In partnership with State Services for the Blind of Minnesota we are proud to present, PACER Center – Champions for Children with Disabilities:
A Visit with pACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center Director Julie Hertzog
Full Transcript Below
Julie helped start the Bullying Prevention Center back in 2006 and is a recognized National Leader in Bullying Prevention. She has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Time for Kids, PEOPLE, Family Circle and The Huffington Post.
Julie sits down with Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities in the first of a series of podcasts in partnership with PACER Center and State Services for the Blind. Be sure to check out our upcoming Pacer Center podcast featuring the Simon Technology Center and how innovations and opportunities are being created every day and every way. You can find the entire PACER Center series here.
From the web:
PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expands opportunities for children, youth, and young adults with all disabilities and their families so each person can reach his or her highest potential. PACER operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.
With assistance to individual families, workshops, materials for parents and professionals, and leadership in securing a free and appropriate public education for all children, PACER’s work affects and encourages families in Minnesota and across the nation.
You can find out more about PACER Center on the web at www.Pacer.org
And PACER’s national Bullying Prevention Center at www.Pacer.org/Bullying
You can reach pACER Center by phone at 952-838-9000
You can find out more about State Services for the Blind on the web at
And by calling 651-539-2300
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PACER Center – Champions for Children with Disabilities: A Visit with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center Director Julie Hertzog.
Child 1: Bullying is hurting too many people in this world.
Child 2: Sometimes I cry when I’m being bullied.
Child 3: Bullying makes me feel sad, when I am bullied I try to walk away.
Child 4: Sometimes they punch you in the eye, it’s so bad that you could cry.
Child 5: I got bullied at school.
Child 6: Children leave me out of games.
I don’t like it at all.
Jeff: State Services for the Blind of Minnesota presents “PACER Center Champions for Children with Disabilities”.
This episode focuses on bullying and with us today we have Julie Hertzog, director of PACERs National Bullying Prevention Center.
Julie helped start the bullying prevention center back in 2006, and is a recognized national leader in bullying prevention.
You can find out more about PACER Center and PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center on the web at www.PACER.org, we hope you enjoy.
Jeff: Welcome to Blind Abilities, I’m Jeff Thompson.
We are at the PACER Center located in Bloomington, Minnesota.
We’re talking to the director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Julie Hertzog.
Julie, can you fill us in on what Pacer Center is all about and what you do as Director the National Bullying Prevention Center?
Julie: Sure, thank you Jeff.
Yes, we are in Bloomington Minnesota at Pacer Center and PACER is actually an acronym, P A C E R, and its Parents Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights ,though that’s probably outdated.
We’ve been around since the late 70’s and we, our organization began when students with disabilities were given the federal right to be included in the classroom and so that law today is called the IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and so we are a parent advocacy organization and what we do is help parents understand what their rights are when their child has a disability in an educational setting.
People will oftentimes say, well where does your connection to bullying come in then as a disability organization?
In response to that, as an organization we’re here in Minnesota, so we do take a lot of calls from parents in Minnesota, and starting in, well it was around early 2000, we noticed that our staff noticed that we were taking more and more calls about kids who were involved in bullying situations and really both kids who were being bullied as well as kids who were doing the bullying, and a lot of those stories just kind of broke our hearts.
We knew that we wanted to, to do something we knew we wanted to take action.
And at the time bullying in early 2000, it really wasn’t something that people were talking about and so PACER pioneered a lot of the education that happened around early 2000, and in 2006 we actually formed a program under the PACER umbrella called PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.
And the connection to our mission with disability is that students with disabilities are bullied two to three times more than their non-disabled peers, and at the time when we formed the National Bullying Prevention Center we knew that, we wanted to always make sure that we emphasize students with disabilities, but to really make a difference, we realized that we, we also wanted to focus on any kids who are vulnerable to bullying and whether that was a student with a disability, are being bullied based on their disability, on their race, their religion, their weight, their gender, we wanted to be inclusive.
