There are No Innocent Bystanders: ERASEBullying Summit

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Is your child being bullied at school? Is he or she a witness to bullying?  Are you worried about cyber bullying? Wondering what to do and where to start? The first thing you should do is visit this website:  www.erasebullying.ca which will be able to answer a lot of your questions and where you or your child can report bullying and get help. You are not alone.

If there is one thing I learned about the ERASE Bullying initiative in BC, it is that the Premier and the Ministry of Education in BC are committed to ending bullying. Putting all politics aside – I don’t care if you like Christy Clarke or love to hate her – I believed the passion in her voice as much as her words when she said “in BC, we want to do more to stop bullying than anywhere else in the world” as I mentioned in my first post from the Summit.

Combine that with independent expert and guest speaker Barbara Coloroso saying that she believes BC is putting into place the anti-bullying policies, procedures and programs that are needed, and that BC is on the leading edge of this issue, and I feel a lot more optimistic that my son is going to have a better experience at school than I did (read my bullying story, Bullying has to Stop).

Having said that, there is a lot to do and bullying is a pervasive problem in our schools, society and in cyber space. There are kids living in pain and torment  who need help right now.

Every parent take note. Expert Barbara Coloroso said at the conference that any child or young person can be targeted by a bully – for being new at school, tall, fat, thin, short, smart, shy or for no reason at all.

She says flat out: bullying is cruel – it is mean. We must teach our children to be kind, and we can help them deal with bullying.

Barbara does a good job explaining the Bullying Cycle and exactly what to say to your child if they are being bullied, warning signs, the difference between teasing and taunting, reporting an issue, and what to teach your child to do when they are a “bystander” and see someone being bullied. I recommend reading this handout on Coloroso’s website thekidsareworthit.com and/or checking out her book The Bullied, The Bully and the  Bystander.

As a parent listening to presentations throughout the day, I feel like I came away with a lot more insight into what kind of school I want my child to go for kindergarten next year.

One of the main themes that emerged during the Summit was that a protective environment at school includes a climate of caring, a positive culture, and a sense of feeling connected, valued, and respected among students, peers, teachers, parents and school administrators. Student involvement in anti-bullying strategies is key.

In the student panel discussion, Kaisen spoke about getting involved in his school after being put on detention. This young man was disengaged but says by getting involved in school and “keeping himself occupied” it made him see bullying in a different way. At his school, Frank Hurt Secondary in Surrey, there are student led focus groups, climate checks/surveys, a Safe Teen program, and leaders groups to combat bullying.

Anjile is proud of her role as a peer counselor at her high school in Maple Ridge. She has received training on the cues to watch for in a student struggling with bullying and other problems at school and is assigned a group of grade 8 students who she checks in with regularly. Milo talked about the “that’s so gay” free zone posters and campaign being effective in his school to combat homophobia. Danielle talked about high school students speaking to Grade 4 and 7 students in their feeder schools about anti-bullying as a bullying prevention tool.

Peer to peer programs were praised by many of the students at this forum; I will be asking if there are any peer to peer programs at prospective schools for my son.

Dominic feels the most pressing problem is cyber bullying. Parents brace yourself. This issue was the scariest for me but I learned a lot. Stay tuned because I am planning a separate article just on cyber bullying!

Finally, I would like to address the issue of Carol Todd not being invited to attend the ERASE Bullying Summit. I don’t know exactly what happened. I read that Minister of Education Don McCrae consulted some experts who felt that there was potential to negatively impact the students who were there to share their own stories of fear, pain, sadness, sorrow, and triumph in combating and overcoming the bullies in their lives. Did McCrae err on the side of caution in taking into consideration the impact on students and discussing that with Amanda’s mom? Possibly. Did he have good intentions? I think he probably did.

I have seen Carol Todd’s tweets saying she was excluded and with the question – is that (a) form of bullying? It’s completely obvious why she would want to attend, although it never occurred to me that she would be there mostly because I didn’t know who would be attending.

I have heard the argument that Amanda’s tragic suicide was used as a reason for  holding the summit and therefore, her mother should have been there. That has a ring of truth to it when I think about it.

But to be perfectly honest. I thought the ERASE bullying summit was perfect just as it was. It was a gathering of students, experts, parents, community members, police, advocates, government, media, I am missing some of the other groups and people but you get the idea…It was educational and it was a free flowing, positive discussion with a call to action and tremendous hope for the future.

I think it easily could have been changed into a more negative mood and tone if the focus had shifted onto this one tragic case. Participants may have felt compelled to say they were sorry about what happened to Amanda or comment on this one specific tragedy instead of focusing on their own experience – just because of the immediacy of Amanda’s death. Just because of the sorrow and tragedy and injustice of it. Just because it brings us to tears, just thinking about it. I have tears in my eyes right now, just writing about it.

Does it serve anyone, or help anyone, or bring us together in any way to have this public disagreement when the focus should be on stopping bullying in schools and making the lives of our children better?

I felt such commitment, optimism, dedication, community, determination, hope, action, compassion, kindness, good will, expertise, empowerment and resilience at the summit. My hope is that everyone who hates bullying will embrace compassion, kindness, community and each other – flaws and all – and let that rally us as we strive to answer the call to action from the students at this year’s ERASE Bullying Summit – Jay, Buffy, Milo, Kaisen, Anjile, Dominic, Danielle and so many more – and from Amanda Todd herself in her YouTube video.

As a parent, I am now engaged in this issue. I am asking questions. I am educating myself and hopefully others through my blog. What will you do?

“There are no innocent bystanders.”
– Barbara Coloroso

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9 thoughts on “There are No Innocent Bystanders: ERASEBullying Summit

  1. Wonderful post Lori, being there with you I think you really captured it so well. I am happy to hear you will be starting a blog directed at cyber bullying as well, good for you:)

    1. Hi Alisa, It was a really wonderful to be there at the Summit in person. Thanks for the kind words. I really agonized over this post!! PS – I meant I will just be doing a separate article on cyber bullying! I just fixed that to make it more clear. Someone should start a blog just on cyber bullying though!
      Lori

  2. Thanks for sharing your post Lori.

    I too was really blown away by Barbara Coloroso’s amazing style and her way of being very honest and blunt about our cultural behaviours but also very compassionate at the same time. I could feel myself instantly slow down whenever she spoke. In addition to having a culture of mean I think we also have a culture of living on the surface, which makes it easy to be mean.

    In terms of what I will do, and have done differently since the summit, I have committed to slowing down on my judgemental responses and making my default to assume the best. So often I am quick to judge and think, “well that was dumb!” But, I expect that when I appear to make a goof other people will assume I did my best…. yet I don’t always do the same for them.

    Oops!

    So that is what I took away and have done differently: giving people more benefit of the doubt.

    1. Thanks Brooke. This comment had been lost in my spam folder – just found it. We live in such a judgemental society – I love your lesson learned about giving people the benefit of the doubt!

  3. Thank you so much for keeping us updated, Lori. I will definitely check out Barbara Coloroso’s handout and I am sharing this post on my fbook wall so that everyone has access to it, and to your great information and thoughts. Thanks!

    1. Thank you Taslim. I thought the handout was great. Especially the part that tells you what to say to your child if they have been bullied. So helpful!

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