From Restorative Justice Skeptic to Advocate in 2 Weeks

Walking back into my middle school classroom after being out the previous day at a training, I first noticed that the colorful plastic chairs were not stacked neatly on desks as they usually are. I could also see some papers scattered on the floor; usually my students are great about following the clean-up routine.

Queer Youth Must Get Sexual Health Care While Incarcerated

As “bathroom bills,” military transgender bans and elimination of protections for LGBTQ federal employees demonstrate, we are a long way from a society in which coming out is a realistic option for all. The truth of this likely hits youth the hardest, who still risk family rejection, bullying, even homelessness for coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

TV Series Brings Neighbors Together to Help Family in Crisis

Back in the fall of 2011, kids bullied Alycin Mabry so severely that her mom decided to home school the Atlanta 14-year-old. At the time, her mom Annise Mabry saw homeschooling as the shining answer the family needed. But today, Mabry says, it’s clear that their struggle was far from over. “Maybe two or three months into the online school, Ali started to become more and more isolated,” Mabry said. “I just couldn’t get her out of the room.

Experts Say New Federal Rule Brings Hope for LGBTQ Youth in Custody

Given the high rate of torment suffered by LGBT youth in custody, activists applauded last week’s finalizing of a landmark law that took nine years to get from adoption to implementation. Last Monday, the federal Department of Justice finalized a set of guidelines under the Prison Rape Elimination Act that could help stem the risks of the already at-risk LGBT population that is incarcerated, including minors. “We were already working on this issue while PREA was being passed, but this raises awareness,” said Sarah Schriber, senior policy analyst with the Chicago-based Health and Medicine Policy Research group and community convener for the Illinois Court Involved LGBTQ Youth Task Force. According to Schriber, few juvenile detention center personnel even knew what the existing anti-harassment rules were. “A much harder part is making those policies meaningful on the ground,” she said.

After Edits, “Bully” Receives Lower Rating from MPAA

A wider (and younger) audience will be allowed to see the documentary “Bully” in theaters thanks to a new edit of the film that received a “PG-13” rating. The film was initially rated “R” by the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) ratings board meaning anyone under 17-years-old must be accompanied by an adult, Reuters reports. The new rating lowers that to 13-years-old. Lee Hirsch, director of the anti-bully film, cut three scenes because of language but left in a key scene for which he lobbied hard. “I’m just glad that we held strong.

Is Bully Movie Being Bullied with “R” Rating?

“Bully,” a documentary movie that follows five kids who are brutalized by classmates over the course of the year, is set to hit theatres by the end of the month, but not as many teens may be seeing the movie as the producers had hoped. When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) stamped the movie with an “R” rating back in February, a number of people raised concerns that it may not reach many in the demographic the film aimed to impact — those under 17 and still dealing with aspects of bullying in their daily lives. What do you think of when you hear about bullying? Hitting, slapping, harassment, name-calling and profanity are but a few of the adjectives that come to mind. All are present in the movie — and why wouldn’t they be?

Alicyn and Annise Mabry 1

Series Exploring Bullying to Air on Georgia Public Broadcasting Radio

A collaboration between the Southern Education Desk and JJIE will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s 17 radio stations this week. The series, focusing on bullying, was written by GPB’s Maura Walz and JJIE’s Chandra Thomas. Below is a breakdown of the series’ schedule:

Tuesday, November 8 during All Things Considered (5:50pm) and Wednesday,
November 9 during Morning Edition (between 6:00-9:00am)


1. Georgia’s Revamped Bullying Law Arrives In Schools (Maura Walz)

Description:  Public school students and parents are seeing some changes
this year in the way their schools handle bullying. That’s because of a
law passed by the legislature last year that schools are now starting to
put into practice.

Me My Sister and the Bully

At age 12 we moved from a small town in Kansas to a suburb of Albany, .N.Y. Over the summer, I befriended another boy named Dean. On the first day of school, while at the bus stop in front of my house, a group of boys approached. When Dean saw them, he became visibly upset.

“What’s wrong,” I asked.

“That’s Jeff and his gang.” he said. “They’re trouble.”

It was not their bus stop. “This could not be good,” I thought.

