Bullying leaves indelible imprint on a teen’s brain

A new wave of research into bullying’s effects is now suggesting that bullying can leave an indelible imprint on a teen’s brain at a time when it is still growing and developing. Being ostracized by one’s peers, it seems, can throw adolescent hormones even further out of whack, lead to reduced connectivity in the brain, and even sabotage the growth of new neurons.

The research is reported in a Boston Globe article which can be viewed by clicking here.

As reported in the Globe aticle, these neurological scars, it turns out, closely resemble those borne by children who are physically and sexually abused in early childhood.

This change in perspective could have all sorts of ripple effects for parents, kids, and schools; it offers a new way to think about the pain suffered by ostracized kids, and could spur new antibullying policies. It offers the prospect that peer harassment, much like abuse and other traumatic experiences, may increasingly be seen as a medical problem — one that can be measured with brain scans, and which may yield to new kinds of clinical treatment.

Click here to read the full Globe story.

Public comments wanted on bullying plan

In accordance with Massachusetts new anti-bullying law, the Franklin School Committee is seeking public comments on its proposed Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. The plan will be discussed at the next meeting on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 7:00 PM.

In addition to the public discussion, the committee is soliciting written comments by e-mail or letter.  For e-mails, please send your comments to:   millerd@franklin.k12.ma.us.  For letters, please send your comments to:  Franklin School Committee, 355 East Central Street, Franklin, MA 02038.

The public comment period will be open through Thursday, December 9, 2010. The plan will be finalized and voted on at the December 14, 2010 school committee meeting.

Click on the document below to read and review the proposed plan.  If you have trouble viewing documents on Scribd or would like to download a pdf directly, then click here.  Otherwise, you can view the plan below.

You can view more about the plan and the work of Franklin’s anti-bullying task force by clicking here.

President Obama delivers message to bully victims

President Obama posted a video this week telling victims of bullying that it will get better.  The president speaks directly to the camera saying, “I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay, but I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong.” The president calls for an end to the bullying-as-right-of-passage attitude and tells young people that “things will get better.”

You can view the video by clicking on the image below or clicking here.  The full transcript of his remarks are available by clicking here.

Cyber-bullying video from ABA

The campaign to stop cyber-bullying is properly getting attention in the media and many companies who have jointly produced a  video on the problem of cyber-bullying in schools. The cyber-bullying video below is the first in a series that the American Bar Association, Antitrust Section, through its Public Education Committee, produced to help high school students learn about the harmful effects of bullying. These videos are being funded in part by donations from American companies such as Microsoft Corporation and Time Warner Cable, Inc., and additional fundraising efforts are underway.

Editorial note (5/5/2011):  The original video was reworked after receiving criticism for showing a teen being bullied and deciding to take her life, while her three “mean girl” tormentors were hauled off by police.  The reworked video is shown below:

Emotional speech urging bullied young gays to persevere

A member of the bullying task force pointed out this clip from a Fort Worth, Texas City Council meeting from last week.  It is a very moving clip in which an openly gay councilman urges young people to seek help and to hang in there if they are being bullied due to their sexuality, as they don’t know now how wonderful their lives will turn out after high school.  His presentation was in response to the many gay related suicides lately.

In a heart-wrenching moment, the Councillor told of the bullying he endured as a teenager. “They said that I was a faggot and that I should die,” he said.   The harassment drove him to the verge of suicide.

“You will have a lifetime of happy memories if you just allow yourself and give yourself the time to make them.”

You can view the full clip by clicking below:

New software combats cyberbullying

Safe Communications, Inc. has recently announced the introduction of http://www.mousemail.com/. It is the company’s patent pending and secure digital environment for children.

This safeguards them from vulgar, sexual or hounding emails or text messages. If it detects any incoming or outgoing emails or text messages that contain doubtful content, it automatically forwards these mails to a parent to get approval before forwarding it to the child, or else, it will be stopped from going through.

Bill Bennett — former education secretary and former drug czar— has recently become a senior adviser to Safe Communications, whose first product, MouseMail.com, is designed to help combat the problems of cyberbullying and sexting.

The way MouseMail works, parents have to first approve who is sending their child texts. They can of course add names any time, but the requirement of parental approval forces parents to be involved, to have that first conversation with their child or children. As for the content of the e-mails and texting, once the parent approves the who, the child can e-mail and text freely, so long as what he is sent, and is sending, is not vulgar language, bullying language, or sexting imagery. If the language goes that way, it is blocked and sent to the parents — for them to approve, or not approve, and go back to having that conversation with their child.

You can learn more about the service by clicking here.

DOE hosts bullying conference

The U.S. Department of Education hosted its first conference on bullying this week, adding the issue to a steadily growing list of education priorities for the Obama administration. Leaders attending the conference tasked themselves with developing and implementing a national strategy that reduces and eventually ends bullying.

The conference — an interagency effort by the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, Defense, Interior and Agriculture — is the first of its kind, bringing together government and non-government players in the education field to discuss how to address bullying.

Highlights from the conference included the following:

Representatives from Dairy Queen, the Cartoon Network, and Facebook talked about ways that corporate America can help form partnerships with local communities and schools to prevent bullying in public schools. You can view that segment by clicking here.

A panel led by Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin addressed the impact of bullying and what programs work in combating it. You can view that segment by clicking here.

Representatives from the medical and criminal justice communities and teen mentors discussed current programs to help stop bullying in schools. You can view that segment by clicking here.

Arne Duncan addressed the Department of Education’s first summit on efforts to prevent bullying in public schools. He talked about ways to end bullying and creating a national strategy to help local communities address the problem. You can view that segment by clicking here.

A panel of child development researchers presented scientific research on bullying. Topics included aggressive behavior versus bullying, interventions for bullying, and factors that contribute to a climate of bulling. You can view that segment by clicking here.

You can view the entire program by clicking here.