"What I do know is that I am permanently altered forever." -- Mia Kirshner, Grade Three: Rise of The Order
Do not remain silent. Silence helps nobody; it is a deaf ear to someone's pain. What connects us is this very human, very basic need to be heard, respected and loved.
Recent stories of teen suicides have brought this crisis of bullying to light. Now, finally, it's time for all of us to take action. Sadly, this issue is not new but as the recent press coverage proves, harassment remains a central threat to the self-image of kids in school. National Association of School Psychologists, in Bethesda, Maryland, states that each day, about 160,000 American kids skip school because they're afraid of bullies. A national survey by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in Washington, D.C. shows that about one-third have been involved in bullying. It needs to stop.
Bullies often target those who can't fight back. We all must speak up and out to help those who have lost their voice and are unable to defend themselves against their tormentors.
Here's how you can do your part:
- Sign this petition by STOMP OUT BULLYING to mandate that the country has standardized legislation mandating schools to not only enforce a "No Tolerance" policy against bullying and cyber bullying -- but also to get involved and help the students that are being harassed.
- GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) offers support for schools that want to implement anti-bullying programs.
- The National Education Association (NEA) has developed Quit It! and Bullyproof programs that are used in school districts around the country. The program includes class discussions, role-playing and reading and writing activities to educate kids about what kinds of behaviors are hurtful and how to deal with harassment.
- Advocate that your school staff be trained in prevention and participate in programming that teaches empathy, understanding and tolerance.
- The ADL (Anti Defamation League) is a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group that offers tips for parents and resources for teachers.
- Join the Give a Damn Campaign, a fantastic effort for everybody who cares about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.
- Join I Live Here in bringing unheard voices out of silence. All stories deserve to be told.
- If you are being bullied or witness someone being bullied, speak up. Once an adult is involved, they should monitor serious talks with targets and bullies and mediate the situation.
If you know someone who is thinking about suicide, speak to a responsible adult and get that person the help that they need.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to a relative, school administrator, guidance counselor, a teacher, religious leader or another responsible adult. You are never alone. People care.
- There are some wonderful teen suicide hotlines that are trained to help in these situations:
The Trevor Project: A national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.
Teen Suicide Hotlines: 1800-784-2433 (1800-Suicide) or 1800-273-8255 (1800-273-Talk).
- Be a kinder individual. Think about your words and how you use them as they have great power to either lift someone's spirit or destroy them. Make a pledge to stand up for anyone being demeaned for their appearance, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other perceived difference. Commit yourself to fighting injustice and seeing that everyone is treated with the compassion and respect that they deserve.
There may be moments when the pain seems unbearable. Life fixed forever. But there's always the hope of a better tomorrow. For as Anne Frank so poignantly wrote, "I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains."
There is still so much living left for these young people to do.