Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mary Lee and Matt: Two Eras and 5 Lessons on Bullying Prevention

Due to the passing of my BELOVED mother-in-law, Mary Lee, I haven't been able to keep up with the Tangled Ball blog for the past few days.

But today, I have two experts to discuss. One was 11 in 1935 and the other is 11 in 2010.

There's a title of a book written about 30 years ago called The Little Girl with the Grandmother Face. It reminds me so much of Mary Lee. With her usual enthusiasm, she told me a few months back that she was happy with Tangled Ball's effort to engage parents and all adults in the conversation about everyday bullying solutions. Always bubbly and upbeat, I was surprised when she turned serious. She told me that she had never forgotten how she was the "bully" for a brief time and how she still felt bad when she recalled making a little girl in her class feel left out. With great clarity, she told me how the girl's mother talked to her one day and asked her to be kinder and what an impact that made on her life.

If you met her, any thought that she could ever be mean would come as a huge surprise because Mary Lee is the greatest example of unconditional love.

I'm so grateful that she shared it and it's just one of the hundreds of things that she taught me. There are three good-- and ageless -- lessons in this story alone:

• The first is that almost every child tries to "flex their muscles" to feel more powerful even at young ages.

• When an adult steps in and handles it correctly, the lesson is often heard.

• Never let a child continue to be mean. Even nice kids try it and nice kids, especially, feel bad for a very long time.

And actually, there's a fourth:

• Take time for real conversations with people you love. You never know what you'll learn.

The second expert's name is Matt. When he started middle school this year, he noticed a boy in his class who had some difficulty walking. This reminded Matt of his uncle, John Paul, from Ireland who has cerebral palsy. When Matt came home he and told his mom about his fellow student, his mom nervously asked him, "You didn't say anything about the cerebral palsy to him, did you?"

Matt said "No, I just told him if he needed anything, I'd be his friend."

The lesson here? Follow Matt's lead.

Friday, October 22, 2010

President Obama's Message and a Reminder of How Many Kids We've Lost

OK, so Tangled Ball had a different expert in mind to feature today...but he IS the President...and it's very important that he added his voice to this subject. I hope that ALL kids feeling relentlessly "put down" and suffering will identify with this message.

Kids are bullied not only because they're gay (or perceived as gay), but also because they're "fat," or too thin, have disabilities, are too pretty, not good looking enough, have red hair, are new to a school, too promiscuous, too conservative, too rich, too poor, or just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can all do SOMETHING. When in doubt, as adults we can do simple things like say, "You don't deserve that!" And repeat and repeat and repeat. Our outrage and empathy will go a long way to blunt the long tail of pain that bullying causes.

We can't stop every incidence. We can stop kids from feeling that being treated that way is OK. We don't have to wait for experts to tell us that kids need us to constantly tell them that they are very cool... and kids who put other kids down are knuckleheads.

Just a reminder of why this has gotten the attention of the White House and how much it deserves our attention.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper. Ever Heard of Them?

Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper definitely deserve a Tangled Ball Award. Tangled Ball is all about engaging more people in this dialogue, raising awareness and inspiring folks to actively do what they can to blunt the long tail of pain that bullying causes.

This issue has needed high profile celebrities to step up and Ellen and Anderson have done just that. It's great to have that power to reach so many people. If I could choose a super power, that would be it.

Ellen is encouraging people to donate to three different organizations. All of them are good. Tangled Ball particularly likes Pacer. (More on them in a future post.)

And Ellen and Anderson, if you read this, contact me. The more people we reach, the better off kids will be...and Tangled Ball is ready, willing and able to help.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting Real About Bullying with Kelly Karius

As a counselor in Saskathewan, Canada for ten years, Kelly Karius developed a specialty in conflict resolution. The issue of bullying just kept surfacing and resurfacing until she decided to really take a stand.

