Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bree's Bully Busters! this thing on?

Helloooo out there! My name is Breeanna DeGrove, I’m 11 years old in the 6th grade at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory School and I’m pretty new and quite nervous about this new adventure.  Mostly I’m excited to get a chance to share my story.  So….once upon a time.  Oh wait, that’s a different story. My story is quite different, and still developing, but I’m predicting a happy, happy girl as the main character!  I’m sad to say that I haven’t always been so happy; I had been bullied for several years.  To help other kids, and their bullies find healthier ways to handle this terrible behavior, I started a club at my elementary school called, Bully Busters.

I had been bullied for a long time. I didn’t tell my mom or my teachers.  I just tried to fix it myself.  I thought it would get better and eventually they would all like me.  It wasn’t just the mean words they would say or the physical things they would do, but being left out, to sit alone at lunch every day or not be included in group projects in school was especially hard.   I would try so hard to get them to like me, but no one wanted to be my friend.  Even when they did want to be my friend, the main bully would take it out on them.  They were scared of him, and didn’t want him to treat them that way, so they did whatever he said.  I would cry…a lot.  And that didn’t help anything.  But I was very sad and didn’t know what to do.

The club first came as an idea to me as I was sitting across the bench from the main bully in my life.  We had both gotten in trouble.  He got in trouble for hitting me; I got in trouble for talking to him in the first place.  While our teacher was talking to another teacher, he told me that he was sorry for being so mean to me.  He was going through some things at home, some very sad things, and he just picked on me because I cried and it made him feel better.  He said he knew better, he wanted to be better, but that he couldn’t help himself. I decided there had to be a better way, and that’s how I came up with the idea of the Bully Buster club. 

I began writing letters to my principal asking her for help in starting the club.  Unfortunately, I only signed them with my first name, and since my name is pretty popular, she had no idea which “Bree” was signing the letters. I mentioned to my mom that I had been writing the principal and I had not heard back, so my mom called the school.  The principal was so happy to figure out it was me, and she immediately set up some time with me to talk about a plan.  The school year was almost over, so we made an agreement to meet over the summer and work out what we wanted to do for the club.  My mom reached out to a local mental health organization that specialized in bullying prevention, and they said they would help us however they could!  By the time we met for the first time, I had a teacher sponsor and had all my ideas on paper and was ready to get started!  We were all very excited!   We made a plan to have a “Kick off” walk for the club.  We scheduled the walk for the second week of September.  We asked everyone to wear purple (my favorite color) and we had all the kids in grades 3-5 walk around the baseball fields, with music, prizes and a pledge the kids signed saying they would stand up to bullying.  There was SO much purple!!  Even the coach wore purple! To my surprise, the local media came out and it was on the front page of the local newspaper!  I was shocked!  After the walk, so many kids came up to me to say “Thank you”.  They too had been bullied and didn’t know what to do or how to handle it.  They felt like they weren’t alone.  That really stuck with me because I thought I was the ONLY one going through what I was dealing with.  It really made me wonder how many other kids were trying to get through this all alone.

The first meeting was only expected to be 10-20 kids, but 60 students showed up!!!! EVEN MY BULLY!!!! I was shocked at the number of kids who had been living with this in silence all this time.  We are just elementary school kids.  How does this happen?  We met monthly all through my 5th grade year and the club grew each week. By the last meeting of the school year, about 85 kids were active members of the Bully Buster Club.  We would break out into groups; we talked about things that were going on; things either happening to us or we had observed; we answered questions and practiced how to handle these situations more effectively in the future.  We all learned useful tools to help us be better friends to each other.  And we had snacks!  It was a lot of fun!  We talked about how bullying can be verbal, cyber, or physical.  We also talked about how it affects not only the person who is getting bullied, but the bystander (the person who sees it happen) and the person who is the actual bully.  A lot of times, the bully is going through something really hard, and they don’t know how to deal with it, so they take it out on other people.  And the bystander is too afraid to speak up!  The club gave these kids a chance to work out what is going on with them, and how to approach things differently without hurting others.   It even spread to other schools in our city!  At least two other schools I know of started their own Bully Busters chapters!  I’m so excited that kids are helping other kids!

Even though I feel like bullying is still a big problem, I feel like maybe this club helped someone even just a little bit.  Don’t be like the countless kids around the US who choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Just tell a teacher or an adult you can trust and everything WILL get better!  It takes time, I’m not going to make it seem like it’s an overnight fix.  You’re going to have really good days and then some bad days, but the good days will be really good and the bad days won’t be as bad as they used to be.

I’m in middle school now, and I still deal with some of these kinds of behaviors every day.  But I know how to handle it more effectively now, I think.  I’m actively trying to find a sponsor in my new school to carry on the club there because I think a lot of people can benefit from this opportunity to discuss how they feel.  I think it would be very helpful for all middle schoolers.  Being bullied or seeing someone else be bullied is never, ever ok.  You have to take action!

If you are being bullied, find someone to give you a hug, it’s going to be ok. Try to find someone to help you.  Don’t be afraid; find someone you trust that you can talk to.  Don’t do anything bad.  Don’t skip school, do drugs or any stuff that you think will help, I promise you it won’t.   It will all get better; this is just a quick snapshot of your life.  My mom told me about how she was bullied when she was a kid, they were all mean to her and didn’t like her. And now that she’s successful and happy, these same people want to be her friend on Facebook!  They are mean now, but one day they will figure out you’re something special and want to be YOUR friend.  You’re a nice person, don’t forget that.  Everyone has their little quirks, so what?  You could be a musical genius, but stink at math!  You could be an awesome artist, but stink at track!  You’re quirks make you, YOU.  You’re YOUNIQUE.  Being YOU is one of the most beautiful things on this earth. There’s no one else like you, and that’s pretty awesome!

