Women’s organizations tackle bullying issue through survey
Nate knows a little something about bullying. He’s been on both the receiving and giving end of it. In 8th grade last year, Nate of Grosse Pointe, Mich., was the butt of many jokes. Kids made fun of his appearance—the clothes he wore and the way he looked.
“Mostly it was name-calling, like if you wore crappy clothes or something,” he said.
He ignored it for a while, but after a few weeks, he told a teacher. The teacher “sat them down” and talked to the bullies, he said. And mostly it stopped. But Nate never told his mom and dad about the bullying because he didn’t want them to “think their child was not doing so well in school.”
Nate acknowledges that he bullied classmates in similar ways until he was on the receiving end of it. That taught him a valuable lesson: “You have to treat other people like you want to be treated.”
The old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me,” is meant to encourage victims of bullying to look the other way. But as Nate can attest, that’s not easy to do.
“It didn’t make me feel very good,” he said.
Examples of bullying include:
- Punching, shoving and other acts that hurt people physically
- Spreading bad rumors about people
- Keeping certain people out of a group
- Teasing people in a mean way
- Getting certain people to gang up on others
Though there are no federal laws addressing bullying, several states have taken action to prevent it.
And now Women of the ELCA’s Region 6 is jumping into the act, responding to a memorial adopted at the Ninth Triennial Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in July 2014. Region 6 includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky.
“As we were going through memorials when the presidency transferred to me, our board started looking at what we really wanted to wrap our heads around for this term,” said Angelique Day, president of Southeast Michigan Synodical Women’s Organization and assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, Detroit.
Sex trafficking and bullying jumped out at them, she said. Day sits on the board of Vista Maria, an organization in Dearborn Heights, Mich., that works with human trafficking, and SE Michigan SWO vice president Angela Chunovich works with a bullying organization, No Hurt Words. So those issues fit their interests, Day said.
“We chose to spend these two years around the heavy-lifting advocacy work of these two memorials,” she said. “Then we realized, we didn’t know the extent of bullying of our own kids. We have anecdotal evidence that this is happening in our communities, but no extensive knowledge.”
Because Day works at a university, she was able to enlist the help of a colleague, Jun Sung Hong, Ph.D., who is a national expert on bullying. He helped devise a standardized bullying survey that received “institutional review board approval in compliance with federal guidelines for research,” Day said.
“We (Region 6) have taken it upon ourselves to get young people to complete it,” Day said. “Our goal is to get 10,000 kids to answer the survey with representatives from every state.” The surveys should be completed by Aug. 30.
Survey questions address online-bullying, victimization, being a perpetrator of bullying and policy issues, Day said.
In 2011, Michigan, where Day lives, became the 48th state “to require schools to develop and enforce policies to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence under anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder,” according to a state press release.
“Now the question becomes, ‘Is it effective? Is it still a problem for other states?’” Day asked. That’s one reason for the survey, she said.
Day, a former lobbyist, and Region 6 are working with Michigan lobbyists interested in the bullying issue and related policies to announce the survey results at an Oct. 26 press conference at Zion Lutheran Church, Ann Arbor, Mich.
“We hope to encourage parents to ask kids how school is going and to think about that more broadly than academics,” Day said. “Parents are the best advocates of their children, and many children don’t naturally share information unless we ask directly.”
Luckily, Nate told a teacher he was being bullied, and it stopped. But some children commit suicide before confiding in an adult.
“Also, if somebody accuses your kid of bullying, don’t blow it off by saying, ‘Kids will be kids,’” Day said. “Check to see what type of anti-bullying policies your child’s school has.
“And ask your child to fill out our survey.”
Young people who take part in the Region 6 survey about bullying will be entered into a raffle for a chance to receive a $100 gift card. The survey should be completed by Aug. 30. Find the survey here: http://semi-welca.org/anti-bullying.html.