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Issue 20

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The Sandpaper Effect of Bullying By Marlene Caroselli, Ed.D. C hris Colfer, best-selling author, Golden Globe winner and a two-time Emmy nominee. Actress Emma Watson. Vampire heart throb Robert Pattinson. Fashion model Cindy Crawford. Shock-jock Howard Stern. Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock. Pop star Miley Cyrus. Former president, Bill Clinton. Golfing great Tiger Woods. Prince Harry Windsor. Olympic athlete Michael Phelps. What do these luminaries, and countless others, have in common? As you might have guessed from the title of this piece, they were all bullied as children. In fact, Colfer encour- ages a metaphorical tool for easing the pain: "When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper. They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless. " THE END OF BULLYINg BEgINS wITH YOU! "'Kelly Smelly with the Big Belly Whose Dad's on the Telly." Most bullies and their victims are school children and most bullying takes place in schools. Tom Weber of Minnesota Public Radio, investigated schools as part of a six-month investigation into bullying. In a blog post he notes that bullying policies are important, but never as important as what is actually happening inside school walls. Despite the lip service given to anti-bullying, what matters most is the culture— ideally a culture that has zero tolerance for bullying. Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center discusses the different behaviors that occur in a bully- ing-tolerant culture. "Bullying behaviors can be complex and varied, " she notes. "It's not only the stereotypical overt behavior " The 'polish' to which he refers is evi- dent as well in the words of country music's sweetheart, Taylor Swift. "If you're horrible to me, I'm going to write a song about it, and you won't like it. That's how I operate. The problem, of course, is that before a bullied child ends up "polished," or before a bullied child writes a pop-charted song, there are endless days of pain. Pain sometimes so unbearable that—like Tyler Clementi or Phoebe Prince—the bullied young person takes his or her own life. And, not every child achieves levels of success that enable 'living well as the best revenge. The recently released film Bully explored the effects of ' bullying on the victims of this widespread form of violence. The film takes viewers into classrooms, workplaces, and living rooms to show the wide range of victims being mocked, harmed, and excluded. Justin Bieber's "Born To Be Somebody" plays throughout the documentary. The musical choice is not surprising: Bieber himself was bullied as a youngster. Race, income level, looks, and intelligence—the list of reasons (and non-reasons) why people are bullied is long and disturbing. Even reality star Kelly Osborne endured taunts from other children. It didn't matter that her father was rich and famous. The rhyme she heard over and over again referred to her weight: of fighting, hitting or name calling. Bullying can also be covert— gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose. Whether it's in the school yard or in a text, bullying is behavior that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally and is inten- tional—done with deliberation. " PACER designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month. The effort is designed to unite communities across the country to raise awareness of bullying prevention through various activities. Hertzog believes behaviors and cultures themselves can be changed. "We can all work together," she affirms, "to change a culture that accepts bullying. Silence is not an acceptable re- sponse to bullying, and that's what National Bullying Prevention Month is all about. People who are bullied need to know they are not alone. Our website, www/PACER.org/Bullying, has re- sources that parents, educators, students and communities can use to prevent bullying in their own communities. Elementary- age students can learn on our website designed just for them: www.KidsAgainstBullying.org, and teens can learn more and join the cause at www.TeensAgainstBullying.org. " Perhaps the most hopeful of all words about bullying are these seven from PACER: "The end of bullying begins with you." A Distinctive style . com 65

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