My 8 year old brother wants me to tell you that if you cry in front of the bully, they will just keep doing it.  And, for once, he’s right.  Just walk away and act like they don’t bother you.  Rubber ducky! Whatever they say bounces off you and smacks them in the beak.  I know, I know, it sounds really easy.  And it was hard for me to do it too.  But you have to remember, you are amazing.  You might think you’re all alone, but you’re not!  You should not be bullied for being you.  Don’t let anyone put you down! 

If you feel like you’re being bullied, listen to “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera.  Listen to songs that make you feel special. Listen to them over and over and over until you believe the lyrics.  I’ll even lend you my favorite song, “Firework” by Katy Perry.   “You don’t have to feel like a wasted space, you’re original, cannot be replaced. If you only knew just what the future holds, after a hurricane, comes a rainbow.”  Sometimes it rains a long time, but it never rains forever. 

Well, I think I've rambled on long enough.  I’m happy to hear from you!   This is my first try at anything like this, so I’m open to any suggestions you might have.  Hopefully they will have me back.

Never forget that you’re never alone. I’ll be your friend; I’ll lend you my hand.  Together, we can stop bullying!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Bullying has to stop!

Sorry we haven’t posted a blog in a while, but we’ve been pretty busy around here.  In fact, Lynn and I just returned from the 2013 National Conference on Bullying held in Orlando by the School Safety Advocacy Council and I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about our experience.  First, I find it incredibly sad that we actually need to have a national conference on bullying, but if you look at the statistics, as well as the prevalence and effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs in the United States, it is absolutely necessary.

Second, it was a great learning and networking opportunity and we did plenty of both.  We learned about great programs that are being implemented, we met wonderful people, including a fantastic group of high school students, who are making a difference and making sure their voices are heard loud and clear that bullying must stop, and we learned that we as an organization are doing great work.  But we also learned we can’t stop where we are; we have much work to do.

And we will continue our work and our partnerships with many of these great people.  We also met a young man, a college student from Nashville.  He is aspiring singer-songwriter, Braden Stover, and he sang an amazing song for the conference attendees, “We Were Just Too Scared,” that he wrote in 8th grade.  His message is true and sad on many levels because people are often just too scared to stand up against the bully or to speak up for the target of bullying and that has to change.  We believe his beautiful song and the incredible message it offers will help!

Overall it was a great event and it will help us improve our efforts in bullying prevention.  But before I end this post, I’d like to share a quick story I learned recently about a young girl who wasn’t scared.  A 10 year old girl, a fifth grade student at a local elementary school, one day after school witnessed an incident where another student had knocked a child off of his bike and a group of kids were laughing at him and this supposedly funny event.  Apparently no one else acted and before the adults that were nearby (they were there to ride their bikes home with their own children) even knew what had happened, this young girl got off her bike and went over and lifted the boy’s bike off of him and helped him up.  She also told the other kids to stop being mean.  I learned of this story when my neighbor, who was one of the adults that witnessed the event that day, told me about my daughter, Chloe’s, actions and how proud he was that she helped that boy and stood up to the others.  I asked her if she was scared and she said no, she was mad. 

I was and am a very proud mom and I think it’s time we all get a little mad about the treatment so many kids are enduring at the hands of others.  Maybe that will help us not be so scared!  If kids can act, I know adults can!  There are countless stories about kids standing up and doing something good to stop bullying, if you have a story, please share it in the comments section.  In fact, our next blog post is a special edition written by a young girl who was bullied and decided she was not going to be a victim, so stay tuned, she’s a special girl with a special story!


“Help end bullying”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shout-out to School Counselors and Speak Up Be Safe™ Facilitators!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts to give a big shout-out to all school counselors in recognition of this being National School Counseling Week!  To each and every school counselor we say thank you!  Thank you for your hard work every day in the schools to support students in their efforts to be successful, not only in their academic achievements but in their lives in general. 

One thing the MBF team has learned over the past three years in working so closely with hundreds of school counselors across the state of Florida is how hard each and every one of you work. You not only spend your days dealing with student testing and academic achievement, but you deal with student drama, unmet needs, stress, and even individual and family crises.  You are the go-to person in the school for all things academic and social related and you handle it with professionalism and compassion.  For this and more, we honor all Florida School Counselors today (and every day).

But the MBF team must take a moment and point out a group of very special school counselors – a group of over 650 very dedicated elementary school counselors across the state of Florida that we are so very grateful to know and work with, our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) Certified Facilitators.  These counselors decided that the safety and protection of their students was worth the extra time and energy, and in addition to their regularly scheduled duties, became trained and are implementing the SUBS program.

SUBS teaches kids in 1st – 5th grades strategies to help them identify unsafe situations and empowers them to help the adults in their lives better protect them from bullying, cyberbullying, digital abuse and all types of child abuse.  Despite the topics being uncomfortable, despite their days being filled to capacity, despite the fact they know the program will bring out disclosures and make additional work for them, these counselors choose to voluntarily implement this research-based and effective program because they know their efforts are worth it to protect their kids and prevent the potential damage of bullying and maltreatment.  Those kids, and our state, are lucky to have them!

So in honor of National School Counseling Week, here’s to all counselors, but especially to our SUBS counselors! We could not have provided SUBS to over 260,000 students so far without them – we are truly blessed to have each and every SUBS counselor on our team, and we honor them not just this week – but every week, and every day!