But we also didn’t want to focus just on the kids who are being bullied, we wanted to really engage, we knew to make a difference, we wanted to engage the entire community, so we wanted to be speaking to schools, we want to be speaking to teachers, and and parents, and the students themselves because at that time we had adopted the tagline, the end of bullying begins with you, and we knew that we wanted to really have a community conversation about this.
That it wasn’t about saying that, you know, schools need to fix this, or teachers need to fix this, or the kids need to fix it, it was really about all of us working together.
And so that is the background on the National Bullying Prevention Center and how we got started.
Jeff: You mentioned something that really struck me as it’s more than just one person, it well, it is about one person, what I’m getting at is, it’s a community, it’s the family, and the communication that happens between all of them that will help solve this.
Julie: Yeah for so long we talked about some of those misperceptions that we had about bullying or some of those stereotypes that we had about bullying and if you think back to early 2000, I remember when I first started working on this and again I’ve been on this project since its origin and there was so many statements such as boys will be boys, yeah, meaning that it was justified because they were boys, that it was okay for them to fight, that’s just the way it was.
Of course, we’ve all heard that universal one, sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.
We know that that is not true, that bullying is not only about physical, it’s about emotional, and you know through the years we’ve had kids say some really poignant things like, words are like weapons, or words will break your heart, and we know that that emotional bullying has just as much effect on students and probably lives inside them much longer even than the physical bullying has.
There’s also other stereotypes and misperceptions out there that have rationalized bullying for so long such as, you know, just fight back, or you know, kids have also been blamed for why the behaviors happening to them and parents or adults have said to kids, well if you didn’t act that way, bullying wouldn’t happen to you.
And so those are all things that in early 2000, just those stereotypes allowed bullying behavior to perpetuate because we were silent, so when a child was reaching out to us and we were saying things back to them like, well what did you do to make that happen?
Really what we were doing is shutting down the conversation and any options that they had to make it stop.
Or even when kids would tell an adult that someone else was being bullied, you know our response was, don’t be a tattletale.
And so again if we’re so long what has happened is our society allowed the behavior to perpetuate not, not intentionally but, there was also that statement of, bullying is just a natural part of growing up, I mean those, those were all rationalizations for the behavior for so long.
But I will say around you know in that early kind of mid-2000’s that people really started recognizing the incredibly negative impact that bullying had, not only short term, but also long term.
And there was a couple things that happened at that time in that, the results of the advent of social media at that time.
I can remember saying that in 2006 that the Internet is the new bathroom wall, meaning that bullying used to be limited to the school or you know, possibly the neighborhood and kids could go home and escape that, well maybe except for that occasional phone call that they would get or something, but they were really able to, you know, go back home and remove themselves from it.
But with social media it became their, you know with the evolution of technology also became the evolution to bully, and so kids were vulnerable to bullying 24 hours a day, and I think that that was one of the reasons that bullying really was put on kind of that national dialogue and also there was a recognition that kids because of things like self-harm, things like depression, anxiety, we began to recognize that there was medical things happening with our kids that were the result of being bullied, and also their you know, the suicide ideation, and suicide attempts, became part of the dialogue as well.
So those two things really kind of started to put bullying much more in the public radar and also, they turned a lot of those stereotypes around and we recognize that bullying was a very serious issue for our kids.
Jeff: You mentioned in the beginning that educating parents and giving them tools to deal with some of the stuff that comes with, I mean mostly parents in my situation that I know, they didn’t choose to become a parent of a child with disabilities, and where do they go for that so, that’s what PACER was basically built on.
Julie: Absolutely and Jeff I’ll just share too that I am the parent of a young man who was born with Down syndrome, who was also nonverbal, he has a feeding tube, a pacemaker, some really significant medical issues and so, it was David who, he was three when I started here at PACER, and he’s now 21, and it was thinking about those vulnerabilities of kids that really inspired our, my work here, and also the work of others, in that so much of bullying happens because someone is not able to defend themselves against it, and so it was about how do we educate parents to raise kids who are self-advocates?
