Hannah Kiddoo 2015-03-25 10:46:41
There’s a common thread among victims of bullying. TYLA’s newest project offers a space to talk about it. During a busy day at work in 2013, Dallas attorney Rebekah Steely Brooker received a surprising call on her personal cellphone. On the other end of the line was a fellow parent from her son’s school. Brooker listened intently as the woman began apologizing. She learned that the woman’s child had been bullying her son. Brooker was shocked. Her son had never mentioned any problems with classmates. He was, after all, only in pre-K. “It didn’t occur to me that bullying was something we needed to be thinking about,” said Brooker, president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. “If it’s happening to a four-year-old, I can’t even begin to imagine something more severe when you’re 14 years old.” In just a short conversation, Brooker’s eyes were opened to the widespread nature of bullying and its powerful reach. The stats are staggering: • One in seven students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. • 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school. • An estimated 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. And bullying is not limited to classrooms and playgrounds— it also happens online, where perpetrators hide behind screens. Equipped with this knowledge, Brooker set out to spread the word that victims are not alone. Soon, TYLA’s End Bullying Now project was born. With a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, Brooker and her team created biggerthanbullies.com, a website where individuals of all ages can go to get advice. For kids, there are tips on what to say when confronting bullies and examples of how to help others who are being picked on at school. Teens can read about psychological explanations for bullying, along with steps for improving difficult situations, while adults can access human resources material and other information on bullying in the workplace. “Bullying today looks and feels a little bit different, and the effects can be really lasting and felt almost immediately,” said Laura Pratt, who served as a project lead. “Most people nowadays, if they run into an issue, their first response is to Google it. Creating a website was an attempt to give them a place where they can get the information on the issue and actually look into other resources that may help.” Biggerthanbullies.com is packed with statistics, definitions, coping strategies, and links to additional information for parents, educators, and victims. The site also includes information on legal rights related to bullying. “Few people will ever need to hire an attorney to deal with bullying,” Brooker said, “but knowing the law gives them the power of information or makes them aware that this is a problem and it’s not their fault.” While the site is full of resources, it is the personal vignettes of victims that make the biggest impact. TYLA members reached out to public figures, asking them to share their experiences with bullying. Their stories populate the homepage and are meant to be a way for victims to connect with others in a similar situation. “What the project really evolved into is this idea that everybody has a story and that everybody has been bullied before,” said Lance Currie, a project lead. “One way to make people learn about how to deal with bullying is to first get them comfortable by exposing them to the concept that they’re not alone.” Former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco talks about being teased for his height, actress Allison Tolman, who starred in the television series Fargo, discusses cyberbullying, and model Will Jardell shares his horror stories of being teased in middle school because of his sexual orientation. “Be confident in who you are,” Jardell tells viewers at the conclusion of his video. “Everyone in your life who loves and cares about you is going to accept you no matter who you are as a person.” Securing big names for taping took some effort, but collaboration made it happen fairly easily. “One of the great things about working with the Texas Young Lawyers Association is it is just a fabulous group of leaders,” Pratt said. “Any one person on the board is going to have connections that somebody else on the board will not have. It becomes this vast network that you can tap into. And because bullying is such a pervasive problem in our society, almost everybody we reached out to was willing to share a story.” That universal experience is something TYLA members hope will keep the website growing. Visitors are encouraged to upload their own stories through self-produced videos and to get the word out by using the hashtag #EndBullyingNow. Several students, parents, and community members have already posted their accounts of being bullied. During stage two of the campaign, TYLA members will take the project on the road to continue the conversation, something Brooker appreciated doing with the mother who called her. “We didn’t come up with a magic solution, but we did agree that we would talk about the issue with our children,” she said. “I’m so excited to present this project throughout the state and beyond and start a discussion and a dialogue about the subject. Because that’s where we’re going to see changes happen.” For more information, go to biggerthanbullies.com. Videos and stories may be sent to email@example.com.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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