Turning the Curve on Bullying
In exactly 10 days it will be 7 years ago that Anna Packer decided that this would be her last day on earth. Sometime around this very moment, between 4 and 6PM she decided that her life was not worth living anymore. She was tired of the ridicule, the teasing, and the name calling. She was tired of being followed home from school by her bullies. This year Anna would have been 21 on April 21st. Her mother always thought that this would have been a special day for her because she would have been 21 on the 21st. The thought still to this day still haunts her and the rest of her family.
I remember riding past the street where Anna lived while delivering my mail route on that day in May. There were 3 or 4 girls standing on the corner near her house, they were pointing and snickering and whispering to each other. I knew a couple of them, so I asked what was going on. They told me that the girl who lived there had committed suicide. I was horrified by the fact that they were acting the way they were. I thought of how horrible it had to be for the family that lived there.
I reached out to Anna’s family and spoke with her mother as often as I could. We discussed the fact that it was bullycide. Knowing that her mother was not capable of doing anything at the time, I decided that I would have to do something.
Being a Letter Carrier, it was very easy for me to find many people who would speak with me on this subject. Over the years, I found that as a carrier for the Postal Service I have a very unique perspective of the Community that few other people have. After speaking with many people in the community, I found out that bullying was not uncommon in our schools and neighborhoods. It was affecting many families including my own and Jeanie’s. I did some research and found the Olweus Bully Prevention Program. I also found The Scary Guy—The New face of Love. I gathered together a group of @13 parents and met with Jim Scanlon. I was prepared to bring a hoard of people to a school board meeting, but found out that it wouldn’t be necessary. Jim gave us and hour and a half of his time and considered every word we said. Seven yrs. ago Quakertown Community School Distric implemented the Olweus Bully prevention program into the Quakertown School District. They chose to forgo The Scary Guy. Whose mission in life is to “eliminate hate, violence and prejudice WORLDWIDE! What they did not consider was the fact that Bullying would escalate at an unbelievable rate 7 yrs. later. Recently, one of our Administrators, made a statement that The Scary Guy would not be coming to our district. She said, “Did you see him? He’s all tattooed! UH, isn’t this exactly what we need our children to learn? That you can’t judge a book by its cover? The Scary Guy brings his program to the WORLD! He is currently in Germany. In his program, he challenges every single one of us to a 7 day challenge. The 7 day challenge goes like this:
“For 7 days and 7 nights you can’t say another negative thing about another Human Being on this PLANET. You can’t call another human being a name other than their own. Even if you think they’re funny—they’re not!!! If you slip up—and you will slip up, you have to have the guts to walk up to them; shake they’re hand and say you’re sorry! On the 8th day you can go back to being whatever kind of human being you want to be. Good Luck!
I propose that you try it when you leave here today. I have and it is not easy. If you do slip up you have to start all over again at day one.
Today, our 6th graders (11 & 12 yr olds) are hearing, using and texting words like (Show the words)
Shut the fuck up
Ur a NO Boobed Bitch
UR a fucking slut
I will fuck u up
Whore, Ugly, Fat, Lesbo
Are you offended; actually, that was my intention. The last one is my personal favorite. This word is being used by 6th grade boys and girls on the bus pretty much on a daily basis! All you have to do is get on Facebook and in a few clicks you can find all this in an instant. They are not only using these words they are also drinking and doing drugs as early as the 6th grade. Our children are plugged in 24 hrs a day/7 days a week. With their ipods they can video chat, text, get on facebook, post pictures and videos on the internet and a host of other apps that can be downloaded to do just about ANYTHING and I mean ANYTHING without a computer. The technology that is out there is amazing. Without parental supervision and guidance, they can get in some very, very big trouble in a split second. Most of our kids are a hundred times more tech savvy then we are. If you are a parent and are not paying attention God help you. Some of our kids are sexting, and sending pornographic pictures of themselves to one another. This is happening at the age of 14! I know this to be fact, because I am also a Youth Aid Panel member in Quakertown.
As they get older it gets worse. Usually, with the boys it is a once and done deal, but our girls will drag it out forever. They will not give in or give up.
Which brings me to the question of Empathy, is it genetic or is it learned? In order to solve this problem our children need to be EMPATHIC. Are they even capable of putting themselves in another person’s shoes? Do they know that these words are breaking down the ego of the person they are throwing the words at? Do they know that in order to get through it, they cannot internalize the negative behavior of other people? Can they understand the concept that what other people think of them is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS? Can they grasp the idea that if they walk on this earth doing what they KNOW is right is really the only thing that matters? Will they ever understand that someone else’s negative energy thrown at them is really the other person’s problem and not theirs? They will not understand any of this unless we show them what is like to be confident, and walk with their heads held high NO MATTER WHAT!
