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Hear Me Project discusses ‘faces of bullying’

By Deandra Williamson

Point Park News Service

It was lunchtime at school when 16-year-old Angelique walked to the restroom and was smacked in the face, pushed and kicked by a girl and her friends over a boy.

During his field trip to the Carnegie Science Center, Jakobi said a well-known bully punched him in his face and threw him to the floor.

A young man named Zion was beaten, degraded, and scared for his life because of bullying.

All three of these individuals participated in the Hear Me project, an initiative of the Create Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.  It is an ongoing outlet for children’s voices that enable them to overcome bullying and make positive changes in their lives.

Angelique, Jakobi, and Zion were a part of a recent forum called “The Faces of Bullying” hosted by 91.3 WYEP, 90.5 WESA, and Essential Pittsburgh where they discussed the psychology of bullying and ways to solve it.

According to the National Education Association, approximately 160,000 children miss school everyday because they are afraid of being bullied.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that every seven minutes a child is bullied at school.

Bullying goes beyond calling someone names, such as fat and ugly.  It can hurt a person mentally, physically and emotionally and can cause problems such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety.  Bullying lowers a person’s self esteem and can cause a person to become suicidal.

Children bully others because they have a need for a peer group and social status, according to Christina Hostutler of Outreach Teen and Family Services.

After she was beaten by a seventh grader, who was younger than her, Angelique was left crying and experienced low self-esteem. She felt sorry for herself because of what had happened to her.

In an audio message presented at the forum, which was recorded for a radio program, Angelique told the audience that her bully, Brittney, caused the entire school to turn against her, even her friends.

“Nobody liked me.  They called me bad names,” Angelique said.

Jakobi was bullied because of the incident at the Science Center, where his foot accidentally knocked a foam tower his friend was building.  The bully punched Jakobi in his face.  In retaliation, he kicked the bully in his face, and then the bully threw Jakobi on the floor and left him there.  Jakobi explained that being bullied is no fun and he now stays away from this bully.

“It wasn’t fun getting bullied because I just didn’t like it because everyday I have to be in school with the same person, so it makes life hard,” he said.

Ever since he was in preschool, Zion was bullied and his friends would use and mistreat him because he had no money.  He now has no friends and prefers to spend time with his uncle and siblings.

“I’ve been talked about, put down, and hit,” Zion said.

Hostutler works with children who are being bullied and she uses a method of correcting a child’s thinking to help eliminate the negative emotions associated with bullying, which will in turn give that child hope.

Children who are bullied come to the Outreach Teen and Family Services to seek therapy because of depression and not wanting to attend school.

Cyber bullying, another common form of bullying, is when a child is tormented or victimized over the internet.

Kids may bully someone over the internet by creating a fake Facebook account to get back at someone.  This causes more people to see the conflict that is going on and sometimes the attacker may be unknown, according to Hostutler.

She explained that victims of bullying are the children who will not stand up for themselves or do not report that they are being bullied.

During her young school days, Dorothy Devlin was a bully and was also bullied by boys.
She would run home after school and close the door.  She never told her parents that she was being bullied in school.

According to the 2011 National School Survey, 60 percent of students never report being bullied.

Devlin is now a bullying prevention specialist at the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a school wide program designed to reduce and prevent bullying problems and improve peer relations at school.  The Olweus Program was implemented in several countries around the world and in thousands of schools throughout the United States.

When she was a teacher, Devlin would stand in the hallways and hear kids being called terrible names, having their books knocked out of their arms, and being threatened in the classroom.  This situation bothered Devlin and made her feel helpless.

“I would go to the administration and report this and nothing was done,” Devlin said.  “I felt that I had no support and no program in place that brought us together as staff, so that we could deal with this effectively and help kids feel safe in school.”

With the involvement of parents, students and teachers, bullying could be prevented in schools and there are many ways to work to solve the ongoing bullying problem.
The Olweus Program trains the entire staff of a school about bullying prevention and implements anti-bullying rules.

These rules remind students that they should not bully others. They help students who are bullied and try to include students who are left out.  If a student knows that somebody is being bullied, that student should tell an adult at school and an adult at home.

Also, as a measure to prevent bullying, the Olweus Program encourages schools to have a classroom meeting every week to give students a voice to talk about issues in the school.

In these meetings students can learn how to identify bullying from teasing.  Students talk about how it feels to be bullied.  They practice techniques as bystanders and learn what to do when they see someone being bullied.

Practice is done through role-playing in the classroom, so that students will gain confidence and have a voice to stand up for someone being bullied.  Students are also taught how to report bullying.

“Most kids want to remain anonymous.  They don’t want anyone to know that they just snitched on this gang or this kid because it will come back at them,” Devlin said.

As a result, the Olweus Program teaches students how to report bullying by using an anonymous box in the school’s office or talking to teachers who are sympathetic.

Teachers are also taught what to say when they see bullying happening.  The Olweus Program encourages teachers to separate the person who is bullying and the person being bullied from each other. The two students should never be brought together in the principal’s office to talk about the bullying situation because after they leave the office the situation could get worse.

Debbie Maier Jacknin, Executive Director of the Holocaust Project: Born to Remember, got involved with bullying prevention because her oldest daughter started getting bullied in sixth grade for being Jewish.

Her daughter came home and complained that a kid was picking on her in school and she didn’t want to go to school, according to Jacknin.

The Holocaust Project was established as a result of Jacknin’s daughter being bullied and is based on a documentary about the Reif family and Captain Gustav Schroeder.  During the Holocaust, the Reif family decided to leave Germany and sail to Cuba on the St. Louis, a German luxury ship, and the captain was Gustav Schroeder.

When the ship arrived in Cuba they found out that Cuba was not accepting any Jews, so Captain Gustav Schroeder decided to sail back to Germany or crash the ship, but instead he decide to sail to France because the Jews were accepted there.

From this documentary a decision making process was created and it is designed to use in schools, where students will analyze the decisions made by Captain Schroeder and the Reif family and discuss the options and consequences of the decisions. The purpose is to get the bystander talking and to speak up when they witness someone being bullied.
The documentary also encourages students to be positive catalysts and to think carefully when making major decisions.

“The focus of what we do is to try to get them to say something today,” Jacknin said.

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