NIOT Princeton

A Whole Lot of Clueless Adults

The feeling of aloneness is one of the most painful consequences of bullying, writes  A.O. Scott  in the New York Times, regarding “Bully,” the Lee Hirsch documentary movie. Scott blames adults for failing to protect children from bullying. In a review entitled “Behind Every Harassed Child? A Whole Lot of Clueless Adults” Scott says that the feeling of aloneness is also, in some ways, a cause of bullying. He writes: 

It is almost always socially isolated children (the new kid, the fat kid, the gay kid, the strange kid) who are singled out for mistreatment. For some reason — for any number of reasons that hover unspoken around the edges of Mr. Hirsch’s inquiry — adults often fail to protect their vulnerable charges.


Comments on the documentary website reveal bullying takes place in the workplace as well as in the schools. For instance: 

I am a college professor. I have been the victim of workplace bullying for 8+. Police were called about the harassment three times; I have suffered two nervous breakdowns, and I’m currently on medical leave. My career and my health have been destroyed. My administration has acknowledged the harassment; but they have done nothing to effectively address the situation; because….


and


I have experienced bullying for the first time in my life. I have been detained for two hours at a time over weekends, during which my boss stares at me and repeats the same rhetorical questions over and over again, sighing and shaking her head in despair when I can no longer think of a suitable answer to the same question. This questioning is so that she can “understand” the problem (which has been resolved long ago) and take “remedial” action. She never gets violent or raises her voice, although she has impugned my integrity. She uses words from her pedagogy manuals to “correct” me; she demanded my computer password so that she can read my emails. For the first time in my life I dread going to work….

Some resources: 


The April 10 program at Princeton Public Library, sponsored by Not in Our Town Princeton and other organizations, aims to offer ways for both adults and students to solve “The Bystanders Dilemma,” how to react when bullying occurs. 



The national organization of Not in Our Town is contributing to the discussion by sponsoring teaching guides to the movie through a related organization, Not in Our School. 


For help on workplace bullying, go to New York Healthy Workplace Advocates.

For ways to help students resist bullying, visit the Kidsbridge Tolerance Museum in Ewing, New Jersey.


The trailer for the documentary shows the bullies persecuting the child — and then shows the principal telling the mother “I’ve BEEN on that bus — they are as good as gold!” 







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Bully or Victim: Schoolyard Tyranny

Your Child, Bully or Victim: Understanding and Ending Schoolyard Tyranny, by Peter Sheras, was one of the  resources recommended at a Not in Our Town Princeton program on April 10 on Bullying: Changing the Culture – the Bystander’s Dilemma.

Parents tend to ignore the presence of bullying behavior in the community and the schools, says Sheras. Bullying is not a question of “bad kids versus good kids,” he says, adding that nearly every child has the capacity to be both bully and victim. Both need help. Adults need to change the culture.

Other references (those available at the Princeton Public Library are starred) include:


• The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, by Barbara Coloroso *

• Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman *

• Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons *

• Your Child: Bully or Victim? Understanding and Ending School Yard Tyranny,

 by Peter Sheras

• A Parents Guide to Understanding and Responding to Bullying: The Bully Busters Approach, by A Horne, J. Stoddard, C. Bell

• Bullies are a Pain in the Brain, by Trevor Romain*

• Say Something, by Peggy Moss (for elementary school-age children)*

• Books by Trudy Ludwig (for elementary school-age children)*

Bullying: ‘And Nobody Did Anything’

The Bystander’s Dilemma: Call and Response


Members of Not in Our Town Princeton and Corner House’s GAIA Project gave this dramatic presentation on April 10, 2012 to an audience of 150 youth and adults at the Princeton Public Library. Entitled “Bullying – Changing the Culture: The Bystander’s Dilemma,” the program included skits put together by youth from the GAIA Project and NIOT. Todd Reichart directed this call and response segment, which featured individuals speaking with gestures and choral responses. In rehearsal, participants improvised movements until they found ones that felt “right.”


 Where did we get the individual statements? We collected them from personal experience — and from a previous program that Not in Our Town did at the library. (Photos of the easel sheets, with names for “bully,” “target,” and “bystander” contributed by the audience, are courtesy of Greta Cuyler of Princeton Patch who wrote about the presentation.)


 Anyone is welcome to use or adapt this presentation as below: 

The single voice person will rise and say their part starting with their gesture, and stay
standing, looking at the audience as the response is given. As they are going down to sit, the
next single voice person rises. Everyone is part of the response. (This could also be performed in two lines, with those in the back line stepping forward to speak.)

There are two parts, but to be performed without pause between:
I. And Nobody Did Anything (in chorus)
II. I Didn’t Know What to Do. (in chorus)

The parts between are single voices (IN CAPS), and in chorus (italics).
The single voice parts have simple gestures for the first part, as indicated here — or make up your own. Repeat the gesture several times.

