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School districts take a STAND against bullying

As part of their stand against bullying, OHS students spelled out 'Oxford' on the football field. Photo courtesy of Edward John Photography. (click for larger version)
May 09, 2012 - According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a child is bullied every seven minutes. The anxiety from bullying leads 160,000 students each day to skip class. On Friday May 4, students from Oxford and Lake Orion said enough is enough.

As a symbolic act against bullying, students from around the country stood up at noon on Friday to bring greater awareness to the issue of bullying. The largest event in the nation was held here in southeast Michigan when 19 schools from Oxford and Lake Orion districts added a picture-perfect twist to the day.

Together, participating Oakland county schools spelled out the phrase "Be the change you want to see in the world. Oxford and Lake Orion join together 2 STAND 4 change." Photographer Ed Maurer took to the air to snap photos of the words made flesh on the ground far below his helicopter.

Pam Fine, OHS Special Education teacher for Oxford Schools, was very pleased with the turnout. Since bullying is a "big issue everywhere," Fine said, a big event like this aerial photo event is called for.

The logistics were organized by Pam Fine and Sarah Perry. The pair assigned a single word from the phrase to each school, and at a designated time students exited their school buildings to create a human version of their word.

Fine said the event was simply "amazing" and went better than she could have hoped. Fine was worried about the weather, and as the skies turned ominous, she began "praying so hard."

She must have had a receptive audience above, because "every school, and every shot went off perfectly," Fine stressed. Of 19 schools across the district, the event went just as timed. Every "student was on point, in place and ready" when the helicopter came over head.

Fine commanded the event from the press box at the OHS blue-turf stadium, and was with the "bully-buster" teams from Oxford and Lake Orion to form the shape of a heart near the boundary of the two districts on South Lapeer Rd. The heart was the last character in the phrase.

The Science of Bullying

Life Coach Jeff Gibbs said that efforts to curtail bullying can benefit by increased attention to the perpetrator. Naturally, he said, we rush to aid the victims, especially when the bullying leads to tragedy. But to understand how to end bullying, we should strive to determine what motivates the bully.

To understand bullies, Gibbs points to the Need-based theories of Cloe Madanes and Anthony Robbins, which identifies six core human needs that motivate all human behavior. At play in our psyche are a need for Certainty/Comfort, a need for Variety (or uncertainty), a need for Significance, a need for Connection with others (Love), aneed for Growth, and a need to Contribute.

According to Gibbs, the problem plaguing bullies, however, is that they have discovered a role that negatively reinforces multiple needs at once.

For instance, a bully finds significance, certainty, and variety through the acts associated with bullying, and thus has several core needs met. Certainty is gained when the bully controls the situation; variety is gained by the excitement and originality of the bullying situation; significance is met when the bully reaches a special place in his or her network of influence.

Though the behavior conflicts with other needs, like the need for growth or the need for connection, enough core needs are met to cement the patterns of bullying behavior.

Anti-bullying efforts thus can gain by paying more attention to the bully, and by seeking to find out what needs are met by bullying, Gibbs said.

To address bullying in their schools, both Oxford and Lake Orion Schools implement the Olweus prevention program. Following Gibbs, the Olweus identifies bullying behavior in schools for counselors and administrators. The Olweus method is part of the process to "create a different climate and culture" at the school, according to Pam Fine, one of five Michigan Olweus coordinators.

The Olweus method starts with a 40-question survey that analyzes bullying by type, location, grade, and gender. Based upon the data collected in the survey, counselors can schedule targeted interventions and class meetings to address and correct problem behaviors.

According to Fine, students are very receptive to the anti-bullying measures offered through Olweus. Though 80 percent will stand passively while bullying occurs, fully "90 percent of students want it to be different," she said. What's more, when schools follow the Olweus recommendation with fidelity up to a 50 percent decrease in bullying occurs.

Fine praised Oxford Community Schools for their "proactive and committed effort" to curtail bullying. Oxford is developing a common language," by which students can discuss bullying, and are being taught "how to intervene," Fine said.

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