24 Bully Stake Out is such an interesting concept...and she's right, bullying happens everywhere.

Kelly is lending her voice and her experience to creating solutions and sees the importance of talking directly to kids. It's so important. As adults we get nervous that we can't fix this because it's such a huge and highly complicated issue. In the hopes of having answers, we come up with things we ASSUME will help. Is this making things worse? When adults have answers but they're not the right ones, does it make kids feel more despondent?

These are really good questions. Kelly is not afraid to say that some of our solutions are well meaning but bad.

It's worth reading We Know What Doesn't Work. Truth is a good place to start if we're really going to help.

Kelly takes on the standard advice of "Tell Someone":
Yes. It is awesome advice. And it works exactly until children realize that it doesn’t work very well at all. We are telling our kids to TELL someone. But we aren’t helping that SOMEONE out. So they tell. And nothing changes, or maybe it even gets worse. Worst of all, maybe the SOMEONE is so overwhelmed by the information that they can’t even HEAR it properly. Bottom line: Most people give the wrong advice about to kids about dealing with bully actions. Elementary students are far more likely to tell someone than middle or high schools students. Why is that? Because they’ve learned that the adults don’t make it better anyway.
(Tangled Ball's take on this: The one thing all adults can do is say "You don't deserve that. I don't have all the answers but maybe we can work on this togehter.")
So, Kelly, get on that bus and tell us what you hear. I'm sure our good friends up north can help shine a little light on what's happening here in the states...because as Kelly would say, "Bullying happens here."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Annie Fox

There's a fan page on Facebook called Cruel's Not Cool. In checking it out it has all the qualifications for a Tangled Ball Award feature. It's informative. It's inclusive. It shares a wide variety of helpful information. It's sincere.

Who's behind it? Teen expert and author, Annie Fox.

Thought you'd like to know more about her. When asked how she became interested in the issue of peer to peer abuse, she explained:

I've been answering t(w)een email since '97. The #1 issue is peer conflicts. Typically the email's from a girl who finds herself shut out by her former bff. The so-called friend has turned mean & gotten others to join in. In Feb. at a school assembly 50 questions were submitted to me... all about mean-kid behavior. Then in April I launched our anti-bullying forum Cruel's Not Cool! (cruelsnotcool.com) and that's gotten a lot of attention. This problem poses a real threat to our kids' healthy social and emotional development. That's why I'm doing whatever I can to shine a light on the issues.

Parents should be encouraging kids to talk about their feelings from Day One. Seriously! We help our kids build self-esteem and Emotional Intelligence skills from the earliest ages by the way we talk to them, the way we listen, and the emotional landscape we create & maintain within the family. Kids who've been raised respectfully, are better able to set boundaries with peers. These kids are also more likely to seek help from a trusted adult when they feel overwhelmed.

Thanks, Annie. Trust. In the end, building trust is perhaps one of the only pieces of insurance we have against the damaging affects of bullying.

By the way, Annie will be speaking today and it's free:

Tuesday Oct. 19th — Annie is a guest on The Real MomTV's “Life Simplified”with host Leslie Gail. They'll be talking about helping kids deal with the stress of school, sports, friends and life! Watch live, at 9am PT/12pm ET

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Bully Project and All the Families Affected by Severe Bullying

The Bully Project will be featured on tonight's 20/20 on ABC at 9/8C.

Award-winning director Lee Hirsch and co-producer Cynthia Lowen were featured in a Tangled Ball Award post at the beginning of the month. I think the Long family and all the others featured tonight and in the film deserve one, too.

Tune in but grab some tissues first. Then go for your wallet and contribute to this film. As a country, we have to engage more people in creating more solutions in this escalating and damaging issue. A film goes a long way to help. Let's honor all the families who will never be the same.

Seriously, we can all do SOMETHING.

We won't be sorry we stepped up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Michele Borba: Bullying Prevention and All Around Great Parenting Expert

How does Dr. Michele Borba do it all? She's an award-winning author of 23 parenting books, including The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, international speaker, educational consultant, parenting expert as well as a child and adolescent expert and a regular contributor to the Today Show. That's in between being a guest on countless other national shows and the expert featured in multiple magazines.