When they arrived, Jeff said something I couldn’t make out, but I knew from his tone and body language that he wanted to pick a fight with Dean.

Having been raised to be chivalrous — or some would say “stupid” — I stepped between Dean and the gang and said something foolish that went something like “You will have to go through me.”

They just looked at each other and laughed. I thought their laughter to be incredulous but at the same time praying my mother would look out the window and rescue me.

She didn’t and I was contemplating, “Do I run toward the house or stay and get pummeled to death?”

Just before I turned to look at Dean, I was thinking, “At least I have my friend Dean.”

But there was no Dean. He opted to do what I was just thinking, he ran!

I turned back around facing Jeff. He says to me, “What are you going to do now?”

Just as I was about to run, I heard a loud motherly voice. In that split second, I thought of my Mom — but it wasn’t her — it was Dean’s mom. He ran to get help.

“You leave now before I call the police,” she hollered.

Jeff and his gang of thugs left, but they didn’t forget.

A week later, I was standing in the back of a crowded bus. I felt a tap on my shoulder, I looked around and there Jeff stood with a hateful stare.

He slapped me across the face. I stood there and didn’t move. His friends were standing around waiting for me to do something. I didn’t. I was too scared.

They soon discovered I had a sister. She rode the same bus. It wasn’t long before they attacked her. That’s when my personality changed forever. I became a fighter.

I got into a lot of fights that year protecting my sister. The gang of bullies made sure to attack when adults were not around.

I took a beating physically and emotionally until it dawned on me that I could start my own gang. If Jeff can bully in numbers, I can defend in numbers.

My friends Mike, Louie, and John soon had my back. It didn’t take long for Jeff to figure out that I wasn’t worth his trouble. You see — my friends were bigger and smarter.

I fought off my bullies because I was resourceful. Most victims are not resourceful. The research shows that many teachers are not aware of the frequency of bullying in the school. Much of it has to do with the bully’s covert approach to harming others coupled with the victim’s failure to report the incidents of bullying.

Studies show that most don’t tell on their attackers for a number of reasons. In a survey of post-secondary students, most students believed that teachers are not helpful and may make the problem worse by drawing more attention to the bully without taking effective steps to prevent further abuse. The bully is now aggravated and the attacks occur more frequently and with greater intensity.

Other reasons given include fearing retaliation, feeling shame at not being able to stand up for themselves, fearing they would not be believed, not wanting to worry their parents, having no confidence that anything would change as a result, thinking their parents’ or a teacher’s advice would make the problem worse, fearing their teacher would tell the bully who told on him or her and thinking it was worse to be thought of as a snitch.

What should we expect from kids who are under neurological construction? Their frontal lobe — the part of the brain that translates emotion into logic — is not developed until age 25.

For my sister and I, we didnt want our parents to worry. It’s an interesting paradox the love between a parent and child. My parents were nurturers. They were protective — not overly so — but always hugging, asking questions, and in our business.

Here is the rub — knowing the extent of their love also meant knowing the anguish and pain they would experience if they knew our pain. They always told us we could talk to them and share problems, but we didn’t always do that. Not because we didn’t trust them, but because we loved them, in our cognitively short-sighted way.

In hindsight, my adolescent male ego was bigger than my immature frontal lobe. I didn’t want the bullies and others to witness my Mom in action to save me and my sister. I trusted my Mom to fix things but I didn’t want the embarrassment of being labeled a “momma’s boy.”

Ironically, my selfless chivalry was in part driven by my selfish need to avoid humiliation. Sadly, this irony placed my sister in harm’s way. I am sure she wasn’t concerned about mommy coming to the rescue. My emotions were not getting filtered through an objective lens to reach logical decisions. That’s the nature of adolescence.

As I cull through the evidence-based approaches to combat bullying and look back on those dark days, I am convinced that the best approach is not zero tolerance, it’s teaching the teachers to identify bullies coupled with programs designed specifically to assess and respond to their need to bully.

Otherwise, kids will continue to be traumatized. They will find their own way to deal with it. Some are resourceful — most aren’t.

The effects can be long lasting. Others simply try to take their own life — and some succeed.