought about it a while and decided it might be a good topic so I started to research the subject. I guess I was just one of those people who goes through life and does not see the forest for the trees. Although I never thought I saw any bullying in my troop or crew, maybe I missed the signs there too. After some serious reflection I can see that two of my sons were bullied in school- both in sixth grade. One was bullied by his “friends” and the other was bullied by the teachers. Both have survived and done well but I know it took its toll.
Everyone who has listened to much news over the last couple of years knows of the numerous young people who have killed themselves as a result of being bullied. Some were because of their size or weight. Some because they were homosexual. Some just because they were different. Much of the time bullying is just an extension of what young people experience at home. Bullies often see their actions as isolated instances and never consider the cumulative effects of their actions. After a tragic outcome the bully is surprised that something like that would occur.
In order to address a bullying situation one has to acknowledge that the situation exists. One of the most prevalent arenas for bullying is in our schools but many districts deny that they have a problem. Recently a situation occurred at a north Texas school. One young man and his friends were habitually harassed and physically abused by older boys. They could not seem to get any relief from the teachers or administrators at the school. One of the younger boys came to school one afternoon with a baseball back and got retribution for past incidents. He was expelled from school. Afterward administrators were quoted as saying this was an isolated incident and that there was no bullying in that school district. To resolve a problem you have to acknowledge the problem exists.
One school that recognizes that bullying can be a problem is Martin High School in Arlington. With about 3400 students it is one of the largest schools in the area. There are numerous ways to address bullying once it occurs but the administrators at Martin have tried to address matters a little differently- they have tried to change the environment to discourage bullying. How have they done this? They have implemented one ongoing program and one school-wide event. The ongoing program is Rachel’s Challenge which is a three year program that focuses on ”… re-establishing civility and delivering proactive antidotes to school violence and bullying.” A more complete discussion of Rachel’s Challenge is in the article link below.
The event Martin held was a school-wide Lip Dub. What is a lip dub? Ever heard of singers doing a lip sync- they are on the stage mouthing the words to the song but the audio is coming from a prerecorded source? In a lip dub various participants move around an office or building mouthing the words to a song while being videoed. In order to get a good recording “singers” have to walk backward as they move through their presentation. To keep things interesting the “singer” changes as the filming moves from one area to another. The Today show staff thought they were pretty sensational because they did a lip dub with 150 of the show staff. The Martin lip dub traveled through and around the building and involved more than 3400 faculty, administrators and students. The production took 12 minutes and is done in a single take- no splicing allowed.
Everyone was invited and encouraged to participate. Classes could create their own activity for the procession. Singers were auditioned and selected. The activities were chosen- the physics class launched water bottle rockets, the counselors wore caps and gowns, etc. The procession ended at a rally in the gym. By having everyone work together to pull this activity together, students and administration interacted with other groups they normally would not have associated with. By breaking down these social barriers it is hoped that other people will not seem “different.”
No one suggests that these activities will eliminate bullying at a school as large as Martin. These steps are aimed at changing the environment so that individuals can exchange ideas more civilly and so that people can see that although there are differences between people and groups there are a lot of common areas as well. Minimizing the cause of bullying is much easier than correcting its effects.