Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Event Recap: Stereotypes and Bullying

Stereotypes and Bullying
What programs, tools and interventions can combat the hateful behavior of bullying and empower young people.

Event Recap from Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Featured Guest Opening Remarks
Elaine Zimmerman: CT Commission on Children
  • Stories that capture what is happening in this state:
  • Effort to figure out WHO was being bullied. Deputy Commissioner of Eduction and Elaine traveled the state to talk about bullying.
  • Kids were invited to an event from all different schools. Volunteered to go. Different ages, different cultures, different races. There was a fabulous pizza in front of them, but no one ate. The kids were starving to talk about what was happening, but no one was providing a safe place. One boy said, “Do you know what it’s like to wake up every morning and want to kill yourself?” A girl said that she was bullies and felt that she needed to become a bully. She methodically banged students heads against lockers. Since she did this, no one bothered her. A boy in New Haven, skinny, white boy spoke up. An African American girl said that she knew he was bullied. Her saying this lifted a weight off of him because he was validated, there was a level of healing from the recognition. This showed the no one took this boy seriously.
  • A mother in Hartford was doing her laundry and saw her son was going to the bathroom in his pants. He never told her that he was being bullied, it took her going to the school for her to find out.
  • A mother provided her children with a screwdriver and a hammer to use if they were being bullied. After having second thoughts she warned the school about what she sent her children to school with. Instead of providing assistance all they did was arrest the mother. The school said that they didn’t know what to do about the situation.
  • There was a girl that was acting mean one day. Her peer group thought it was funny. It kept going on for over a year. Her peer group encouraged it because they laughed. The girl she was bullying died in a car accident. The bully went to UConn and makes it her life’s work to talk about what she did.
  • We have a culture that is not saying STOP.
  • A Jewish girl went to class and students said “Hail Hitler”. She didn’t tell her parents. She stopped wanting to go to school, it effected her eating, and eventually when she told her parents, they went to the school. The punishment was 2 days punishment
  • Target: Often does not speak up. They typically feel that something wrong with them, parents will be disappointed if you can’t stop it.
  • Bully: people don’t have empathy for them. They need help too. Bullies have 7% higher chance of being in prison.
  • Bystanders: Make up about 80%. They don’t know how strong they are. Most bullies will stop. But most don’t stand up.
  • Bulk of those who end up shooting in school shootings were bully targets.
  • In Sweden, they realized the impact of bullying. They changed their Constitution. They felt it was a Constitutional right to go to school and feel safe.
  • Why would anyone think that you can mediate abuse. It is a form of abuse. This is not a negotiation, this is something you stop.
Robin McHaelen: True Colors, Inc.
  • Work with young people who are often targets. 
  • A lot of what bullying is about is often around issues of gender.
  • Kids get picked on for everything. Shoes, glasses, size, everything. The places where it begins to really escalate is often around gender (boys who are not masculine enough, girls who are not feminine enough)
  • Gay men are the biggest target for bullying that leads to a hate crime.
  • A lot of this starts with a bias. You have a bias towards or against. Those messages about who we should lead towards or away from start really early.
  • Bias is an assumption about their identity. Prejudice in internal. Discrimination is when you take action. An “ism” is when this works into laws, subcultures, lifestyles.
  • Study with hospital nurses. Nurses let blue hatted babies cry longer and the way they comforted them was different.
  • Gender starts right away. When little girls like trucks (up to a certain age) she is labeled a “tomboy” and it is accepted. By puberty you have to “girl it up”.
  • Boys don’t have the same freedom. If he doesn’t “man up” by 3 or 4 he is put down.
  • Watch how caregivers are at playgrounds.
  • When families are supportive of gay kids coming out, there is a protective impact and they are more likely to have support outside of the family.
  • The term “fag” is used not as gay, it is that you are not masculine. If a boy steps out they are called a “fag” and what that boy does it try to throw that word onto someone else. This word is built into the culture of masculinity.
  • In American culture men are not raised to be men, they are raised to not be women.
  • Boys who are not traditionally gendered are tortured from very young ages.
How has gender ever effected you in life, when has someone told you that gender makes it impossible for you to do something:
  • Mother told her that girls shouldn’t show off their intelligence
  • Guidance counselor told her that engineering wasn’t a good career path, how about nursing.
  • Coach tennis: when it rained the boys got the gym, girls sports were looked on differently.
  • Stereotypes of lesbian women are that they walk like men, look like men, do men’s jobs. Stereotypes of gay men are that they walk like women, look like women and do women’s jobs. 
  • In CT high school boys who are bullied about sexual orientation are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Are teachers and parents not trying to empower children?
  • It’s very hard as an individual to be the one to stand up. Bystanders and allies have much more power. If a peer intervenes bullying is more likely to stop.
  • We can teach skills for managing how to react when people pick on them, but it is more likely the bystander
  • Bullies are very skilled at targeting difference and finding someone who is more vulnerable. If someone doesn’t say “cut it out” then they keep going.
  • Children who are targets usually don’t tell their parents.
  • Children often want to protect their family or the image their parent has of them.
  • Sometimes the advice to boys is to “man it up”.
  • The bully is a terrorizer. The targets sometimes even feel like they are going to die. They go really deep inside themselves.
  • We have no idea how much are kids are not telling us, even in families with open communication.
  • A case where a child planned a school shooting, had a plan, had an arsenal, had a list. A classmate saw it on
What do parents do about bullying? 
  • Do not blame yourself
  • Do not blame your child
  • It is a whole school strategy
  • The bully and the target both need to help
  • Students need to be taught how to be bystanders who report. There are a lot of student who want to be everyday heroes, but we are losing that culture. The victim is likely not to speak up.
  • There is a culture of feeling that telling about these situations is that you are “ratting someone out”

