Mike Dreiblatt, author of the book, “How to Stop a Bully and Social Aggression” gave Akron-Westfield Community School District parents, students and the public his knowledge of this important topic Nov. 7 in Akron.
“I am on the road with the presentation 30 weeks a year all across the nation. The school (A-W) contacted me. It is always best when they call me first and don’t wait until there is a tragedy,” said Dreiblatt. “It is a long-term effort of one of expectations, one that involves the whole staff and parents.”
“Technology has revolutionized bullying to the negative,” said Dreiblatt.
On the positive side, there is much more awareness of the problem than a decade ago.
“Now 49 of the 50 states have laws regarding bullying at schools,” said Dreiblatt.
“The U.S. Secret Service did a study on those who were committing the acts of shooting at schools in the 1990s. They found most of the shooters were males who had been victims of bullying and said ‘I’m not going to take it,’” said Dreiblatt.
“Small towns with their Grades K-12 school systems may present a problem for students who may be labeled and cannot get rid of that label no matter how much they achieve later on,” he said.
“Bullying is the abuse of the difference in power,” said Dreiblatt, whose company is “Stand Up To Bullying”.
“Physical bullies are action-oriented. This type of bullying includes hitting or kicking a victim or taking or damaging a victim’s property,” he said. “Verbal bullies use words to hurt or humiliate another person. Verbal bullying includes name-calling, insulting, making rude comments and constant taunting.”
“Cyber-bullying is the worst type because it doesn’t have to be physical,” said Dreiblatt. “You can get back at someone for a perceived wrong by hiding behind a computer. Cyber bullies hurt or humiliate others using modern technology such as a cell phone, text messaging, digital photography, and/or the Internet via Instant Messaging, e-mails and websites.”
Dreiblatt told of some strategies and resources of how to handle cyber situations.
“At our house we have the computer in the middle of the kitchen so we can see what is on it. If you close it, then you’re off the computer,” said Dreiblatt.
Several parental control softwares are available. Dreiblatt said, adding he favors telling children if those controls are being used. Examples are:
• www.softforyou.com and
“They filter everything that goes in and everything that goes out,” said Dreiblatt.
Relational bullies use relationships as a weapon through acts including manipulation, silent treatment, targeting social status, rumor spreading, and ‘do (or don’t do) this and I won’t be your friend.’ This type of bullying is known as social aggression,” said Dreiblatt.
“Studies of video cameras have shown that the average bullying incident takes 28 seconds. When bystanders intervene, it takes seven seconds,” said Dreiblatt, explaining the characteristics of the bullying’s target.
Passive or submissive targets signal to others through attitudes and behaviors that they are insecure individuals who will not respond strongly if victimized, the audience was told.
“Passive or submissive targets are physically weaker than others their age, especially boys afraid of being hurt and who have poor coordination and don’t do well in sports; have poor social skills and have difficulty making friends; are cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn and shy; have poor self-esteem; are anxious, insecure and cry or become upset easily; have difficulty standing up for themselves or defending themselves with others; relate better to adults than kids their age,” he said.
“The group wants to know what you will bring to the table, will you help with homework or make us laugh. Being sensitive doesn’t cut it,” said Dreiblatt.
“There is also the provocative target of bullying, who shows having both anxious and aggressive patterns; are hot-tempered and attempt to fight back when victimized; hyperactive, restless and have difficulty concentrating; clumsy, immature and exhibit irritating habits; do not develop social relationships with other students or adults, including teachers,” he said.
Working with school officials and their chain-of-command, parents, if they learn of bullying, should develop a plan of action for their child.
In working with the school, parents should prepare well for a meeting and work with the school for a safety plan to be put in place such as addressing problem areas at school, although Dreiblatt said schools most of the time are very safe places for students to be due to supervision. Also beware of the information that school officials may give out, hearing responses such as “age-appropriate action” and “our handbook policy” protects all involved’s privacy.
Dreiblatt also told parents of pitfalls to avoid when dealing with school officials such as: don’t assume you are the only one who is watching out for the best interests of your child; don’t make negative assumptions about staff; don’t speak for others; don’t threaten or intimidate.
“Parents should not confront other parents whom they suspect have bullying children because they often will be defensive. They should go to a school official or coach or religious leader,” said Dreiblatt.
Dreiblatt recommended to audience members how to work with a child that has been bullied. Be a good listener and empathetic; let them lead; get more information; make changes and help build the child’s skills; provide opportunities for emotional expression.
“The child may tell everyone else except his parent he’s being bullied. If he tells you as an adult, that is a compliment.”
According to Dreiblatt, for Grades 3-10, students should go to an adult and clearly tell the adult what has happened and what steps he or she has taken.
For others, courses of action may be :
• Ignore or walk away with a purpose to another group of students or adults;
• Tell the person to stop and then walk away; and
• Warn that you will go to an adult and then walk away.
Protect your body at all times, said Drieblatt. This may have to be shown or a learned skill such as through martial arts.
Assertive communication is important through effective, respectful communication, through being strong without being aggressive and standing up for yourself. This is done through a calm demeanor; body language, displaying a stillness and a strength; make eye contact but not ‘stare down’; neutral tone of voice, with depth, not too loud, soft, or whiny; words, statement of what you want, short and to the point, “Leave Me Alone!” he said.
Some damages bullying can have include fear of going to school, physical symptoms of illness related to anxiety, declining grades, diminished self-esteem, diminished social and personal development, and depression.
Bullying also damages the bystanders by desensitization to violence, feeling anger and helplessness for not knowing what to do, nightmares about being the next target, guilt for not taking action and fear of certain areas in school.
Strategies to influence bystanders to take more action are:
“Make bystanders aware that their own behavior can encourage or discourage bullying. Teach skills that bystanders can use to intervene when they witness bullying. Hold bystanders accountable for their behavior in bullying situations. Structure classroom and school-wide activities to encourage bystanders to develop positive relationships with potential victims.
To contact speaker Mike Dreiblatt, visit the website: www.StandUpToBullying.net; or email him at info@StandUpToBullying.net; or call him at 1-802-362-5448; or write him at 136 Clover Lane, Manchester Center, VT. 05255.
Dreiblatt is a former school teacher in New York City’s public school system as well as in his native Vermont. He took up anti-bullying efforts some 15 years ago.
There is often response from schools or parents after such a presentation as he gave at the A-W auditorium last week.