Teach Empathy During Bullying Awareness Month

“I’m not going to lie to you,” wrote One World Education Student Ambassador Alexandra Fognani in the opening of her essay. “I once bullied a classmate named Ann. She was 12 years old. We were in the same class at our elementary school and I did it because everyone was doing it. I was shy and didn’t know how to stand up for what was right.”

Bullying and cyber-bullying impact most students during their school career. They may be victims of bullying, witnesses to it, or the bullies. The negative impact it has on all students is why it is a popular essay topic in the middle and high school classrooms that use our Writing Program.

Take Student Ambassador Tanith Ramon-Ibarra who tackled cyber-bullying in her essay. “Although the victims of cyber bullies may bear no physical scars, the wounds can still run deep,” she wrote. “Cyber bullying can range from mean text messages shared among sixth graders – ‘Debby is a stupid’ - to far more mean acts like students who have been caught using social media networks to prompt schoolmates into sexual encounters. While I have never experienced cyber bullying myself, I have read it online and it’s one of the cruelest things I’ve ever seen.”

October is Bullying Awareness Month, a time for us all to learn more about the issue and commit to doing something about it. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a useful website with information about what bullying is and how to respond to and prevent it. They have specific information for parents, educators, community members, teens, and kids about what they can do, including a training guide for parents and caregivers called “Understanding the Roles of Parents and Caregivers in Community-Wide Bullying Prevention Efforts.”

On the website, you can also find the policies and laws in your state to learn your rights. Another resources they offer is LIFELINE, a hotline for people who need help. The phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

One key bullying prevention method is teaching children empathy and compassion. In her essay, Alexandra explained how once she learned that Ann experienced child abuse at home, it inspired her to stop bullying her. “Now when I hear someone bullying Ann I stand up for her. After telling them about what she has been through, some of the kids are embarrassed and surprised.”

She continued, “After learning about the larger problem of bullying it’s hard to think how we made Ann’s life so difficult when she already had such a tough time at home. That’s why I no longer bully Ann or feel good when I see bullying happening around me. School is a place where people are supposed to feel safe and secure and even a place where they can be away from their problems at home and possibly have a place to talk to friends and be happy.”

What will you do this month to help make schools a safe and secure place for everyone?

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