Her Reality Check blog (oh, yeah, she blogs, too) is a fantastic resource. As a professional, mother and former teacher, her advice is practical, real and spot on. Bullying and cyber bullying are definitely on her radar screen and worthy of our attention.

Dr. Borba's tagline, Proven Solutions to Raise Strong Caring Kids, says it all. The word strong and caring are two traits that should be paired up more often.

This expert gets a Tangled Ball Award because she's the real deal. Smart but approachable and full of good things to say.

But back to the original question. Michele, how do you do it all?

Luckily, she was able to multi-task as she got ready for this morning's appearance on Today and answered two important questions for Tangled Ball:

Should parents wait until middle school to worry about bullying and cyber bullying?

While we know that bullying peaks during those middle school years, one of our biggest mistakes is waiting until then to have those "bullying" chats with our kids. Habits start early, so we need to start teaching bully prevention strategies far earlier. For instance, new research shows a commonality between bullies and victims .. both lack problem solving. We can start teaching problem solving in preschool: "Tell me the problem...okay, let's think of one thing you can do instead." If we want our children to be able to hold their own and be less likely to be bullied, we should stop rescuing, talking for them, or always solving their problems. Instead, we can teach them to use a firm voice and say, "Stop it. I don't like it." Or learn to hold their head up, look the person in the eye so their body appears stronger and more confident. We also need to help our kids develop empathy and impulse control. Skills are teachable. Our children need skills to be able to navigate a sometimes vicious social jungle. It's up to us to teach them those core skills. Doing so is a key first step to reducing the bullying problem.
How do we engage more people in the bullying prevention solution?
Knowledge is power. Knowledge mobilizes groups and makes the step up, roll up their sleeves and work on solutions. The first step to engaging people in the bullying prevention solution is through education. I've worked in dozens of communities where parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, ministers, the press, etc are working together. Start with holding book clubs and read one good book about bullying together. Ask the local newspaper to put in weekly articles about bullying and simple solutions. Bring in a good speaker about bullying to talk to your PTA. Ask the principal to put simple bully prevention tips in the school newsletter. Pediatricians and Boys and Girls Club directors can post tips in their office. The city librarian can set aside a display in the local library with books and resources that are available. Show folks that bullying can be prevented by giving them the resources. It will make a difference!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brooks Gibbs

Brooks Gibbs spends his time talking directly to teens about love, kindness, and compassion. Yep. Even though Brooks is a young guy, he dares to go there. The "there" is the old-fashioned notion that everyone should be respected, anger is overrated and love conquers all.

And the best yet? He can pull it off with a sense of humor. Now that's talent!

Brooks was kind enough to answer a couple of questions:

What inspired you to take on the issue of bullying?
I had close friends that survived the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton Colorado in 1999. Several asked me to travel the country with them so I could help develop and deliver their message at various school assemblies and conferences. We did this for a couple years and reached over half a million students across the USA. It was during that time of touring that I discovered that there was a market for speaking to youth. I was pretty ecstatic that I could make a living and a difference by speaking to students. I developed my anti-bullying program at the request of schools that were looking to end hate speech and violence on their campus.