How do we educate parents to be advocates for their own children?
You know and I think back, and again I’ll just reference back to 2000, so often when kids would tell their parents that they were being bullied, I think the first response from parents from majority of parents was, oh just ignore it, it’ll go away, and you know, and that came from a really good place, and I think parents hoped that by ignoring it, it would stop, but we know from history that just ignoring it does not make a go away, in fact it usually gets worse, and and I remember kids, there was some kids who jokingly when we were talking to them for the focus groups and everything else and they said, well what if I would tell my parents to just ignore their annoying boss?
Would that be a solution to the situation?
And I remember there was another kid he said,
What if I told my parents just to ignore their bills?
Would their bills just go away?
And so, you know we’d say that, and we realized that, how ineffective that response was, but that was the only thing we had at that time, and we know now that there’s so many more solutions.
And since 2000 now, every state across the nation has a law about bullying, and bullying prevention in schools, and legislators focused on the school environment when creating those laws.
So, we now know that parents and kids have rights and within every state about what can happen if they’re being bullied and those weren’t in place before, and we also teach parents just how they could be supportive of their child.
So instead of being that dismissive, just ignore it, we help them understand how important it is to talk through it and let them know that they’re not alone, that we’re getting, that you’re gonna as a parent, you’re gonna be there to help them learn how to advocate their way through it, and I would say to Jeff, that you know, I think for my own son even, self-advocacy skills were so important for him and being a child who’s nonverbal, one of the things that we taught him how to do is, if, if you’re not feeling comfortable, first thing we want you to do is find a teacher, and we had that written into his IEP, and even from there we continued developing more strategic options for him.
Jeff: So, when I was on the website for the National Bullying Prevention Center, I noticed there’s some videos and it just wasn’t a collection of videos, they were broken down into young children, teens, and you know it even led to what you’re talking about educating adults.
Can you tell us a little bit about those videos?
They really impacted me because it brought me back to the realization that, I may have been part of, not may have, I was part of bullying a little bit and I was bullied, and it just it doesn’t go away really, because it all came back to me pretty vivid, pretty, it was all there.
Child 7: It makes me cry after school.
Child 8: We are different in many different ways, size, shape, and color.
Child 9: I have been bullied so I know how it feels to everyone going through a hard time out in the world.
Several child voices: Tall, short, skinny, or round, tall, short, skinny, or round, you have a voice, so make a sound. never meant to be the same.
Child 10: You have to care because there are other people in the world besides you that have feelings.
Child 11: Bullying can prevent good in the world and make the bad go in the world.
Child 12: It’s not nice to bully, it’s better to be a friend.
Julie: Yeah absolutely, and you bring up such a good point to Jeff in that, one of the decisions we made very early on was to recognize that any student within the same day can play multiple roles in what we call a bullying situation, and that you may be that young person, you’re on a bus riding to school and someone might be throwing, you know, wads of paper at the back of your head over and over and everybody’s laughing.
So you’re that person that’s targeted by bullying on the bus and so you can imagine how that feels, that vulnerability, you’re on the bus and you get to school and there’s all sorts of emotions you’re feeling, you’re, you know you might be feeling anger, you might be feeling fear, you might be feeling sad, and then you get off that bus and you walk into school and you see a kid by a locker and for whatever reason you just decide to push that kid because you know that you can, and you you push that kid, you’ve now taken on that role of the kid who’s doing the bullying.
The next hour you might be witnessing a similar situation you know, in your own classroom, and so to just be labeling kids as a bully, or as a victim, or as you know, somebody who sees it, it wasn’t strategic for us.
We realized that this is the root of all bullying, it’s a social issue.
It’s a very social issue and by us allowing the behavior to continue to happen without anybody saying anything about it is why it was perpetuated for so long, and I think it’s about, we say bullying is about behavior, and so our kids, they’re about behaviors, they’re not about labels, and what we really want to do is be educating them, and Jeff you mentioned those videos and I think that, again in today’s culture, and our evolution, the way we absorb information, we thought it was so important to be offering everybody a variety, so everything from being able to read information, to listen to information, to have access to videos, and you know, and we do a lot of interactive stuff as well.
