As a hot topic of discussion, bullying has recently taken center stage. It has become an underestimated, pervasive problem that hinders academic and social success for many individuals. Today, one in four children will be bullied, and a growing percentage of students miss at least one or more days of school per month in fear of bullying. In San Diego County middle-high schools, at least 63% of students have avoided going to school restrooms out of fear of bullying, and over 10% of students drop out each year because of bullying. Looking at the bigger picture, we ask ourselves: what can be done to curb this problem?
A 16-year-old bullied student in West Branch, Michigan took matters into her own hands. Whitney Kropp of Ogemaw Heights High School decided the best coping mechanism was her self-confidence. Bullies had engineered a cruel prank to nominate Whitney for homecoming queen. Whitney said she felt like trash. Fearing that no one cared about her, she contemplated suicide as a way to escape the cruelty. In an inspirationally brave stand, Whitney committed to appear at the homecoming dance, despite the bullying. Her town and others across the nation, rallied behind her: donating her gown, providing a makeover, and creating a Facebook support page. Support Whitney Kropp. Supporting Whitney’s decision to not let the bullies get her down, the public gave Whitney the push she needed to go to the event. Whitney arrived glowing and overwhelmed by the adoring fans watching her entrance. Whitney told the world to “go with your heart and go with your gut. Stand up for what you believe in. That’s what I did, and look at me now. I am as happy as can be.” As an inspiration to so many, Whitney is a role model of self-confidence, and a modern day Cinderella.
Like Whitney, so many individuals around us suffer from bullying. Many are searching for ways to create their own coping mechanisms. In San Diego, the new anti-bullying legislation, nicknamed “Seth’s Law,” requires California public schools to provide and update anti-bullying policies and programs. Committed to providing equal rights and opportunities to students, California passed the legislation to ensure schools address bullying immediately. The legislation holds school administrators accountable for student safety by providing an academic atmosphere encouraging student success. Some schools are seeking unique methods of bullying prevention in response to the legislation. One school provided a “bullying box”, an anonymous complaint box for students to report bullying. Another school has implemented ways to monitor cyber-bullying and social networking sites, which tend to expand the power of bullying.
The bigger picture is that the community is progressing and exploring new avenues to approach prevention. Every effort and helping hand will make a difference in the movement. The local San Diego Boys and Girls Club has implemented “Be a H.E.R.O.” It is a program designed to eliminate and reduce bullying by instituting a prevention curriculum, and training peer helpers to utilize anti-bullying skills in real life situations. The San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) Children At Risk Committee provides a peer mediation and conflict resolution program. The committee is currently seeking volunteers to work alongside SDCBA members in participating San Diego schools by teaching students conflict resolution skills.
Legislation has opened doors to further policy decisions, but an open door does not necessarily induce individuals to walk through it. We are the first leaders in the move to change the attitudes of the following generations. Society must change the way individuals discuss, learn about, and cope with bullying. Fortunately, the movement has begun to stir change. Thanks to individuals like Whitney, and community initiatives, bullying is no longer an accepted right of passage of youth adolescence.