While researching bullying for my book and speech, I discovered that a positive way we can end this horrible epidemic is by teaching ancient character values and social skills. Not only do I teach the importance of love, forgiveness, tolerance, diversity, and other virtues; I also teach practical ways that targets of bullying can resolve the bullying issue on their own- without the intervention of an adult. I have witnessed that most students have not been taught how to respond to people who are mean to them. The natural response for any human is to get angry and react- fighting fire with fire. I teach students how to respond with kindness, as one would respond to a friend- not an enemy. This is the classic 'Golden Rule' teaching that actually ends most aggression between students. Some anti-bully programs focus on empowering bystanders, some seek to discipline bullies, others want everyone to emotionally connect and share feelings. My program; however, focuses on the target of bullying (which is most everyone). I give them healing coping skills so that they won't fall into depression or despair.
After talking to so many kids around the country, what about their reactions surprises you most?
What surprises me is how much teens desire to be told the truth. Apparently, grown ups treat them like children and are not brutally honest about life. When I speak to teens, I do so with transparency and respect. I treat them like young adults who are at a crossroads in life and they need solid advice. Either they keep living with prejudices, bitterness, and anger which will lead them to a life of unhappiness... or they become people of virtue- forgiving those who have hurt them, and choosing to love more than hate. Students resonate with this message. I tell them that THEY are responsible for their thoughts, actions, and feelings. I challenge them to avoid a victim mentality and "be the change that they want to see in the world". This type of message provokes thought that can lead to change. Here is a sample reaction from a student who wrote on my Facebook wall:

Honestly, you are one of the very few motivational speakers I've listened to that has actually tugged at my heart. I look up to you in so many ways and words can't describe how phenomenal your performance was. The feeling of lonliness gets the best of us at times, and I'm so proud of you for everything you've done and ...that you continue to do. You changed my life, and I'm pretty sure everyone in that room could feel your pain at that very moment. And that's what we needed. A taste of reality. You are simply unbelieveable, Brooks. Bless you :)

So, Brooks, you deserve a Tangled Ball Award because you're cool and this issue needs cool people to talk to teens in a way they'll want to listen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tangled Ball's Marathon Man

Today's Tangled Ball Award goes to someone who's stepped up and stepped in...for 26.2 miles!

Peter Raisch ran the full Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10. The date to motivate.

A 26 year-old pr executive in Madison, Wisconsin, Peter has been the social media mentor for Tangled Ball since its inception. Yesterday he took his commitment one step further. Or should I say thousands of steps further when he ran in the boiling heat wearing a Be the One Tangled Ball t-shirt.

The message of Be the One is based on Kathryn Otoshi's award-winning book, One, which teaches kids to step up for each other. While Peter was running through the streets of Chicago, Kathryn was in California officially launching her second book in the series, Zero. Zero is a winner, too, because it beautifully reminds children that everyone counts.

One and Zero make a perfect ten in reaching kids early with the messages of respect, compassion, kindness and self worth, so what better way to celebrate One and Zero than a marathon run on 10-10-10?

Thanks, Peter, for going above and beyond the call of duty to motivate others. Not many people would have done what you did. That makes you an upstander! (But maybe you should be told that tomorrow. It's probably really hard to stand up today.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

10-10-10: A Perfect Score for Early Prevention

What a perfect day to talk about two perfect books that help young children learn how to treat each other.

Kathryn Otoshi’s One and her new book Zero are brilliant…and simple…and ageless…and powerful.

Using only numbers and colors, One and Zero drive home the point that it just takes ONE to make a difference…and EVERYONE COUNTS.

Elementary schools around the country have been using One in the classroom to get across the lessons of diversity, kindness, compassion, upstanding behavior, character and bullying prevention.

One is equally suited as a foundation for leadership campaigns that bring older kids together with the younger ones as mentors. By reading the book together, teaching the lessons themselves and developing activities that reinforce those lessons, both age groups benefit.

Zero is new and has as much potential to make a difference. It speaks to our inner doubts about our worth. Zero is upset that she has a “hole in the middle.” Doubt turns to exuberance when she figures out that it’s not a hole, it’s a CENTER…and when she teams up with the other numbers, she not only has value, she also adds to everyone else’s worth. In other words, EVERYONE COUNTS.

