Most adults remember incidents of intimidation and bullying from their school days. On March 5, Albany students and faculty convened to remind us that the problem of bullying is still with us, finding new covers and techniques for coercive behavior.
The final speaker, police officer Steve Dewarn, spoke about cyber-bullying–a new form of homegrown terrorism that kids cannot escape, even in the safety of their homes. The urgent problem requires smart solutions. Dewarn says it is imperative to intervene and stop the behavior before it escalates into crimes or drives kids to run away, leave school districts, or commit suicide. Dewarn’s strategy relies upon reporting and monitoring, but it was the first speaker of the day who gave the true tools to unmask the bully and restore justice.
Keynote Speaker, Miki Kashtan, spoke of the need for compassionate intervention in bullying events. In one example of a high school KKK member, listening went a long way toward reducing the anger and anguish that filled a young man’s mind. Empathy for the bullied must be met by an equal, daring empathy for the bully. Kashtan’s advice for addressing individuals bears a close resemblance to Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, though without the hierarchical description. Basic unmet needs for personal security, however, fuel the rage of every bully–compounded by shame for having needs. Kashtan concluded that the bullying cycle is sometimes broken by Non-Violent Communication. Her parting example was of a Canadian First Grade classroom that spent time with a newborn baby each week, learning that vulnerability is natural and outcomes cannot be forced. The exercise reduced elementary school bullying and the children learned to “care for” the baby and treat each other with fairness and respect.
I attended two seminars: increasing security and respect for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer youth at school and Creating Kindness in our Communities. The first was led by a school administrator from Hayward Unified and included a panel of three AHS students (members of the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school.) The second seminar was led by a Martial Arts instructor whose school blends assertiveness and respect, offering programs for people of all ages. The latter was very interactive and drew on the collective wisdom of the adult audience.GLBTQ List 2011