The video series we wanted to touch a parent audience because we want to be giving them a little bit different information than what we would give our kids.
So, we actually do have three different websites.
We have the National Bullying Prevention Center which we consider our portal page, and that’s really for our adult audience, and then we also have two age-appropriate websites.
One is called Teens Against Bullying and that is for middle and high school students, and the second is called Kids Against Bullying, which is for elementary school students, so we present to information that that’s age-appropriate on those sites through a variety of dissemination, so everything from reading, to interaction on the website, to videos.
Jeff: Yeah that was really interesting because I think the ones for kids had animated drawings, it actually described what was going to be on there and said drawings that the kids did, and then their voices, so it really brings it home, and when you witness, or you hear that kids voice, and the tones in their voice, it really like, you can feel it and you mentioned something about everyone’s kind of a participant in it.
Either your bullying, your target, or you’re a bystander.
Julie: Yeah and you know, bullying doesn’t affect just that kid who’s being bullied because when we think about, we like to talk about bullying on a continuum, so if you take a hundred students and you’d line them up, there’s gonna be ten students who are frequently targeted by bullying, there’s gonna be ten students who maybe are doing the bullying, but that leaves these eighty kids in-between who probably you know might experience bullying a little bit, or might participate in groups, but they’re also that 80 percent that sees it happening and you know Jeff I’ll tell you universally from talking to kids for, for the past almost twenty years, that group doesn’t like it, they don’t like what they see, but what they’ve never had in the past is that they didn’t feel empowered to do something about it.
You know it goes back to maybe one of those kids in that group was the one that went and told a teacher when they saw a bully and when they were met with, don’t be a tattletale, you know what does that do, it shuts them down, they’re not going to go back again and say something about it, and so again, it’s about making that cultural shift to really engage that 80% to be what we call advocates.
It goes back to our PACER model of advocacy, and we say it’s advocacy for self, and advocacy for others, and so really giving that that group the dialogue and the tools about, what do you say if you see a bullying situation?
And I think that 80% is so important for our kids with disabilities to because the majority of bullying is happening outside the adult’s world, and so it’s happening in places like a bus where there’s not adults, you know, the one person who’s on a bus is the bus driver, and what are they doing, they’re facing the other way of where all these kids are sitting behind them.
And so bullying also happens online, in places where adults aren’t, you know that’s why so many social media sites that adults are using, kids aren’t, because they want to be in a world of their own choosing, and interacting with each other.
And so if you think about it, it becomes extremely important for this peer group, this, these bystanders to be empowered to do and say something about bullying, and especially for those who aren’t able to stop it on their own.
And there’s also a really powerful statistic that almost 60% of bullying situations will stop when a peer intervenes and that peer invention becomes so much more powerful than anything in an adult could ever do because just as kids who bully have a lot of power, the peers can take that power away in that situation by saying, you know, we don’t accept this, this is not what our school is about, we’re better than this, and we’ve found that that it’s extremely effective.
Jeff: It’s cool to be kind.
Julie: Yeah you know you want to say something, it’s cool to be kind sounds really cool to us as adults, but we like to frame it a little bit different for kids and, and especially you know, I think our elementary school students, things like that still resonate with them, you can go with that, some of those really very simple messages.
Life gets a lot more complicated for our middle and high school students and how that empathy is, how do you tap into that natural empathy that kids have, because most people don’t want to see another person be hurt, but they don’t want to put themselves in that situation where they themselves might next become the target, or they get in trouble for sometimes intervening, and so you, you want to really make the payoff, you want to make the trade-off worth their investment of intervening and taking that risk.
Jeff: Yeah that group mentality, those eighty students, is it cool to be part of the cool group, that the group is doing this, or is it cool, and I think because of PACER and you know the states passing the laws about bullying that the youth now is starting to realize that it’s okay, and cool, those to step out step in, and be part of the conversation part of the solution to bullying.