So Kathryn Otoshi, you deserve a Tangled Ball Award because catching kids early is our best bet…and having fun at the same time is a real bonus.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bullying Lesson: PR Professional/Dad Stepping Up To Help Another "Average" Dad in Crisis

You’ve seen the story of James Jones and the infamous tirade on the Orlando school bus. Here’s another -- and inspiring -- part of the story.
There are three lessons to learn from this episode:
1.) Never flip out on a school bus. You might embarrass your child. You might embarrass yourself. You might end up in jail.
2.) If you do make a mistake, sincerely apologize.
3.) Never forget that there are good people in the world who, whether they’re asked to or not, step up.
It’s the third lesson that hasn’t been covered.
In the case of Mr. Jones, he found a friend in an Orlando public relations professional who was minding his own business until he saw the story first break on the local news.
As a father himself, Ryan Julison had to step in. He knows all too well the power of the media and wanted to volunteer his time to help Mr. Jones both protect his reputation and turn this potentially damaging situation around to help others in a similar position.
Most people don’t understand how time consuming it is to help someone through a crisis, especially when it involves the media. In this case, the crisis was caused by bullies on a bus who wouldn’t let James' daughter and a friend alone. Ryan knew that if Mr. Jones didn’t have the opportunity to use this as a teachable moment for the nation, than the young bullies won and a basically good father could be destroyed.
So Ryan stepped up and offered to help the Jones family and fortunately, James Jones has been able to speak on behalf of so many frustrated parents. Bullying is heart-wrenching and can push a parent to the brink. It inspires rage and often clouds our judgment.
It’s almost gratifying to see that Mr. Jones instantaneously had thousands of supportive fans on Facebook. It seems that an overwhelming number of people identify with his need to protect his child. With Ryan’s help, James is also helping the Pacer Center, a leading organization in bullying prevention and organizers of this month’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
Thanks in part to Ryan, there is more dialogue and more empathy towards those parents up against a system that doesn’t listen to what kids are going through, whether it’s on a school bus, in a schoolyard or online.
Ryan Julison didn’t have to step up. He could have gone about his business and not donated his time in a bad economy. But he did. He’s by no means an expert in bullying prevention but simply a PR professional who doesn’t need a psychology degree to know the power of compassion.
When asked if he would do it all again, Ryan answered:

Without question, I would do it all over again. I feel I am the one who has truly benefitted from my relationship with the Jones family. I've seen the true love and admiration of a family leading a modest life filled with challenges. We could all learn something from them, not just about bullying, but life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Takes an Online Village to Raise Today's Kids

Sue Scheff, founder of P.U.R.E. (Parent Universal Resource Experts, Inc.) gets a Tangled Ball Award for sharing great parenting information, including a wide range of information on bullying, cyberbullying and teen suicide on her help your teens site and through social media outlets, including her blog. As an author, advocate and particularly, a parent, she is inclusive and works tirelessly to share good information and tools from a variety of sources to as many people as she can reach.

When asked the following questions, she answered:

Why do you think bullying (or peer abuse) is worthy of our time and attention?

The is only one answer for this - children today are our future for tomorrow, we need to raise them to be tolerant of others, considerate to those they may not agree with, kind to people they may not care for and respect people that have a difference of opinions. Life is full of differences and uniqueness, that is what makes our world so wonderful. If children are taught to be bullies or are being bullied, they are being broken down. Whether your child is the bully or the victim, it is imperative that children learn that being mean is not productive and leaves lasting emotional scars that can damage their future. Both the bully and the victim will end up being scarred. It is not healthy and not beneficial to anyone. Teaching our children tolerance is the greatest gift we can give them as well as a necessary one. In answering your question, it is absolutely worthy of both our time and attention.

Are schools solely responsible for bullying prevention?

Absolutely not! As a Parent Advocate, I firmly believe that education is the key to prevention and education can and should start at home. From the time the child is a toddler, positive reinforcement should be part of their parenting skills. Teaching your children while they are young that sharing, being nice and kind, caring about others, teaching empathy and being an example to your children should be your first priority. As a parent, you should take the time to learn as much as you can about bullying and cyberbullying prevention. Visit resourceful websites that offer tips for parents, print out literature and learn as much as you can about bullying prevention - both online and off. Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier children. Schools and educators also play a role in enforcing bullying prevention, but I believe it starts with the parents and ends with the parents. I do believe some schools should be more proactive by encouraging Anti-Bullying Clubs/Groups and employing (volunteers) experts to help them facilitate these programs. Getting the parents involved has a stronger impact on both the students and the teachers. Preventing bullying is everyone's responsibility. There are strength in numbers, and when everyone is on the same page, we have a better chance of having safer schools, neighborhoods and communities.

