Nicholasville DARE officer shows Meade Co. Middle students, staff the differences of direct and indirect bullying, the importance of standing up for victims

Nicholasville DARE officer shows Meade Co. Middle students, staff the differences of direct and indirect bullying, the importance of standing up for victims

Meade County Messenger, Brandenburg, Sept. 13, 2012

It’s not just “kids being kids”

On Sept. 22, 2011, Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, was found dead outside his home of apparent suicide…it was discovered he was the victim of constant bullying at school. In 2010, Asher Brown, 13, Seth Walsh, 13, and Justin Aaberg, 15, each committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying. Jamie Hubley, 15, committed suicide on Oct. 18, 2011, after being the victim of bullying. Megan Taylor Meier committed suicide by hanging herself on Oct. 17, 2006 – just three weeks before her 14th birthday. Her suicide was attributed to cyberbullying …. and the list goes on.

There has been a strong link between suicide and bullying in recent years as a number of bullying-related suicides in the United States have drawn attention to this problem.

Many adults still consider bullying as “just kids being kids.” However, bullying has become a serious – and potentially dangerous – problem in today’s schools.

Bullying-related suicide, also known as “bullycide,” can be the result of any type of bullying – physical, emotional or cyber-bullying. Victims of bullying may also “snap” and become volatile when pushed too far.

On Aug. 31, Stuart Pepper Middle School held an assembly in which all students and faculty attended.

Sgt. Scott Harvey is a 14-year veteran of the Nicholasville Police Department. He has served as the DARE officer for 12 of those years and was the guest speaker at the event.

“We got word that this guy (Sgt. Harvey) is so good we needed to bring him into Stuart Pepper Middle School,” Principal Chad Butler said. “Bullying has been going on for many, many years…but we are taking the time to address that because we want it to stop. It has no place in any school, but I can tell you – it has no place in our school…Stuart Pepper Middle School.”

The program was called, “I Am Someone,” and dealt with the problem of bullying.

Sgt. Harvey introduced himself and discussed the presentation. “I Am Someone” is a presentation that has now been seen by close to 20,000 people across our state and I’m starting to get calls from outside of the state,” he explained. “In the course of my job, I heard students talking about bullying. I thought I knew what bullying was…because I was your age once. But as I started researching it, I found I really didn’t know what I needed to know. I talked to kids like you…I talked to parents…I talked to teachers about this problem. It’s an issue in every school around the world. And the issue is not just about bullying…the issue is what we choose to do about it.”

“In every school I’m in, the kids say, ‘Yeah, we have somewhat of a bullying problem.’ In every school I’m in, kids can tell me what the rules are…but, in every school I’m in, kids tell me, ‘We have rules…but we still have a problem.’ That tells me there’s a missing piece to the puzzle.”

According to Sgt. Harvey, there are two types of bullying – direct (face-to-face) and indirect. Direct bullying includes physical contact and verbal bullying. Indirect include things such as gossiping, spreading rumors or purposefully excluding someone from a group. Cyber-bullying can be considered direct or indirect bullying – if someone is posting threatening or hurtful things on a social networking site, that can be direct bullying; if someone is texting everybody hurtful things about the victim or talking about the victim online, that can be indirect.

Sgt. Harvey said that indirect bullying causes the most damage to kids. “Direct bullying is bullying that we see,” he said. “Indirect bullying is bullying that we feel. I can show you kids who would say, ‘You know, I don’t care what you say to my face…that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what people are saying behind my back…that really hurts me.’ I can also show you kids who would say things like, ‘I don’t care what people are saying about me…but it really hurts me when someone confronts me face-to-face.’ So if both kids are hurt, it shouldn’t matter how they got there…whether it’s direct or indirect.”

He said that when a student witnesses another student being bullied, they should not just look the other way…they should stand up for the victim.

“That’s something that when we see it, we take notice of it. And that’s something we respect in other people,” he said. “All it takes is for good people to stand by and do nothing for bad things to happen. The good news is I’m looking at over 800 good people in here who have the ability to stop this if they wanted to. Because where bullying occurs, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution…there’s no in between. How much we care is not expressed in the words we say…it’s expressed in what we do.”

With the age of technology, bullies have become “cyber-bullies” on Internet social websites.

“If bullying is happening in your schools…it’s happening online and if it’s happening online, it’s also happening in your school. This can create a 24/7 environment for some of our victims. What happens when it becomes too much for them to handle? We actually have a term now called, ‘bullycide.’ Students are bullied to a point where they feel the only possible solution is to kill themselves. Thankfully, our life is not a snapshot…it’s a filmstrip. If you let it run forward past this upset time right now, it gets better. People are making life-changing decisions based on one point in their life. The bully is a long-term problem…the victim has a much shorter shelf life.”

“To be clear, you can’t connect bullying directly with suicide…it’s more complicated than that,” Sgt. Harvey said. “But, we do know it’s one thing that they’re (victims) having to carry that becomes too heavy with everything else. And it is the one thing that we have the power to take from them. See, they (the victims) don’t feel like they have any friends. So the best thing we can do for the victim is show them that they’re not alone.”

During the presentation, Sgt. Harvey asked students several questions:

• Why do kids bully?

Because they may have been bullied themselves and they are repeating what has happened to them; they may have low self-esteem and bullying someone makes them feel more powerful or better about their situation; to relieve stress; maybe their home environment is a high bullying environment and they are repeating what they know at school; their selfesteem may be too high.

• What are ways kids bully?

Cyber-bullying; emotionally (through words they try to hurt and control); physical (kicking, hitting, pushing).

• Why don’t kids report bullying?

Fear of retaliation; shame for not standing up for themselves; afraid they wouldn’t be believed; not wanting to worry their parents; they feel nothing will change as a result of them reporting it; a grown-up’s advice would make the problem worse; fear of bully being told who reported them; afraid of being thought of as a snitch would be worse than the bullying.

Statistics on bullying and suicide:

• Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people – approximately 4,400 deaths per year.

• Bullying victims are between two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.

• 10-14-year-old girls maybe at even higher risk for suicide.

• Nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear ofbeing bullied.