Silence by Sarah Duggan Carson Graham School
Port Coquitlam teen who died on October 10 of suspected suicide has documented her misery in a heartbreaking YouTube video. Bullying is a serious issue and Amanda Todd’s mother wants the video to be used to help others who may be suffering as her daughter did.
(published in the Vancouver Sun October Monday 15th – Valerie Mason-John speaks out about bullying
The Chambers family tried to deal with the bullying of their son by staying silent. But for Walter Chambers, the apparent suicide of Amanda Todd has prompted a new strategy: He’s going public.
His son, Alex, 15, has endured bullying for four years, starting at a Maple Ridge elementary school. The same bullies followed him to high school, and the taunts worsened. There have been physical and verbal attacks. There was a nasty Facebook page.
Alex’s friends disappeared one by one, afraid of becoming victims themselves. Alex become ostracized and dreads going to school, refusing to go in the gym change room for fear of being mocked. He’s been called “fat, ugly, fag.” He’s a talented musician, but gave up playing guitar.
Chambers worries constantly that Alex might harm himself.
He took an extended stress leave and lost his sales job. He tried to sell the house to move his family away. Legal challenges associated with the bullying have cost him thousands of dollars.
Then Alex brought home the news last week: Amanda Todd, 15, a former student at Alex’s high school, had killed herself. Alex had seen her in the halls, but didn’t realize she was being bullied. Much of her torment was on Facebook and other social media sites. She switched schools several times before she died in Port Coquitlam on Wednesday.
“It hit him hard,” Chambers said in an interview. “He feels like if he had known he would have tried to help her, too. He’s going through a lot.”
Chambers has decided to speak out against the culture of bullying. He said it’s no coincidence that Todd and his son were bullied at the same school.
“It’s a total gang mentality there. If you’re not in the cool gang, with the cool kids, you’re nobody. Like, nobody,” Chambers said, adding the school principal and guidance counsellor have been working with students and providing support to Alex but little has changed.
“Pink shirt day is a joke,” he said, referring to the day of awareness when student wear pink shirts to symbolize intolerance for bullying, name-calling and other cruel behaviour. “It’s one day. The bullies wear the T-shirts, laugh it off and it’s gone for another year.”
Chambers wants anti-bullying strategies to become a mandatory part of the B.C. curriculum.
“The time for talking and studying is over. They need to take action,” he said.
In B.C., the Education Ministry introduced the Erase Bullying strategy in June, and dedicated $2 million to train educators to recognize and address threats. But while the ministry makes it clear bullying and harassment are unacceptable, each school manages their response individually with their own codes of conduct. These are created under school district anti-bullying policies, which are required by provincial law.
A spokeswoman for school district no. 42 said Todd’s Maple Ridge high school has held assemblies and seminars to educate students on bullying and “digital citizenship.”
But experts call for new approaches, including a more restorative, community response.
“Bullying isn’t just a young person’s problem. It affects the whole of the community and we all have a part to play in it,” said Vancouver-based Valerie Mason-John, the “Bully Doctor,” and author of anti-bullying books.
Often bullies at school are bullied at home, by parents or siblings. “It’s very common for a young person to be both a victim and a bully,” said Mason-John.
She said neutral bystanders, whether students or teachers or family members, must speak out if the cycle is to be broken. Bystanders often stay quiet out of fear of making things worse, or even escalating the situation to violence, but her research shows that’s not the case, she said.
“When you start talking about it, people then feel enabled to say something about it.”
Part of her work is holding mini-conferences with bystanders, bullies and victims together to create an environment where kids can share their experiences. But she believes the best approach is preventive, starting in elementary school, so students know the harmful behaviour won’t be tolerated.
“Schools need to give time to the epidemic of bullying. The problem is time,” Mason-John said, added teachers are already strapped for resources. “Dealing with bullying is just as important as learning math.”
North Shore News explores how meditation can help with addiction. Sadly many youth who are bullied use addictions as a coping mechanism. www.facebook.com/IntoBEingLifeCoachingServices
Steering a car with full attention is imperative and so is steering our heart-mind, if we are to avoid head on collisions. Positioning our hands at 9 0clock and 3 0clock on the car steering wheel is meant to be the best place for having complete control over manoeuvrings the vehicle. Maximizing control over our heart-mind also helps to steer our lives in the best direction. Steering the heart-mind is having complete awareness. The breath is our steering wheel; we need to be in touch with the breath at all times, paying attention to every moment of our lives.
