Guest Commentary

During National Bullying Prevention Month, we all can help bullied kids resolve conflicts

Students at McEowen Elementary in Harrisonville pledged to stand up to bullying.
Students at McEowen Elementary in Harrisonville pledged to stand up to bullying. File photo

Every day, there is damage taking place in the minds and hearts of our children who are being bullied.

According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomach aches, or problems sleeping) and experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety).

Bullying occurs once every seven minutes and is the most frequent form of violence our school-aged children encounter. That’s why is it essential we gear up now.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We won’t eliminate all the many forms bullying takes in one month, but we can start.

Picture this: What if we intentionally taught our kids important life skills in school like saying “no” in challenging situations, how to communicate their feelings, how to be assertive, how to respect themselves and others, how to deal with cyber safety or cyberbullying, and how to resolve conflict or differences in a healthy way?

When our children learn how to handle conflict or differences in a healthy way, incidents of bullying decrease, youth are more confident, happy, productive, and have the opportunity to thrive. And that directly impacts our families, schools and communities.

Our children will also be more successful in life if they have these skills. These skills are a part of Social Emotional Learning or SEL, and they are a better predictor of a young person’s future success than math or reading scores.

This is why in 2011, Camp Fire began working with educators in the Kansas City public schools to design and launch a comprehensive conflict resolution program. Since then, this pilot program has served more than 9,000 kids in grades K-6 and has been met with rave reviews from education partners, families, students and teachers. In the new year, we will launch this tested curriculum nationwide through our national affiliate network.

But there is work to be done. When it comes to bullying and the absence of SEL skills:

▪  Nearly one-quarter of African-American students, 17 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students report being bullied at school.

▪  Nearly 33 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys report weight-based teasing from peers, but prevalence increases to approximately 60 percent among the heaviest students.

▪  The percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18 percent to 34 percent) from 2007–2016.

▪  In total, 74 percent of LGBT students report being verbally bullied in the past year because of their sexual orientation while 36 percent of LGBT students were physically bullied.

Think about any child who is bullied. I am both enraged and heartbroken. Aren’t you?

Here are a few simple things you can do:

▪  Have a conversation with your kids tonight about bullying. Listen to their experience and what they think about it. Share your experience.

▪  If you’re an educator, facilitate a conversation about this topic at your school.

▪  Wear Orange on Oct. 25 for “Unity Day.”

▪  Raise awareness about bullying and the solutions at hand.

It starts with us. At Camp Fire, it begins now. How will you stand up? Will you join us?

Cathy Tisdale is CEO and president of Camp Fire National Headquarters in Kansas City.