13 million American children will be bullied this year. We all want to stop it, and these women prove that we can. By Alison Storm, REDBOOK.
Bullies will only do what bystanders allow: Houston mom Trish Morille saw this firsthand when her daughter was in elementary school. "We ran into some of her classmates at a park," Trish, now 50, recalls. "One girl called my daughter mean names. The others started piling on insults. The adults looked away: No one said anything! We left the park--and the bullying eventually ended--but I wish I'd known the best way to help my child." Ten years later, in March 2010, when harassment drove a local second-grader to jump off a school balcony, Trish and her friend Sarah Fisher sprung to action. "It was our wake-up call," says Sarah, 48. The two moms created +Works (which stands for Positive Works, positivethinkingworks.org), a nonprofit that runs an anti-bullying program in schools. Kids and adults learn that bullying is more than the mean kid on the playground--it's a group dynamic. What's important is speaking up to stop it. Positive Works, now in 11 schools in the Houston area, forms leadership groups, stages student-driven rallies, and teaches bystanders of all ages (including parents and principals) how to take action when a child is being bullied. It also gives those children new coping mechanisms: If a kid is teased for having a ratty jacket, for example, he'll say, "No problem, you don't have to wear it" and walk away from the drama. One participant is middle school student Harry Swales, 11. "I'm small [for my age], so I'm a target," he says. "But Positive Works taught me how to handle it. I'm friends now with the kids who bullied me, and I'm helping other kids too."
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"Bullying is a community-wide issue," says Trish. "If we can get people talking, we really can help our kids."
4 MORE WAYS YOU CAN HELP
1. Alert your kid's principal as soon as you hear about a bullying incident, using the simple template in the Bully Project's "Toolkits for Parents" (thebullyproject.com).
2. Contact your congressional representatives using the email form at ncld.org, and urge them to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act. It would establish uniform (and stricter) anti-bullying policies across the country.
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3. Sign up at contribute.surveymonkey.com and donate 50 cents to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center every time you fill out an online survey.
4. Text TREVOR to 85944 to donate $5 to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth--among the most-bullied in our schools. The Trevor Project's 24-hour crisis hotline fields tens of thousands of calls from desperate kids every year.
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