Julie: Absolutely, and Jeff again, my son David, I remember when he was going into middle school and again, you know everybody has their individual vulnerabilities and for him, it was not being able to tell us if he was in a bullying situation he just he wouldn’t have that ability to do that and we wouldn’t know, and so one of the things that we wrote into his IEP at that time was about training kids to be his advocates.
So, at that time, we selected four young people who I knew were already allies of David and these weren’t popular kids, they weren’t the student council kids, they were they were kids I just knew who had empathy and who cared.
We gave them the training to look out for David because we knew that they would know about bullying long before any of the adults would and those students were amazing, and they had such incredible, just their own self-worth and their self-confidence was brought up so much by learning those advocacy skills for David that they shared it with friends and they told people how much you know, this meant to them being part of you know, being delegated with this responsibility, and so that model quickly expanded within my son’s school, that advocacy model and they became known as peer advocates.
And so, what we did is we continued to train students about what to do if they saw somebody in a bullying situation, how they could intervene, what kind of support they could provide for David, and we also provided an adult mentor that they could go to.
So that they could you know, share if there was something that was beyond what they could handle.
And that model was incredibly effective, and it became known as the peer advocacy model, and it’s still in place at that school today and I know we also have information about it on PACER’s website.
Yeah there’s a great video on there, there’s the toolkit, there’s statistical data, and there’s also a way that you can start it within your own school as well.
Jeff: And that’s what that toolkits about right?
Julie: We have several toolkits on the website, but there’s a peer advocacy toolkit on the website that really explains that model in more detail.
Jeff: In my world of disability with the blindness and vision loss and difficulty in reading the printed word, self-advocacy is an important skill to develop because typically the parents are what becomes a personís advocate to make, ensure that they’re receiving services, or they seek, come to PACER’s to learn how to be their advocate in a sense, but then there’s a point where the parent will assign chores, or wean them into responsibilities and self-advocacy because they’re going to transition from high school to college to the workplace and having that skill set is very important.
I was glad to see in the bullying that you guys mentioned self-advocacy.
Julie: Yeah, I would say with self-advocacy in bullying, the one important nuance there, is that, we want to make sure that we’re not putting full responsibility upon the student to stop it themselves because if they could have stopped it themselves they would have already done that.
But what we do say is that self-advocacy is very important and that’ll help you get your power back in this situation because I think so much about being bullied, you start to feel powerless, you start to feel like you don’t have any options, so in doing that self-advocacy piece is really powerful, and in the world of disability too, it’s important to note a couple things, that you have either your IEP, or your 504 that you can be writing those goals and objectives right into, and we’ve seen parents and teachers get incredibly creative with that.
So everything from identifying an adult that a young person can go to if they need help in a bullying situation, and, and that advice, because that isn’t always readily available in the school, and so writing that right into your plan is very important, or you know, we’ve seen other situations where students can leave class five minutes early just because if a hallway is really busy and they’re getting bumped around you know, quote-unquote by accident, when we really know it’s not by accident that it’s on purpose, you know maybe for a short period of time they want to leave class early just to make sure that, that it’s not happening, but ultimately we want that behavior to stop in the hallway and for it not to be happening so that they can be included with their peers.
But the other important piece is that there’s not a federal law about bullying, so every state has a law, but at the federal level there’s a law on harassment.
So, the distinction between that is that if the bullying is based on an individual’s disability, or their race, or their religion, or their gender, or their national origin, then it reaches a threshold of harassment, and at that time the Department of Education as well as the office for civil rights are looking at those scenarios too, so there are some protections in place when the bullying is based on an individual’s disability.
Child 13: I push myself and yet it is never enough.
Child 14: It’s never enough.
Child 13: And it’s hard to ask for what I need.
Child 15: I wish others could see that I may not be tough on the football field.
Child 16: Or deal with social events very well, but I am a dependable friend.
