“If you go to the zoo and you go up to the lion and you flick him in the nose and tell him he’s a kitten, [he’s going to bite you] because he knows he’s a lion.”
Are Anti-Bullying campaigns the best approach? An organization based out of New Philadelphia, Ohio believes there may be another way to solve the problem.
“Bullies really never go away. Into adulthood, into the workplace. There are mean people everywhere,” explained the Director of Unbulliable, Mandy Porter. “We’ve created a culture of victims.”
Conotton Valley Union Local School District is taking the lead in welcoming a new program that focuses on creating stronger kids who are more resilient and able to cope rather than traditional anti-bullying campaigns.
Speaking specifically on bullying at school, according to stopbullying.gov, bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can impact their ability to learn. This resource explains the best approach to solve bullying is to stop it before it starts.
Traditional and more common forms of attempting this tend to involve a theme that bullies are bad and that students should intervene and stand up to bullies. Porter noted that she isn’t convinced that is always the best approach and that it could alienate kids even more. “You have a kid, he has a rough home life, he comes to school and he’s a jerk for the day. Now, he’s got the label of a bully and the parents come in and say, ‘we are anti-bullying.’ This kid hears, ‘they are anti-me.”
She explained that anti-bullying campaigns may also, unintentionally, justify self-harm for a student being bullied. “Little Susie is being bullied and she’s thinking of hurting herself, but she also has some common sense to think hmmm maybe I’m overreacting. So, you have an assembly and you tell them bullying is so bad. It’s terrible. It is the worse things our kids are facing right now. We are so anti-bullying. And little Susie is going, ‘oh, maybe I was right.’”
According to Porter, the program focuses on the characteristics of the child that help make them unbulliable . “If you go to the zoo and you go up to the lion and you flick him in the nose and tell him he’s a kitten, [he’s going to bite you] because he knows he’s a lion,” she said.
“If we teach these kids their purpose and how to achieve their goals and their identity and how to be confident in themselves, we don’t really need to do anti-bullying because they’re not going to be phased by [bullying],” added Porter.
The curriculum looks to establish characteristics such as a strong sense of self, goals, and confidence.
Parents are recognized by program leaders as having an important position in achieving this goal, but they acknowledge that not all parents are present and added resources with the same mission can only help.
“We think that the culture needs to change from the inside out. All of these other programs are amazing, but they’re Band-Aids until the culture itself changes,” noted Porter.
Volunteers with Unbulliable go into the schools and stay for an extended period of time. They recruit student leaders from all walks of life. Then, they will host bi-weekly training and roundtable discussions for 6-8 weeks.
Conotton Valley Union Local is a pilot school. The very first to give this free resource a shot. Porter explained Unbulliable looks to recruit at least 25 students to participate. At Conotton Valley, 60 students have volunteered.
“We want the football captain, the band leader, we want the gamer, we want everyone. Because, they all have their own groups and they all have their own problems,” added Porter.
The training consists of three parts; Education, Motivation, and Action. The education aspect focuses on curriculum from a book called Success for Teens. “Basically, how to make a decision, how to achieve your goals, and how to be confident,” explained Porter.
Then they turn their attention to motivating the students to personally apply those lessons to their own lives.
And finally, the students are taught to take action, “What am I seeing in my school right now that I will not stand for,” Porter added. “We’re not training a group of crusaders. We’re going in the opposite direction [because] your solution cannot alienate anyone.”
According to the program, instead of encouraging students to intervene during an incident of bullying and stand up to the bully, which they note could cause that child to feel isolated, they ask students to sit with the child being bullied at lunch. Maybe even, to sit with the bully.
Next week marks the very first roundtable meeting at Conotton Valley. The training will continue for roughly four months through the summer and then at the start of the upcoming school year, they will host a kickoff event. From there, the student leaders take over.
The program itself is practicing what it’s preaching. Right now, organizers are focused on education through the pilot program at Conotton Valley. “We want to get the curriculum down perfectly,” said Porter. The motivation is already there with a passionate goal to instill strong characteristics in children that will set them up for success. Then, they take action to recruit additional adult volunteers and to introduce the program to as many schools that will welcome it.
“It’s a big need right now so we’re not asking for any money from anyone. Once it becomes bigger and we have multiple schools, we’ll bring on somebody to focus on fundraising,” said Porter.
Unbulliable will communicate with members and groups through an app called Telegram. “We want to also stay away from social media platforms. You know, cyberbullying. We don’t want to use social media in any of our communications,” Porter added.
Volunteers with the same vision are encouraged to reach out to Porter directly, firstname.lastname@example.org
Newsymom.com will continue to follow this program and bring you updates every step of the way.
Michaela Madison Reporting