Parents, kids, schools should work together to fight bullying - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Parents, kids, schools should work together to fight bullying

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at Contact her at

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at

Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 1:11 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

As I drove my 9-year-old son to school last week - the first of the school year - I posed a question: "Do you know what a bully is?"

I was impressed with his answer: "A bully is someone who calls you names and pushes you around."

I can only hope he is never the victim - or perpetrator - of bullying.

Though school began in the last few weeks for many students, parents need to take their fight against bullying to another level. With the Internet and instant messaging, social media and cell phones, it's become a year-long watch.

Schools are helping students in the fight. Lawmakers passed a bill last year that allows parents and school employees, as well as students, to confidentially report bullying in person or through electronic means.

Schools are also now required to inform students of their rights regarding being the victim of bullying at the start of each school year.

Just last week, students at a Chandler junior high were given advice on how to handle bullying both in and outside the school grounds.

Audrianne Schneider, mom of two Chandler students and regional director of marketing for IASIS Healthcare, said it helps her daughters to hear about bullying from their school's police officer and not just from mom and dad.

"I'm glad to see the schools are having these conversations. I think when it comes from a police officer it has special meaning because that's an expert in crime. It supports what we're saying at home," she said.

The Schneiders already put restrictions on Internet use - no Facebook for their preteens - and before they gave the girls cell phones there were lots of conversations about safety.

Still, just three months after getting a phone, one of her daughters started to get text messages from a stranger. The Schneiders put a stop to it.

They were able to do that by being aware and keeping open communication with their daughter, who told them about the texts.

That's something all parents need to do, said Chip Coffey, director of outpatient services at St. Luke's Behavioral Health Center.

If you suspect something is going on, don't play, "Let's Make a Deal" with your kids by saying, "Tell me what's going on and I promise not to tell anyone," Coffey said.

Be the parent. Fight for your kids. Get the school - or the authorities - involved if deemed necessary, he said.

There's unfortunately still the "old mentality" that bullying just happens, Coffey said of public comments made during the debate for the increased state laws.

"I think people of my generation and older are still locked into bullying and what it was when we were kids. It's different now. It's more intense," he said.

Now, name calling and taunting can take place online, with more participants.

"You can't escape it, plus it's instantaneous. We've seen photos of dog feces being tagged with a kid's name on it. You can get it out there much quicker to everyone in that community," he said of social media.

At Chandler's Navarrete Elementary School, teachers and other school employees participate in a bullying committee to train the staff on what bullying looks like and how to report it, said Kendra Davis-Lopez, a school counselor there.

"The staff knows that it is not OK to ignore bullying in any form," she said.

The school has also adopted a pledge to make the campus "bully free," with support from the parent group through community events.

And for those children who do become the victims of bullying, Davis-Lopez created a small support group.

"I teach them to feel good about themselves, and to develop coping skills. I also have small groups for children that have been known to bully others, and I encourage them to develop empathy. I also teach them strategies on how to appropriately deal with their feelings of anger," she said.

Excessive bullying can often lead to anxiety and depression, as Coffey and his team at St. Luke's discover each day in talking to young people who are brought in for treatment.

In extreme cases, the victims may attempt - or commit - suicide, as national headlines have attested to recently.

If you suspect your child needs help, Coffey suggests contacting or (602) 248-TEEN. Another resource is The Trevor Project at or (866) 488-7386. The national organization provides crisis intervention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

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