Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Stop a Bully

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...Image via WikipediaAs a child I was bullied throughout school, even receiving stitches on one occasion because of it.  Many of my friends were bullied, at least one of which left school for good after the daily harassment became too much to take.  What is happening today in our nation's schools, to our children, may look a lot like bullying, but is in fact far worse than what most of us can imagine.

In the 1990's, bullying occurred in the locker room, in the hallways, on the school grounds before and after school, in band, on sports teams, and wherever children congregated.  To get away from bullying, you had to leave, go home, go away somewhere else... but you could go.  You could close your doors, watch tv, read a book, go to the library, go to the mall, and at least you had some relief from the attacks.

Today, there is no respite from bullying.  Bullies are in a child's phone, able to call or text the child without any parental involvement or even knowledge at any time, day or night.  Bullies are on Facebook and every other social network.  Bullies post photos of their victims, either real or computer generated, with harassing captions or worse.  Photos that not 10 or 20, but instead hundreds or thousands of people can view, download, and share.  If a bully can't reach their victim directly, they'll go through an intermediary, a fake internet account or an accomplice to pass along the message.

What changed?  The world.  Facebook, cellphones, and other modern technology are the strongest way that many children communicate and connect with their friends and family, so disconnecting from these things to avoid a bully simply isn't an option at this time.

For those and perhaps dozens more reasons, I've made a personal commitment to work to end bullying in my community and to educate the world about this issue.  That's why on November 16th 2011 I, along with members of the Pequannock schools' administration, attended the Morris County Parent / Youth Summit on Bullying at the Meadow Wood Manor in Randolph NJ.

While there, we saw presentations from author Naomi Drew, Det. Mark Castellano with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, and Ashley Craig, an amazing high school student who has founded a highly successful and repeatable anti-bullying program.  The entire event was sponsored by St. Clare's Hospital.

While there is no way to possibly summarize all of the materials that we received, I can highly recommend the following:

  1. The book No Kidding About Bullying, by Naomi Drew M.A. as well as her excellent blog (a good starting place) http://authornaomidrew.blogspot.com/, and her incredibly dense and informative website: http://www.learningpeace.com/
  2. This article, which provides background about the recent changes to laws against bullying (great starting point)  http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/html/dispatch/04-2011/Evolution-of-Cyberbullying.asp as well as Morris County Prosecutor's Office of Community Outreach (which Det. Mark Castellano works with extensively) and the Cyberbullying Research Center http://www.cyberbullying.us/
  3. Student Ashley Craig's amazing website for Students Against Being Bullied, the organization that she founded after her own bullying experiences: http://studentsagainstbeingbullied.webstarts.com/
  4. Chilton Neighbors (in association with Chilton Memorial Hospital) offers an online webcast of Det. Mark Castellano's presentation (as well as several other excellent presentations):  http://www.chiltonhealth.org/neighbors.shtml  ("Cyberbullying" at the bottom, free registration required)
  5. A video of Det. Mark Castellano giving a presentation about cyberbullying: http://hamcnj.blogspot.com/2011/03/navigating-cyberspace-safely.html  (note below the video, several additional video links).


How do you start?  The biggest takeaway that I got from the entire presentation was this: There has been plenty of support for victims over the years; the problem is that current victim support systems are neither strong enough nor quick enough.

  • For example, we can respond to a harassing photograph on Facebook by punishing the bully, by consoling the victim, and by asking Facebook to remove the offending photo.  However, even a law enforcement officer cannot remove a photo from Facebook directly, thus the support system in not strong enough.
  • In the time it takes a photo to be flagged and removed from Facebook, hundreds of others can view the photo and save a copy, thus the support system is not fast enough.

These are the things that we are working to change, and actually the work that's being done now by the three individuals mentioned above as well as countless others is absolutely amazing in the amount of progress it has achieved.

Finally, if you are being bullied now (or know someone who is), submit a request for help here if you are in Morris County NJhttp://www.morriscrimestoppers.org/Bullying.htm  or here if you are elsewhere in the United States: http://www.stopbullying.gov/topics/get_help/index.html  (UK Residents try this: http://nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/kids.htm  [phone numbers at the bottom])

For anyone in Pequannock reading this, I'd be happy to loan you a copy of "Emotionally Intelligent Parenting" from the summit, as well as the information packets we received.


Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock EnvironmentalHistoric District, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

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