Child 17: It is hard to be understood.
Jeff: You mentioned harassment and bullying and you thinking about all the definitions as they’re defined in whether a dictionary, you know Webster would say, but it seems like they all blur together, it’s a little blurry like conflict harassment, bullying, can you talk just a little bit about that?
Julie: Sure I’ll give a quick 101 on a definition of bullying, and again Jeff, you know like you say it’s, it’s somewhat nebulous, and so I’ll go back to, if you’re listening to this, this recording in the state of Minnesota, Minnesota’s definition of bullying in the schools might be much different than how California legislation defines it, or legislation in Pennsylvania, but there are some common hallmarks that I’m gonna mention as far as what defines bullying.
So, the first would be that there has to be the intent to hurt, harm, or humiliate, and that can be either emotionally or physically.
So, everything from a push, a shove, to name-calling/gossip, so there’s that intentionality to hurt, harm, humiliate.
The second is is that, the act is typically repeated, instead of you know, but often you know, if it’s of significance it can be a one-time act, and I’ll use the illustration of say for example if somebody’s on social media and they say something really inflammatory and it reaches the an audience of a thousand people immediately, to me that may be a single act, but because it’s reaching a thousand people it would definitely hit that threshold of bullying.
The third is there’s this power imbalance, and again this is, this is I, you know, the imbalance of power up, with that in quotations because it sounds very lofty, but what it is is when a person has either more physical or social power, so everything from you know, so a larger person being much more intimidating to someone else, to a person of smaller stature, but it can also be social power you know, so often we hear it’s the quote-unquote the cool kids who are bullying, and so they have much more social cachet then the person that they’re bullying.
But that imbalance of power can also be about groups, because so often with bullying there’s a group mentality and you know, against one person, and it’s awfully hard to have power in that situation as an individual versus a group.
And the fourth one is that the person is not able to defend themselves, because we see a lot of times people act inappropriately, but it’s when, when that person is, feels vulnerable, and they’re not able to stop what is happening to them without the help of someone else.
The distinction between bullying conflict and harassment then, so with harassment, it has all those hallmarks of bullying, but it’s also, and again we’re looking at the legal definitions based on legislation, and so the distinction with harassment is that it has all the hallmarks of bullying, but it’s also based on an individual’s disability, gender, race, religion, national origin, and so the legal, that’s the legal definition.
And at the interesting nuance to is just to understand what the difference is between conflict and bullying because I think that’s very important with our kids, is that we want to let them know, that to have a disagreement, to have an argument, that’s a natural part of just life, and it’s going to happen through through life, and the distinction of when conflict crosses over into that threshold of bullying is when one person feels unsafe, they no longer feel safe in that disagreement, and also that most conflict will stop when the person realizes how much they’re hurting the other person, and so those are really those those distinctions.
Jeff: Yeah, I remember there’s something saying, guided by empathy that someone does then, retreat or realize they’re doing, they’re harming someone, they actually realize it, and some people just don’t.
Julie: Yeah and they’ll usually though, they’ll be an apology or just an acknowledgement of, hey I guess you know, we’ve, we’ve crossed a line here that’s not comfortable for someone, for the other person.
Jeff: I think the, one of the biggest things you know I, I knew I was coming here to talk about bullying and so I you know, looked at the website and I talked to a couple people about it, and I reflected some things in my past, and I just am grateful that the children today in schools and stuff have the opportunity to be part of the conversation that you and PACER are doing, the bullying prevention, are doing, that there is a conversation that people can join in on.
Julie: Yeah one of the I think important parts about our websites is that we wanted to make it not only educational, but we also want it to be aspirational and inspirational and you do that through the sharing of stories, and so if you do go on our website, one of our primary hub and navigation just lists stories, and that’s true in all three of our web sites, whether it’s for our kids, teens, or adults because we need to understand that impact that bullying has, and I think it’s so, it’s so easy to say, oh you know it’s horrible what happened to somebody, but when you read their their personal story, and you understand the impact that it had for that person, literally about them maybe not wanting to get up and go to school because they couldn’t face another day, it’s important to know that, and it’s those stories and the sharing of stories that really changes lives.
