48 Hours’ “Words Can Kill” and bullying: solutions or more awareness?


Tonight, CBS News “48 Hours” program is going to air a special on bullying called “Words Can Kill.” I’ve seen this coming for a long time and am eager to see how it turns out.  Last Spring, I was in repeated, lengthy conversations with Kathleen O’Connell and Deb Grau about the plans for the show and shared a lot of information with them. I was also actively working with them to help them find a school that was willing to go “on the record” about bullying and talk about steps they were taking to solve bullying in their schools.

As it turns out, the schools I had introduced them to didn’t follow through after several rounds of talks, so they (and we) weren’t included, but I’m hopeful that the background info I provided was helpful to the program’s efforts.

I’ve seen the sneak peak (and you can view it here), and it looks interesting.  Cynthia Logan who is an online “friend” of mine because of the tragic loss of her daughter, Jessie, to bullycide is extensively interviewed. From what I’ve seen, however, I’m worried that this piece is going to be only more of the same of what we’ve already seen: awareness of the problem and exposure to how horrible it is.

Where are the solutions? One Middle School in Rhode Island is profiled, taking an active stand against bullying. But, what about other approaches? Stopping bullying requires a comprehensive approach, one that deals in both prevention and remediation. As I shared in a webinar completed yesterday, it takes both a strategy and an implementation plan. In fact, we’ve outlined seven steps that are really required to not only stop bullying now, but also to keep it from recurring.  I’ll be intersted to see what this school is doing; most “plans” stop after Step 3, and then they wonder why nothing significantly changes.

What the biggest hope I have of this piece is that it causes schools to reevaluate how important it is to take greater steps in solving this problem.  If the predominant attitude is: “well, we can’t afford to do more,” or “we already have a program/policy in place,” then the 48 Hours project isn’t going to much to change that attitude.  It will likely spur greater reaction among parents, who will find the horror of what occurred in several of these bullying and cyber bullying cases appalling.  But, they may not have much influence on the schools who feel that budget and time pressures prevent them from implementing other options.

Ultimately, I don’t think we need more awareness. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear a story about bullying, see it in action (just watch a political program or listen to talk radio), or learn of another child who’s been a victim. What we need is to take this information and turn it into action.  And that means action that is effective, proven, measurable and continual.  Bullying is everyone’s problem and we all need to be involved to put a stop to it.  160,000 kids a DAY shouldn’t be afraid to go to school.  Students (and teachers) shouldn’t be harassed, teased, hurt and humliated because they are perceived to be “different” in some way. Heck, we’re ALL different!  But, we are more the same than we are different and it’s time we took those same goals and hopes for our kids and turned that into energy for change.

If that’s what happens as a result of 48 Hours’ program, then it’s a success.  Otherwise, it’s another rock in the Grand Canyon because on Monday, nothing will have changed.

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Categories : cyber bullying

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