How many of us are in touch with the breath 24/7? Some of us are like the driver who shows of driving with no hands. At least most of these drivers have the good sense to take their hands off the steering wheel for only a few seconds. But most of us take the attention off the breath for hours on end. We are often not in touch with the breath. We ignore the red lights of anger that tell us we need to stop and take a deep breath.
When we are angry, anxious, nervous, fearful, upset, tired, frustrated, the breath warns us in its’ unique way we need to pause. These emotions are our traffic lights to tell us to pause, wait, and take a deep breath. Shortness of breath, palpitations, butterflies, sweats, holding onto breath are all amber light warnings that we need to slow down and stop. Sometime we might need to rev the engine up of the heart-mind by taking three long deep breaths.
Without breath there is no life. It would be impossible to steer our lives. Many of us are using our breath to steer our lives into places we don’t want to be. Think about it, do you want to change the direction of your life? Slightly shift the focus? Do you want different things in your life? What is happening to your breath right now? Pause, before answering. There is no rush to say yes? Or no?. However if it is yes to any of these questions, pause again. Are you prepared to do what it takes to steer your life in a new direction?
Changing our breathing habits is revolutionary, it can radicalize our lives. But it means being in touch with the breath every waking and sleeping moment. This is awareness. If we want to know our heart-mind we must look at how we are steering our lives. If we want to be completely present to our lives we must be one with the breath. We must begin to cultivate loving kindness, the water of metta that can help put out the fire of anger and all other toxic emotions that we can store in our hearts.
It’s fascinating how black becomes lighter in a community where people of color are not so visible. The language of racial bullying changes, instead of nigger, people become sand niggers. It’s also interesting how many people who live in small communities will say: ‘We don’t have racism, there isn’t an issue. ‘
But if you ask an Aboriginal person or someone of color they will tell you a different story. We could ask who is right? But that would get us nowhere.
I ask can I step into a white person’s shoes for a moment and see it from their perspective? Can a white person step into my shoes and see it from my perspective?
I live in the town of Gibsons just 20 minutes away from Sechelt, and while I have felt welcomed by strangers, I can believe that it was a hate crime that Harrison and his half brother Carmine Mollica experienced last week outside the Trail Bay Mall.
I’m not so vulnerable on the streets of Sechelt, because although I am dark-skinned, I’m a middle aged woman and so I am not so much of a target for this type of terrorizing. However in the town of Gibsons I have had people stop and gawp at me from across the street, come right up into my face and stare, until I have been assertive enough to say I don’t want you looking at me, and people drive by calling out racist comments. This type of bullying goes above my head as I have sadly learnt to expect and tolerate this type of racial bullying in small communities like this.
Those two young men, who were cornered and threatened with ‘I’m going to kill you, you sand nigger’, would have been full of fear, I’m sure. When I was 14, I lived in a small English town, and a similar thing happened, with the skinheads threatening to kill me and my friends. We ran for our lives and the bus would not stop for us so we had to hide behind bushes for several hours. We feared losing our lives.
Thirty years later, I’m living back in a small town and am saddened that racism is still prevalent.
Sadly the police still do not seem to understand the issues we can face on the streets. The Mollica family are experiencing both racial bullying and ancestral bullying. Due to part of their ancestry coming from Iran they have also become victims of bullying after the 9-11 attack. They are not responsible for this tragedy and yet they are clearly carrying some of the weight of people’s anger.
Sechelt, I believe, may be a safe place for people who are not First Nations or of colour. For many First Nations people, and people of colour Sechelt is not safe. Not just because of the racism that can take place in the community but because the police have let many of them down when they have reported an incident.