And so we wanted to have a way that people could interact and so story sharing is one of those, we also have a nice feature called I care because dot dot dot, where individuals can go on there and fill out why this topic matters to them, and again those are very poignant, and very telling, and also just that kind of that aspirational piece is that, we want the opportunity for anyone to get involved and we realized that we’re a small staff so PACER overall has a staff of almost seventy people but on our bullying prevention project there’s only three of us, so there’s three of us within PACER and we obviously have an infrastructure that supports us, but one of the things that we knew is that the only way we could make change with such a small staff was to really have people who wanted to get invested within every community and that’s really what we found is whether it’s kids, whether it’s parents, or teachers, or even community members, we want to give them tools so that they could be part of the conversation.
I think an important evolution you know, what you’ve heard me talk about what bullying was like in 2000 and where we are now in 2018 is that when we started in 2000 we really needed to be educating people about why do you need to care about this topic of bullying, and then you know, and the reasons were is because it had such a negative impact on her kids, everything from them not wanting to go to school, to also having these physical symptoms of depression and anxiety.
You know I think the majority of our society now understands that, that bullying is is not acceptable, but now we need to beware.
What are we going to do about it and what behaviors do we want to replace it with and so our conversation has continued to evolve to, we are together against bullying but we’re also United for attributes such as kindness, because again you can’t go wrong with kindness, and the world just needs a lot more of it.
But we also started talking about the concepts of inclusion and acceptance, and we chose those two very purposefully.
Inclusion because so often our students with disabilities are not included, you know traditionally they’re not included in a classroom setting, they’re not included in peer groups, they’re not included in friendships, and so to be having active conversations about that we felt was really important.
And the other values of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance, and I think so often bullying is about people’s differences and in thinking about it, so often what somebody is bullied about is really what makes them unique and valuable to society and I’ll just use my own that I, I’m five-eleven now, and I think I was five-eleven back in sixth grade and though I was teased about height and, but really that’s what I value, and I think in blind or visually impaired community, and again Jeff, you can probably speak to this, but it’s probably your uniqueness that you value about yourself.
And so one of the things that we want to do is to say that acceptance is about who somebody is and things that they cannot change, but it’s also probably what really they value most about themselves as well, and even my son with Down syndrome, I think what people value about him is his disability because of what he brings to a community, because of his uniqueness, and how he approaches life because of this disability.
Jeff: I’m so glad to be part of this conversation because I’m just reflecting back and you talked about acceptance, like when I first lost my eyesight there was a period of time there where I was like, hmm, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I was like kind of lost, so vulnerability at that point until I was able to accept my blindness, my visual impairment, then I could deflect comments or just things like that so, Julie what suggestions would you have for someone who may be experiencing bullying?
Julie: Sure, and I’m gonna look at this through the lens of we really focus on students in K through 12, and the first thing I always want to tell anyone who’s in that age range and/or their parents is to know that, especially if you are experiencing bullying, that you’re not alone, and and I say that Jeff because, one of the things we so commonly hear from individuals is that they feel like they’re the only ones that are going through this experience.
And you’re not alone, in that people are here for you, and if you are being bullied, absolutely as a young person reach out to somebody and let them know, because you have the right to do that, you have the right to be safe at school, you have the right to feel safe online, and so in talking to a parent it’s not a show of weakness, it’s a show of strength, and I think it takes incredible courage if you are being bullied to just show up to school every day, and so use that courage and translate it into action by talking to an adult and then figure out what you want to do to, to advocate to make it better, and part of advocacy is telling somebody and letting them help you through a plan, and you know whatever that plan may be, make it unique to you, that fits your needs.
And for adults, if you find out that your child is being bullied number one listen to them, and let them talk through it because it’s a very emotional thing, and you as a parent are going to be experiencing a lot of emotion if you find out that your child is being bullied.
