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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Taking the bullying lesson a little too far

I don’t know about you and your kids, but my kids- especially my fourth grader- have been inundated with the bullying topic lately.
I know it is a serious issue, but sometimes I think we can overdo something and it can have a negative effect.
In less than a month at my daughter’s school she has been a part of a week-long anti-bullying campaign that included dress-up days, a five-week program called Peacemakers from the organization called Casa, or Community Action Stops Abuse, where an instructor comes into the classroom for an hour a week and talks about bullying and other issues. The most recent was an hour long music program called Didgeridoo Down Under which talked about anti-bullying.

You would think we have a bullying problem at my daughter’s school, but they don’t. It’s just the hot topic and buzzword right now.
I don't usually watch the evening news with my kids around, because it's usually about violence and things I don't want my young kids to hear about. but the other day I had it on, and there was that horrible story about the little 12-year-old girl who committed suicide because of being bullied at school.
My 9-year-old stopped what she was doing. Somehow she heard the reporter say the word “suicide” and knew about that story. I asked her how she knew about it because I have never talked about it. I have never talked about it, and I really didn’t want her knowing about something like that, because I thought she was too young.
She said they talked about it at school in her Peacemaker’s class. I was kind of surprised and asked her what was talked about. To my dismay, I was shocked and mad at what my daughter told me happened in this Peacemaker’s class.
My daughter told me the Peacemaker instructor talked about bullying and in her presentation there was a fake person made out of paper that she wanted the kids to come up to and say something mean and then rip off part of the paper. Most of the kids in my daughter’s class did not want to say anything mean, but the Peacemaker instructor said she strongly encouraged them to come up and do it. She said they had a choice, but pretty much pressured them into doing it.
My daughter was one of those kids who didn’t want to do it, but ended up going up to the do paper person and telling it she didn’t like her new haircut. Most kids ended up saying something mean even though they didn’t want to. There were two kids that absolutely didn’t want to do it. At the end of the presentation the instructor told those two kids they were the only ones who weren’t bullies. She gave them a reward and the others had to write apology notes to the paper person.
My daughter told me she felt terrible. She said she only did it because she felt like the instructor was a teacher and she had to listen to her. 
The instructor then asked the students how they thought this made the paper doll feel when it was bullied. My daughter said the answers the kids gave were "sad," "mad," "angry," "upset" and "wanted to run away." The instructor said there was one more answer they were missing.
This is where the word suicide came up. Something I don’t think kids in fourth grade need to know. A message that was meant to be good, in this instance, was not.
I ended up calling the organization that presented the program and they told me it may have been presented wrong by the instructor.  I talked to the principal of my daughter’s school who said she would talk to the presenter and by no means should fourth graders be taught about the word suicide or influenced to do something they didn’t feel was right.
This was an opportunity for me as a parent to talk to my kids about what had gone on in school. I talked to both of my daughters and told them if ever they don’t feel something is right that they don’t have to do it, even if it is a teacher, instructor or adult telling them to do something.

 As far as the word suicide, I talked to my fourth grader about it even though I think she was too young to know about that just yet.

My advice to all parents is to communicate with your kids. Ask them about their day, about their friends and what’s going on in their lives. There are serious issue and topics that need to be addressed with our kids in and out of school, we need to be careful though in how we address these issues.

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