The second part could also have gestures.


I. And Nobody Did Anything 



1. IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, ONE KID USED TO PUSH ME INTO THE LOCKERS
WHENEVER HE WALKED BY.
(a push gesture)
And nobody  did anything.

2. I’M A WAITRESS. SOME PEOPLE COME IN HERE OFTEN AND THEY TREAT
ME LIKE DIRT. I FEEL HELPLESS.
(hands on waist/hip)
And nobody did anything.

3. THOSE GIRLS WERE BULLYING ME FOR WEEKS. THEN THEY JUMPED ME IN
A PUBLIC PLACE. AT LEAST 3 PEOPLE WALKED BY.
(hit own thighs in distress)
And nobody did anything.

4. I’M FROM AFRICA. SOME KIDS KEPT CALLING ME A “MONKEY”. I ASKED A
TEACHER FOR HELP. SHE SAID “GET OVER IT”.
(point to self; point toward audience as teacher)
And nobody did anything.

5. WHERE I WORK, MY CONTRIBUTIONS ARE REPEATEDLY IGNORED – LIKE
I’M NOT EVEN THERE.
(hand across forehead)
And nobody did anything.

6. I USED TO WEAR PINK SNEAKERS TO SCHOOL AND THE KIDS CALLED
ME A FAGGOT AND GAY. THEN THEY LAUGHED AND SAID “JUST KIDDING”.
(kicking foot out as if looking at shoes)
And nobody did anything.

7. MY FRIENDS AND I HAVE BEEN IN THAT SHOP SEVERAL TIMES. THE
SALES PERSON SEEMS TO FOLLOW US AROUND BUT NOT THE WHITE
CUSTOMERS.
(walk as if walking in, then walk with arms folded across chest as the sales
person)
And nobody did anything.

8. MY GROUP OF FRIENDS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OFTEN EXCLUDED ME
FROM THINGS THEY WERE DOING. ONE DAY THEY JUST STARTED YELLING
AT ME, IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY OUTSIDE SCHOOL, CALLING ME “FAT”
AND I LOOKED LIKE SHREK.
And nobody did anything.

II  “I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO” 

9. I FELT SORRY FOR THE VICTIM, BUT SOME OF THE BULLIES WERE MY
FRIENDS.
I didn’t know what to do.

10. I WAS AFRAID I’D MAKE IT WORSE.
I didn’t know what to do.

11. I WASN’T SURE WHAT WAS HAPPENING. I THOUGHT THEY WERE “GOOD
BOYS”. SOME WERE LAUGHING. I DECIDED “BOYS WILL BE BOYS”.
I didn’t know what to do
.
12. IT LOOKED PRETTY VIOLENT. I DIDN’T WANT TO GET HURT.
I didn’t know what to do.

13. THE PERSON I WAS WITH DIDN’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED; I WAS TORN.
I didn’t know what to do.

14. I WAS AFRAID THEY’D CALL ME SOMETHING INSULTING.
I didn’t know what to do.

Little Girls Can Be Mean

Bullying has happened for decades, but according to Michelle Alexander, co-author of Little Girls Can be Mean: Four Steps to Bully Proof Girls in the Early Grades, it is happening on a larger scale — it is more permanent and more public, making it more necessary for parents to step in. But don’t jump in right away! In this YouTube excerpt, she recommends four steps for parents:

1. Observe the social scene changes in behavior.
2. Connect with your child in a new way. Empathize, even when think your daughter is the mean one.
3. Guide your child with simple, compassionate strategies.Come up with a list of possible ideas, she should come back to you with the results, the two of you are working together.
4. Support your daughter to act more independently to face the social issues.

Alexander’s book is one of those recommended by Not in Our Town Princeton, as part of an April 10, 2012 program on “Bullying: Changing the Culture.” Elementary school kids are ready for guidance from parents or teachers, says Alexander. It is the perfect age to deal with bullying.

Reactions to Bystander’s Dilemma: II


Reactions to Bystander’s Dilemma: II

I thought the Bystander’s Dilemma event was fantastic.  Congressman Holt highlighted the importance of the effort by noting federal legislative responses to the bullying epidemic.  In their skits, both the young people and the more seasoned players showed the insidious effects of bullying and the difficulty in confronting and eliminating it.  The program  brought together many different parts of our community, joined by a common purpose, namely teaching tolerance for all, except for the intolerant. 


Changing behavior is very difficult, and it must begin with teaching the very young.  It also requires that leaders go well beyond lip service and demonstrate their commitment to human rights and the dignity of every person.  We have to teach people how, in an effective way, to stand up to bullies, champion targets, and encourage bystanders to stand up.  


The program may or may not catalyze our community’s long term actions.  It was certainly a good and a fresh beginning.  I am proud of the sponsoring organizations and the Princeton Public Library for putting such a wonderful program together.


 Hanan Isaacs –– attorney and mediator 





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