October is National Bullying Prevention Month
By: Kelly Rafferty, Ph.D, Soul Shoppe Curriculum Writer
(Movie Meanies: Biff of Back to the Future (left), Regina George, Mean Girls (center), Francis, PeeWee’s Big Adventure)
Did you have a favorite movie bully when you were a kid? Mine was Francis from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985). I also loved to root against Biff from Back to the Future (1985) and Mean Girls’ Regina George (2004). I could watch Pee-wee and Michael J. Fox and Lindsay Lohan outwit their tormentors day after day. The real-life bullying at my school was less theatrical but more effective. By the time middle school rolled around, kids were transferring to other schools to escape the social isolation exacted on them by people who were their best friends only months before. The teachers and staff knew it was happening, but they couldn’t stop it.
The ubiquity of bullying on-screen and off can invite us adults to minimize the behavior. We may be tempted to characterize it as one of those unavoidable parts of childhood, to simply tell a hurting student, “It gets better.” Or, like my middle school teachers, we may recognize the severity of the problem and still not know what to do about it.
In the face of this seemingly intractable problem, PACER, an organization dedicated to supporting the parents and families of children with disabilities, designated October National Bullying Prevention Month back in 2006. For 10 years, schools and communities across the country have been rallying their support, awareness, and resources around preventing bullying and making schools safer for all kids. Soul Shoppe is proud to be part of this nationwide movement and we’re here to offer three strategies we’ve found to be most effective in our 16 years of working with schools to end bullying.
- Understand what bullying is and how it hurts students. At Soul Shoppe we focus on bullying as a behavior instead of using the term “bully” to describe a person. Bullying is typically repeated, intentional, aggressive behavior. It can be physical, verbal, or relational and can take place inside school, online, or at home. Because the students doing the bullying often have more social or physical power, their targets are more likely to be members of socially marginalized groups such as racial and religious minorities, LGBTQIA+ students, and students with disabilities. Bullying can have serious and long-lasting effects including lower educational performance, decreased self-esteem and self-worth, and impaired mental health.
- Practice empathy and allyship.
In our allyship workshop, I’ve Got Your Back, we practice noticing what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes. How does your classmate feel when someone makes a joke about their walk day after day? How does it feel to have your name purposefully mispronounced just because it’s unusual to someone else? We also ask, “What can you do to help?” and give students the tools to stand up for their classmates and insist that we don’t bully at our school. Every student learns that they have the power to make a difference in their community and they can ask for allies when they need help.
- Look for the unmet need. In I’ve Got Your Back and our Peacemaker Training Program (where we empower dedicated students to create a more peaceful school) we teach students that everybody deserves our support. As we learned from The Breakfast Club’s (1985) John Bender, the kid doing the bullying has a story, too. They deserve empathy and they need our help. We encourage teachers and peers to look deeper and see the need being expressed.
The student doing the bullying may need:
- positive attention
- acceptance and inclusion
- protection from someone who is hurting them
- recognition and appreciation
While it’s important that we identify the bullying behavior and not minimize its effects, we also need to look underneath the behavior to see and address the unmet need. It’s a crucial step if we’re going to truly prevent bullying.
I wish I could go back to 1985 and sit down with Francis from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Maybe we could talk about how it felt to get yelled at by his dad or be alone in that big mansion. I could remind him that he didn’t need someone else’s fancy bike in order to have friends and respect.
Tell us what you’re doing to mark National Bullying Prevention Month! What strategies have you developed to support students at your school? What’s working for your community? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or by responding to this email.
What’s Up At Soul Shoppe:
Our Peace Path Goes National
What if every school in the United States could have a Peace Path? What if Soul Shoppe’s conflict resolution tool could be used to reduce bullying across the country? Well, now it can!