Thanks, Sue, for taking an active part in the "online village."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Snohomish Panthers and Lake Stevens Vikings

Today's experts are two coaches that know the power of high school sports. The coaches and players that made sure this 16 year-old boy with special needs had his big moment must sleep well at night. They delivered an unforgettable experience to Ike, his family and the folks in the stands. I'm sure they never expected to be sharing that lesson of compassion with over 2 million You Tube viewers.

Without question, kids with disabilities have a harder time in school and are bullied much more than other kids. So thanks Snohomish and Lake Stevens High Schools in Washington State for making kids who give kids with disabilities a hard time look like losers.

Obviously, the whole bunch of you are winners. Go Panthers! Go Vikings!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

National School Climate Center and Bully Bust Deserve Tangled Ball Award

Here's an organization that's doing the important work of drilling down to the meat of the problem. Formerly the Center for Social and Emotional Education, it has recently been renamed to National School Climate Center. It was established to research, assess and train educators on the critical elements that create better "school climates." In other words, more nurturing schools...because the safer kids feel, the better their performance.

Last year they created Bully Bust and last month launched a brand new site with incredible and FREE tools for schools and home. (Yes, I said FREE and they're fantastic.) So basically, there's no excuse not to use these resources.

Besides being really smart, they're creative, too. Check out their promotion with the Broadway show, Wicked. Wickedly brilliant!

Although the Center's focus is on educators, President and Co-Founder Jonathon Cohen was recently asked:

How can parents help improve school climate?

Parents and guardians play an essential and critical part in school climate reform. When in doubt, children listen to their parents and not educators. And, there is a growing body of educational research that underscores the importance of parents and educators learning and working together. Parent leaders need to work with school and ideally, student leaders to periodically consider the following kinds of essential questions:

• what kind of school do we really want ours to be? And, how are current policies or rules as well as instructional and school improvement efforts aligned with our vision?

• how can the adults work together in a ‘non-blaming’ and collaborative problem solving spirit?

• How can parents and teachers – together – develop plans that will be support their child and all children to be able to learn and develop in healthy ways.

It truly does take the whole village to raise healthy children. And, the “whole village” begins with parents and educators learning and working together to make their school a safe, supportive, engaging, helpfully challenging and as much as possible, fun place to be.

So here's to the smart folks at the National School Climate Center. Thanks for using your time and talents to help create schools where kids want to spend their time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

P.S. 22 Is a Reminder that Childhood Should Be About Joy

What does listening to kids sing have to do with October's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month? Everything.

Every child should be concentrating on their talents and sharing their childhood joy.

It's when they're not allowed to feel free and express themselves that we should start worrying.

Here's a 3 minute reminder of what childhood really looks like.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Bully Project

Some are Waiting for Superman. I'm waiting for The Bully Project.

Award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch's The Bully Project is a labor of love and promises to expose the true nature of bullying. Lee, and co-producer Cynthia Lowen, had unprecedented full access to the schools in Sioux City, Iowa and have travelled the country following stories and talking to the families of kids pushed beyond the brink.

A documentary goes a long way in making people pay attention. To fix it, you have to see it and feel it. Having been bullied himself as a child, Lee is determined to make a film that accurately portrays the pain it causes. The film will be accompanied by a thorough outreach campaign to maximize it's impact and to offer solutions to this insidious problem.

What's really admirable is that Lee and Cynthia set off on this journey before this rash of recent bullycide incidents happened and before the media started to pay attention. Their commitment has never wavered. The Bully Project is down the home stretch but like any good film, it needs financial support to hit it home. And boy do we need it now.