I believe that we can teach our kids these concepts, and show them what it is like to have self-esteem, be honorable, nonjudgmental and peaceful. I know that this will not happen overnight. I know that this will probably take years! I understand that all of our lives are very busy and filled with work, sports, meetings and a host of other time consuming agendas. If we don’t stop and take a serious look at this issue we will be sorry. For the moment that we even begin to think our children don’t need the support is the moment we have failed them.
As a softball coach for RASA (Richland Area Softball Association) I find that coaching 11 and 12 year old girls to be very challenging. At this point, it is extremely competitive. I turn around to find a girl crying on the bench. Usually, it is because they have heard another person (it could be an opposing player, or a parent from the other side, or even a teammate) SAY something to make them feel horrible, or they have made a mistake such as missing a fly ball or striking out. It is especially hard for pitchers and whoever is batting. Although, everyone signs a Code of Conduct at the beginning of the season pretty much stating that they will not act like this, we all know that in the heat of the game people will say things that are hurtful. This is when I am the most passionate about trying to teach them the concepts that I have previously spoke about. This is exactly when they need to focus on only the moment. This is when a pitcher needs to forget about the 3 balls she has just thrown and only has 3 more pitches to get that batter out! This is when she needs to forget about those pitches that have happened in the past, only seconds ago and concentrate all her focus on “just this pitch and only this pitch”. She has to focus on her form and every little movement it takes to throw a strike right down the middle of the plate, while there are people from the other side that are yelling things at her to break her concentration and focus. Believe me when I say that the mechanics of the windmill pitch are very challenging to get just right! Then there is the batter, who has to come up to bat with 2 outs. She ends up with a full count and knows that this very next pitch could win or lose the game for her team. She has people from the opposing side yell to their pitcher to “strike her out”. If she cannot forget about what happened just seconds ago, she will not be able to focus on “just this pitch and only this pitch”. I have found that each and every time I try to convey this message to one of “my girls”, I pray that I am reaching them at the very moment they will “get it!” and take it with them for the rest of their lives!
The Anna Packer Project is about just that. It is about reaching each and every one of our kids at just the right moment in time when they will “get it”! It is about coming together as a community, working with kids, parents, teachers, local law enforcement, local businesses and especially the School District! It’s about being mentors, examples, working with our children and including them in the process. It’s about bringing new and innovative programs to our area. It’s about teaching them respect, building character, and making them understand that yes, sometimes life is not fair, and sometimes bad things happen to good people but they cannot let that define who they are. It’s about letting our kids know that it is OK to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. It’s about teaching them that they DO have a voice. It’s about not being a bystander anymore. It’s about showing them that we really do care about what they are going through. It’s also about helping the bully to overcome their insecurities. It’s about helping them to understand the consequences of their actions. It’s about letting our kids know that the old adage of “sticks and stones” no longer applies. That names really do hurt you and that “kids will be kids” is no longer acceptable. That this phase in life is really only temporary and it too will get better, that they really can come to an adult for support. Also, they need to know that we will be there to listen, be trusting, and help them find a way to get through it.
The Anna Packer Project also needs the help and support from the community. This is why we would like to extend our utmost gratitude to all of you for coming here today. We need your help to come up with some outstanding ideas to accomplish just what we are trying to achieve. We need ideas, funding and training of all parties involved to get this going. We need volunteers to help us with creating a website and information and communicating with our children and the schools. After all, we cannot blame this all on our schools, but we can step up and help them and support them by working together to achieve the same goal.
At this very moment in time, another child in Our district is contemplating suicide, at this very moment in time a child in our community is cutting themselves to try and make the pain go away, at this very moment in time a child in our community is getting a text message or comment on facebook that is so hateful it brings them to tears, at this very moment in time in our community a child is doing drugs or drinking to try and numb the painful emotions they are feeling. At this very moment in time a parent doesn’t know what to do or how to handle the situation.
As Martin Luther King once said, Cowardice asks the question—Is it Safe? Expedience asks the question—is it politic? Vanity asks the question—is it popular?
But Conscience asks the question—Is it right?
And then there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take the position because it is right.
Thank you so much for coming today! It is my hope that we will together, be able to accomplish the mission of The Anna Packer Project.