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Fighting Back Against Bullying

Fighting Back Against BullyingParentsand teachers are increasingly approaching schoolyard bullyingless as a rite of passage and more as a problem that needs addressing.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.27.04] In the wake of events like the Columbine shootingsand increased incidents of aggression in schools, bullying isnow viewed by many experts as a “red flag” ratherthan a schoolyard rite of passage. According to Tufts facultyand alumni who are experts in the field, many schools and communitiesare making a substantial investment to educate kids about theill effects of bullying in an effort to stop it before the damageis done.

“Wedon't just say to the kids, 'Work it out,'” Pat Hartvigsen,a Tufts graduate and first-grade teacher at the Peter Noyes ElementarySchool in Sudbury, told The Boston Globe. “Theyneed to learn these strategies.”

Besides teachingthe ABCs and 123s, Hartvigsen weaves in lessons about kind wordsand mean words, leading up to role-playing exercises about bullyingsituations.

The curriculumin Sudbury is part of a wider effort to educate children aboutbullying at a young age to help stem the problem. Parents, teachers,coaches and community leaders are all chipping in.

Kids are beingtaught not only to be sensitive to other people but to reportincidents of bullying to adults or try to intervene themselvesif it is safe.

The consequencesfor bullies are far-reaching, extending not only to their victimsbut to themselves. A U.S. Department of Education study referencedby the Globe found that one in four bullies will developa criminal record by the time they reach age 30.

Another studypublished in the April 2003 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics& Adolescent Medicine found the children who bully outsideof school are at risk for exhibiting additional violent behavior.

Youth violenceexpert Dr.Howard Spivak, director of Tufts’ Center for Children,told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the study indicatedthat “kids involved in bullying are waving a red flag, andwe need to pay attention to them.”

Astudy published last year in the journal Pediatricsemphasized the need to make bullying “uncool,” citinga bully’s elevated social status in the school setting.

“Weneed to identify ways to shift the social norms and values inschools and communities to ones that promote healthy peer interactionsand reject bullying, intimidation, and other forms of physicaland verbal coercion as acceptable,” Spivak wrote in aneditorial published in conjunction with that study.

Though schoolsare working to address the problem, some parents may feel compelledto extricate their child from a bullying situation by removingthem from school – a move Spivak does not unilaterally recommend.

"Takingyour child out of the situation is reasonable as a last resort,but I'd strongly advise only doing it with the advice of a therapistor someone who can help do it in a way where your child doesn'tfeel like a failure," he told

For childrenwho remain in school, programs like that in Sudbury aim to helpthem overcome the plight of bullying. A portion of Hartvigsen’slesson to her first graders sums up the consequences of bullyingconcisely.

“''Ifpeople hear mean things said to them many, many times,”the Globe quoted her, “it can leave wrinkles ontheir heart.”








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