There are already Peace Paths as far away as the Netherlands and Whitehouse, Ohio. But now there is the opportunity for more! Fit & Fun Playscapes, a national playground stencil company based in New York now sells Soul Shoppe Peace Path stencils for any school that wishes to include a Peace Path on their school playground. Stencils are roll-out easy to lay down and paint! And look how beautiful! Through Fit & Fun Playscapes, Soul Shoppe’s Peace Path has been introduced to schools in Arkansas, Michigan, Oregon, Southern California, Washington, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland and South Carolina.
Though bullying cannot be solved with a Peace Path alone, it is a great tool for helping kids to resolve difficult issues before resentment and retaliation are accepted strategies. Conflict resolution teaches kids how to stand up for themselves with an understanding that conflicts can be resolved peacefully. This changes how students deal with power struggle situations, like bullying. If you believe conflicts are meant to be resolved, how different would you react to being bullied?
In a 2-year research study, 673 elementary students were given conflict resolution training, as well as effective vocabulary and social emotional literacy skills. Overall, the training decreased bullying and increased a sense of safety. This is what the Peace Path offers schools across the country‑ an effective tool to talk through conflicts, increasing self-esteem and self-reliance.
Is your school ready for a DIY Soul Shoppe Peace Path? Easy to paint and amazing to watch kids not only use Peace Path to solve problems, but to use the tools of the Peace Path in other areas of their lives. Contact Fit & Fun Playscapes at (800) 681-0684 or…
If your school is ready for a 3-day Intensive conflict resolution program that trains your students (3rd-5th/6th) how to resolve conflicts for their peers, contact Soul Shoppe at (510) 338-3231. Two Peace Paths will be painted on your playground as part of your Peacemaker Program package.
People Are Saying:
A Story Shared by Christina Bowman, El Monte Elementary School Principal, (From a Parent’s Facebook Post About Her Children)
So Bailee is in the shower and Zachary is sitting in the room talking to her…
Z: Bailee do you have a bully?
Z: I thought you said you had a bully?
B: Well, I did have a bully, but not anymore.
Z: What happened to your bully?
B: I went to the Peacemaker.
Z: (Repeats “Peacemaker” quietly a few times trying to recall if he knew what one was) What’s a Peacemaker?
B:When you have a problem with someone at school, you go to a Peacemaker.
Z: Oh, so did they get rid of your bully?
B: Not really. I just went to the Peacemaker and they talked to both of us and then he wasn’t a bully anymore.
Z: Oh, well that’s good.
I am not only impressed with my kids and Bailee for using her resources, but their school for providing a “Peacemaker” that is making an impact. What a great idea and what a comfort that it is there when they need it.
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From the desk at Soul Shoppe:
P.S.-If your school has a Soul Shoppe Peacemaker Program and needs any assistance, the Soul Shoppe Peacemaker Liaison (to each school’s Peacemaker Liaison) is Dara Ackerman. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S – If you want Soul Shoppe’s Peacemaker Program at your school, contact us at Soul Shoppe 510-338-3231 or email@example.com
Social Impact Partner:
Sherwin Williams Supports Soul Shoppe Peace Paths
Last year we discovered the black paint we used for Peace Paths was no longer available in gallon size. California passed a law that no oil-based paint could be sold in gallon sizes in California. Unless we wanted painters carrying 6-8 quarts of paint around (which is neither economically nor functionally effective), we needed another solution. Enter Sherwin Williams.
Sherwin Williams has, Pro-Park, a water-based paint that is long lasting and tough enough to use in traffic. Since it’s tough enough for cars, we thought it might be able to stand up to the foot-traffic on an elementary school playground. Well, not only does it work better and save us time with easy delivery, Sherwin Williams has decided to sell us all our paints at cost. That’s right, we experience savings with every can of paint thanks to the generosity of the Sherwin Williams paint brand.
Thank you Sherwin Williams for your support! You have helped elementary schools throughout California take another step towards peace.
Contact our Development Team
510-338-3231 or email firstname.lastname@example.org