Everything from why didn’t I know about this before to why didn’t they tell me before, but the most important thing you can do is be supportive and the 2nd thing is to go in and find out what your rights are, you know be calling us, or be emailing us, or going online and in finding out what your rights are because your child does have the right to be safe at school, I think that’s, that’s just of primary importance in of advocate.
Jeff: I don’t know this one will make the podcast, but as you’re talking there I was thinking, do kids who bully ever come forward and wonder why they’re doing it?
Julie: Yeah absolutely and it’s a great question and, and again, I can only speak [inaudible] from the kids that we that we have communicated with, but we’ve heard where kids go on our website and we actually have a checklist on there especially for our young kids and it’s called, do you bully?
And they go on there and they read through those behaviors and they, they read through it, and they say, wow I’m doing that, and they don’t realize the impact that they’ve had on another person through their actions, and so we need to be teaching our kids about what appropriate behaviors are, and if you as a parent find out that your kid is, is showing those bullying behaviors, absolutely be having that conversation with them and saying how can we redirect what you’re doing?
And teaching them how to have empathy for others, such an important piece, and, and I don’t think most kids would identify themselves as quote/unquote a bully, and so that’s where it’s particularly important for adults to be acknowledging those behaviors and saying what can we do to redirect them?
Jeff: Once again thank you so much for all this information, there’s just a wealth of information that I was able to tap into, I’m going on to the website and talking to you, and you know even this podcast people are gonna be listening, and it’s just, sometimes you feel like you’re in a vacuum in life, you’re isolated from it like, what do I know about bullying in a sense that do I have the answers, but with the conversation going on, and the website and stuff people can get connected to each other and share, especially their parents because they’re the ones if they know about it, they’re the ones that can do stuff too, and it’s just great resource.
Can you tell people how they can get to your website?
Julie: Absolutely, you go to PACER, again P A C E R, is that acronym that I talked about way back at the beginning and it’s PACER.org, and that’ll get you to PACER’s primary website, and then to reach the National Bullying Prevention Center you would put in PACER.org slash bullying.
Jeff: Well that’s easy enough, well Julie thank you so much for carrying on this conversation that we all need, and I don’t think just because I’m in the blindness community, and bullying doesn’t have boundaries, so opening it up to so much, most of our podcasts deal with blindness and stuff but we can’t hide from bullying because it it does exist, so thank you very much.
Julie: Thank you Jeff and thank you listeners!
Child 18: Sometimes we are just told to deal with it.
Child 19: Sometimes I don’t think I’m any different from other teenagers.
Child 20: We kind of all struggle to be understood.
Child 21: But yeah, I struggle.
Child 22: Emotionally and intellectually, it’s sad when people are insulted and made fun of because they have something they’re born with and cannot help but have.
Child 23: If only others could see, I have so much to offer.
Child 24: I would like to encourage kids of my generation…
Child 25: Well, really everyone….
Child 26: To be more kind each other….
Child 27: To be more kind to each other……
Child 28: To be more kind to each other.
Child 29: Think about how good it feels when someone comes to help you when you least expect it.
Child 30: We are all trying to fit in.
Child 31: We are all trying to fit in.
Child 32: We are all trying to figure life out.
Child 33: We are all trying to figure life out.
Jeff: Be sure to check out PACER’s Center Champions for Children with Disabilities and PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center on the web at www.pacer.org, and check out State Services for the Blind in Minnesota at www.mn.gov/deed/ssb.
Live, learn, work, and play.
And a big thank you goes out to Chee Chau and Steven Letnes for their beautiful music.
You can find Chee Chau on Twitter at lcheechau, and Stephen Letnes at stephenletnes.com.
For more podcast with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on twitter at BlindAbilities, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store, and on Google Play, that’s two words, Blind Abilities.
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And from Pacer Center, State Services for the Blind, and Blind Abilities, Thanks for listening, we hope you enjoyed, and until next time, bye bye!