The community, both White and non White, needs to rally together and speak up against the police, until somebody in authority listens. While Sechelt Mayor John Henderson says: ‘We have a great mix of culture from Chinese to Filipinos to First Nations and Caucasians’, he needs to realize that is not a cure for racism. In fact it can be the dis-ease to bring about racism. The more multicultural a place becomes the more White people can feel threatened. That is a fact. It’s also a fact that there are issues of racism towards First Nations and People of Colour in our schools on the Sunshine Coast and on the streets. Racism will not disappear until we do something about it. Let’s stop being passive bystanders and educate our young. The reality is racism is learned, it is not the heart’s natural response to hate. We learn it from everything around us.
Small towns are no different from the metropolis of big cities. And this incident comes in the wake of the International case of Trayvon Martin, who’s life was taken on February 26th this year in the USA. The person who killed him is still walking free, because the police and state officials are still wrestling with the dilemma of wether or not to file charges against the 28 year old self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
Racism, is a form of bullying, and it is a world concern. The sooner we stand up and talk out against it, the sooner our young people will learn to respect and appreciate other races and cultures.
Valerie Mason-John tells the affecting story of a woman in Sierra Leone who lost many of her children and watched her country be torn apart by war and the search for blood diamonds.My story is featured this month on the gallery. Check it out and leave a comment too.
As an educator working in British Columbia I can’t but help comment on the ongoing conflict between the BCTF and the Government. I’m often in schools enabling administrators and teachers to consider a restorative approach to conflict, and this conflict which is rooted in decisions made almost ten years ago is far from being dealt with in a restorative way.
In fact the BC Liberal Government have repeatedly stolen the power of their teachers, and Bill 22 is the hate mail that the bullies have delivered to the BCTF.
The Government has offered mediation with stipulations. What mediator with any integrity in the discipline of mediation would agree to mediate under these conditions? That could be not impartial. The aim of mediation is to try to come to an agreement that is a win win situation. For that to happen people must at least feel the playing ground is as even as possible. One should walk away from mediation without resentment and feeling that you have been listened too. However the Government imposing stipulations before the process has begun is a recipe for both disaster and likely another ten years of dis-ease.
Teachers feel betrayed. It’s as if their basic charter has been stripped away. Soon they will not be able to strike without being fined $475 a day. And woe betide if you are a union officer, the fine will increase to $2500. The definition of striking is more than refusing to work, it is any collective action authorized by the union. For example if the BCTF ruled that teachers should wear wristbands to school in protest- that could be considered a strike. If teachers continue job action that could also be considered a strike. And then there is the question who is considered a union officer, that is not clear, and naturally teachers are scared. When Bill 22 is in place approximately 41,000 teachers could be at risk if they participate in any collective action. This could culminate with teachers being subpoenaed to court and required to pay a fine.
The public may say: “Fair enough our school kids need their education, they are the ones losing out in this conflict.” Is the public aware that BC is one of the few provinces that gives money into private and independent schools? While at the same time money in public education is being clawed back.
Despite the fact that BC is one of the most expensive provinces to live in; and has some of the lowest wages for teachers in Canada. Many teachers will say: “A pay rise would be great – but that is not the issue we are in conflict about.” Teachers want control of their professional development, fair posting and filling process and a strong public education. They have the good sense to say no to class sizes of thirty or more.
The government has admitted to making $11 million a day when teachers are on strike. Ironically the Government has announced that they will invest the money back into special education. Doesn’t the Government realize that by insisting on classes be as big as thirty they will be part of the cause of requiring more students to go into special education?
It’s not practical for a teacher to safely teach students in such large classes, as so much will go unnoticed. Classes so large will be a breeding ground for bullying, drop outs and delinquency. Many students do not feel safe enough to learn in large groups. Many will go unnoticed and will fail the system.
Sadly this grievance will continue, and more bullying will occur. If the Government could put the needs of the student first, rather than act like they are in a battle with the BCTF, there could be the possibility of a shift in the conflict. Perhaps if the BCTF paid out for a mediator to represent them, rather than representing themselves when going into negotiation there could be the potential of a different outcome. Understandably senior union officials are angry, but anger is not the best ingredient when trying to resolve a long standing conflict. This could have been an opportunity for the Government and the BCTF to do something different. Sadly the conflict will haunt the Government, BCTF, the teachers, and the students. People like me who offer extra curricular service will feel the impact of this down the road, when schools will be crying out for help.