Son in eighth grade has a teacher who is a bully. What do you do about that?
  • Teacher has thrown books out the window.
  • Son starts losing weight and physical changes started happening.
  • Brought mother in with all of the school professionals. They blamed it on the situation. They told her that her son needed to go to school.
  • Parent requested to take him out of the class.
  • Not just kids didn’t want to rat him out, it was other teachers that were not ratting them out.
  • Other parents complained, but nothing was being done.
  • There is nothing in legislation that looks at adult on youth bullying.
  • You can’t create a culture where youths are safe if the adults are not allowing a safe environment.

What are schools doing?
  • There is a systemic process of dealing with this in some schools. Talking about this openly is important and constant addressing of this issue.
  • Some schools have pledges, reward systems, and visual reinforcements about creating a safe community.
  • It takes time. It will take generations to break down some of these preordained stereotypes.
  • Need to create safe open cultures in schools
What can we do for parents and teachers?
  • Principals need to participate, supporting the teachers and the students
  • Parent classes and support groups. Provide an open environment for parents to discuss these issues and receive support.
  • Schools can put together programs for parents.
  • Parents don’t always know the severity.
  • Teachers don’t always know the best interventions. All teachers need training so that it impacts the culture.
If most of the time bullying can be stop by a bystander, why don’t more people intervene?
  • Most of the time they don’t know what to do.
  • Sometimes just saying “cut it out”
  • If you see mean, intervene. Say “we don’t talk like that” “you’re better than that”. A quick statement can stop escalation.
  • If you show kids that if you see this, do this. If you have them practice saying some of these words and phrases it sticks.
  • A fear of being targeted.
What can be done for targets, bystanders and bullies?
  • Bullies tend to not feel as guilty. Psychotherapy for bullies typically don’t work, a behavioral intervention is more likely to work. Behavioral interventions are like bystanders saying “stop”.
  • The audience typically plays are role with bullying. Bullying does happen one on one, but
  • If an adult intervenes for a young child, they might help fix that instant, but what are the long term practices.
  • Classes to build courage and strength for targets
  • Peer support groups are helpful too.
Columbine became a reminder to people that this was going on. Started to build a strategy for how to make schools safe.How can we assure that plans will be effective?
  • Children have to know that the whole school is involve
  • The students need to know that there is help for bullies and targets
  • The students need to know that all the teachers and trained and the parents are too.
  • There have to be whole school trainings for students.
  • Kid by kid, teacher by teacher, does not work.

Sometimes you don’t know that you are being bullied. In-school bullying turns to out of school bullying. How do we talk to kids about bullying?
  • Sometimes the target doesn’t do anything to the bully and don’t know that it is happening.
  • It is important to educate children about the stages of bullying and types of bullying.
  • Those who have been bullied make great teachers for bullying prevention. Narratives are helpful for those who need to learn and it is healing for those who are telling the story. Stories are powerful tools.
Why do you need the word bully? Why are we not focusing on the victim?
  • Bullying laws, glorify the bully. The word victim is more appropriate. So many of us have been victims.
  • Wish we would focus on the victim rather than the bully.
  • People don’t know what that means. Bully is a newer word, victim is a longstanding word.
  • Sometimes if you use the word “mean” it is easier to identify.
Inspiration to Action: What Can You Do NOW?
  • Bullying is an abuse, you don’t mediate you, stop it.
  • Peer allies, bystanders and advocates are critical in stopping bullying
  • Don’t blame your child and don’t blame yourself for bullying
  • Parents must stand up.
  • Need to overcome a culture of “ratting out”
  • Need legislation that addresses adult on youth bullying
  • Parenting classes
  • A culture of healing
  • When you see mean, intervene
  • Learn the words that can stop bullies
  • All teachers need to work together to change the culture of a school
  • Students need to know that teachers and parents are trained.
  • Should the word bullying be used?
  • Teach girls that it is OK to say “no”.
Please add any suggestions, comments or stories of your own!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Facing History and Ourselves is hosting a conference on empathy, bullying and homophobia on October 8, which is a great follow up to this Salon conversation. Read more about it on their website http://www.facinghistory.org, or on the Salons at Stowe August 13 blog post: http://salonsatstowe.blogspot.com/2013/08/facing-history-and-ourselves-conference.html.