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Dear Dr. London

Dr. London

Tune in for a one-on-one session with everyone’s favorite school psychologist, Dr. London. This week, Dr. London offers up advice on bullying.

Thirteen Reasons Why you Shouldn’t Allow Bullying

Dear Dr. London,

There’s a girl in my grade who is getting bullied, but I’m afraid to do something about it because then I might become a target. What should I do?


Worried and Afraid

Dear Worried,

First things first, thanks for coming forward with this question and bringing awareness to the topic of bullying.  While we’d like to believe that our school is bully free, that is simply not the case.  Feeling like you’ve been bullied or victimized is difficult for someone to face on his or her own. It’s important to seek help if you’ve been victimized or find a way to help someone if you are concerned about his or her well-being.

The definition of bullying has changed and evolved over the decades, especially as bullying incidents and violence have drawn national headlines.  What was once thought of as overt physical and aggressive behavior has come to have a much more comprehensive definition.

Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance AND the behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Here’s a short list of aggressive behaviors that now fall under the bullying heading:

Verbal Bullying : Saying or writing mean things- teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, threatening to cause harm.

Relational or Social Bullying: Involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships- leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone and, embarrassing someone in public.

Cyberbullying: Using technology including emails, texts, posts, blogs and/or social media to harm, embarrass, threaten and/or intimidate another person.

Physical bullying: Involves hurting a person’s body or possessions-hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, and making mean or rude hand gestures.

Now that you know what bullying is, here’s what you can and should do to help this girl out.

The number one thing that you can do is to be an active upstander. This is one of those buzz words that is actually very important. Fifty percent of the time, when an upstander intervenes in bullying, the bullying will stop within ten seconds. Too often, we fall victim to the bystander effect and assume that if other people are around, that they will do something instead.  We have to fight this psychological phenomenon and take action.  When you see someone being victimized, do something to stop it.  You can tell the bully to stop, stand next to the victim and be an ally, and/or report the behavior to a teacher or administrator.  Often times, victims of bullying are afraid to tell an adult because they fear retaliation, that things will get worse, or that they will be mocked and ridiculed if they seek help.

If you’re fearful that you’ll become the next target (a very realistic fear by the way), you can still help the victim.  Let her know that you know what’s going on and you don’t think it’s right. Perhaps you can go with her to speak to a teacher, counselor or administrator.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to her, you can also leave an anonymous note for an adult so that you know she will get help.

The bottom line is that she should not go this alone. The idea that sticks and stones can break bones but words will never hurt is completely false.  The book and now t.v. series on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why, has sparked a lot of discourse from our students about the link to bullying and suicidal behavior. Certainly, we’ve seen too many news stories to count about young teens who have taken their lives after being relentlessly tormented and bullied at school and online. These days, there should be absolutely no tolerance for mean-spirited, intentionally cruel behavior.  It is up to all of us to cultivate and foster a kind and warm school environment.  It is incumbent upon all of us to look after each other.  Let us not forget the words of Martin Niemoller, who wrote during the time of the Holocaust:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Scotty Bones

Dear Dr. London,

People always call me chicken legs, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Can you give me some advice to help build up my muscles?

-Scotty Bones

Dear Scotty Bones,

Embrace those skinny bones of yours!  Conformity and looking like everyone else is terribly boring and unoriginal. When people call you chicken legs, you can say, “thank you for the compliment.”

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