Want to donate? You won't be sorry. Go to IndieGoGo. It's really easy.

Even though they've been in the editing room 24/7, they were kind enough to answer the following questions:

After travelling and filming so many kids, what do you find is the most discouraging part of this problem?

I think the hardest thing about bullying is the scope of the problem. This is violence that crosses gender, racial, socio-economic boundaries, it is something that is found in every school in every community in the United States. After filming with four families who lost their children to suicide over the 2009/2010 school year, and in the wake of three more suicides just this past month, I don't think there could be a greater sense of urgency that this is something we have to start working to find solutions to. I think something else that is difficult about bullying is that when things get out of hand, it is often the failure of good people, who are trying their best, who don't necessarily have the tools they need to effectively deal with bullying, or who don't have the capacity to deal with the issue until there is a crisis, as has been the case with some of the communities who have tragically lost children to suicide. What we are in part trying to do with this film, is to give kids and adults the opportunity to talk about bullying and find solutions out of something other than crisis to positively effect change and implement great school climates.

What's the most encouraging?
One of the most encouraging things we saw over the course of this school year is the difference one person can make in the life of a bullied child, and that kids who are empowered to intervene in bullying situations have a huge capacity to make the conflict stop. While the scope of the bullying problem might seem huge, a big part of the solution is creating school climates and a broader sense in our culture, that it is not okay to stand by and watch someone be bullied, and that every child and adult has the power to effectively intervene and prevent it from taking place.

Agreed. And one film can make a HUGE difference. We need The Bully Project. It will save young lives and spare families.

Head's Up: Lee will be interviewed tomorrow morning (Monday, Oct.4th) on CNN's American Morning (show airs from 6-9am). Check it out.

Who's tomorrow's Tangled Ball Award winner?
Hint: School climate is where it's at...and this group is getting us there. They're "upstanders!"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

John Halligan: Telling Ryan's Story to Save Kids from Bullying

John Halligan knows all too well what the parents of Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh and Phoebe Princes are going through now. And astoundingly that's just to name a few of the children that have recently taken their own lives after being bullied off and online. John was there almost seven years ago to the day when his 13 year-old son, Ryan, took his own life for the same tragic reasons.

That type of pain is incomprehensible. It is an understatement to say that John didn't want to become a bullying prevention expert. He had a great job at IBM and three wonderful kids. The harshness of other children's behavior helped take that away from him. But instead of retreating and becoming bitter, this dedicated father has travelled to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of middle and high schools around the country telling kids, teachers and parents Ryan's story.

John is an advocate for better legislation, awareness and compassion. When asked the following question a while back, this was John's hopeful message:

After travelling the country and speaking to thousands of kids, what reaction to Ryan's story are you most amazed or surprised by?

The responses are always overwhelming. I'm always so touched by seeing eyes well up with tears as I speak and look around the auditorium. And when I pause between sentences, the silence tells me they are truly taking this in. When it is over, I'm so heart warmed by students who come up and give me a hug. And what really surprises me is to receive e-mails months and years later from students who heard Ryan's story. Most tell me that Ryan's story changed their life for the better. Many confessed they were the bully and have since apologized to their victims and changed their behavior for the better. Understanding now how truly loved they are by family and friends, many students confide in me that they gained the courage and strength to get help for a friend or for themselves for suicidal feelings. This is why I keep telling Ryan's story.

John is obviously hitting a chord with kids. The letters to John say it best and as parents, we can learn from them:

I'm really sorry for what happened in my lifetime. I'm really sorry for what happened to your son and if I ever have any children, I'll use your advice because you really did know how to take care of children and always tried your best.

In honor of Ryan and the other important lives lost, start talking, start listening, start stepping in. Don't tolerate your children being mean off or online. Don't accept it from anyone else.

Who's tomorrow's Tangled Ball Award winner?
Hint: Some people are "Waiting for Superman," but I'm waiting for this...