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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bullying in Our Schools

The latest blogbuzz is all about Rabbinic abuse in our Yeshivas. And while that is a very serious topic, and one that certainly needs our full attention, there is another form of abuse that goes on in our schools on a daily basis, one that - while it is admittedly not quite as potentially detrimental to the psyches of our youth as molestation - still poses an enormous obstacle to the self-confidence levels that our children will need to function in the world for the rest of their lives. That scourge is bullying.

The boy who got teased every day during recess for "throwing like a girl".

The girl who was passed notes in class that read "You're fat!"

The child who would find out, every Monday, that a large group of her classmates would get together every Sunday - and pointedly never include her in their plans.

The boy who got punched repeatedly in the stomach every day on the long, unsupervised bus rides to and from school - and warned that if he "tattled", it would only get worse.

Who hasn't been witness to a bully in action? Who hasn't brushed off the bullying behavior of an older sibling to a younger sibling by saying "boys will be boys"? Or the exclusionary behavior of one girl to another as "girls will be girls"? Therein lies the problem. The social acceptability of the abusive behavior of bullying (and make no mistake - bullying is a form of abuse) creates a situation where the bully is not just allowed to continue with his/her behavior - but implicitly encouraged to do so. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the only parents I know who are concerned about bullying in school are the ones whose kids are being bullied. I have yet to hear a parent complain to me about how their child is a bully, or how they are upset by the bullying that goes on by other children towards their children's classmates. The willful, ignorant, or subconscious denial toward this type of behavior on both the part of teachers and administrators as well as parents is just mind-boggling.

The bullying that goes on in our schools is rampant. Woe unto the child who is poor at sports and gets three strikes for the losing out. Or the short, scrawny kid who is just begging to be pushed from seat to seat down the aisle of the bus like a pinball. Or the kid who the Rebbe made the mistake of commending for his exemplary behavior, causing the class bullies to take it out on the "goody-goody" (due to resentment? Jealousy?) during recess. But this post isn't simply about physical bullying, though that certainly goes on, most commonly among boys - though it can occur, albeit less commonly, among girls as well. But anyone who has girls can attest to the extreme mental cruelty that goes on between young girls. The exclusion of certain kids from playdates, the shutting out from recess games, the unshared secrets, catty comments about a girl's dress or appearance, or, among boys, the taunts toward a child who displays a lack of athleticism - all of these are forms of bullying that can undermine a child's self esteem for many years to come.

I think awareness has to be raised in every single school about bullying and its potential consequences. I believe every school should implement a zero tolerance policy towards any type of bullying, whether physical or verbal. We, as parents, need to be able to rest assured that our children are being sent to school as a safe haven, not as a place where they are going to be humiliated and degraded - or taught that it is at all acceptable to do that to others.

Here is a list that I found online that enumerates some signs that your child might be being bullied. I am aware that most are common sense - but common sense never stopped anyone from missing signs of abuse, especially with a child that doesn't speak up.
• Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing
pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings;
• Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches;
• Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she
spends time;
• Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and
from school, riding the school bus, or taking part
in organized activities with peers (such as clubs);
• Takes a long, “illogical” route when walking to or
from school;
• Has lost interest in school work or suddenly
begins to do poorly in school;
• Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he
or she comes home;
• Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches,
or other physical ailments;
• Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams;
• Experiences a loss of appetite; or
• Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem.
If you fear or have any information that your child is being bullied, is bullying others, or that bullying is going on in your child's school, call the school. Get involved. Ask the administration what rules and guidelines they follow to prevent the peer-to-peer abuse from becoming rampant. And while you're at it, ask about the guidelines they have in place to prevent teacher/student abuse.

It's your right to ask, it's your right to know.


Blogger Scraps said...

Thank you for a very important post, Orthomom. It's an issue everywhere, and even though as Jews people might like to believe that their kids have better middot, Jewish schools are nowhere near immune to bullying.

I was always the nebbach kid that got picked on, left out, etc. I didn't have "cool" clothes or the latest gadgets, and to make matters worse, I was smart and behaved myself in class. I'm not sure anyone ever called me "teacher's pet" to my face, but I'm sure they said it behind my back, and they said enough other nasty things to my face to make up for leaving that off the list.

The problem with girls' bullying is that it's much, much harder to pinpoint. It's easier to break up a bunch of boys fighting, because it's visible and obvious. Girls' bullying is secretive, hidden, running under the surface. Boys mostly get beaten up; girls get destroyed from the inside out. It's taken me a long time to grow out of the mentality that I'm not a horrible person, deserving of shame and ridicule--and to a certain degree, those thoughts are still there in the back of my mind, poisoning my thinking. I'm doing my best to fight them, but wouldn't it be better if no kid ever had to think that about themselves?

Thanks again.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no mechanism in the yeshiva system for educating children properly when it comes to interpersonal relations. It goes accross the spectrum from those schools who ascribe to the defunct BJE system to the Agudah schools and beyond.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very important post. This is a major source of self-esteem problems across all denominations and socioeconomic statuses. I am a public school parent (I started following this blog during the election) and I can tell you that this is a problem I see in my childrens' schools too. Schools need to come up with a game plan to fight this age0old problem.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your advice to go to the school is correct. Many parents try to go to the parents of the bully, and that is not advised. How many times have I heard "Not my David!", or "Couldn't be!". And if the parents tell their children that they got a call, there is alwasy a huge risk of retaliation. Especialy if the school is not in the loop.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing not to do (as important as the things to do):

DON'T complain to the bully's parents.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great post. Keep it up

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this post should be required reading for every parent and educator.

unfortunately, even in schools where the administration is aware of the problem, the so-called solution is to teach kids not to allow themselves to be victimized. particularly when the bullying is verbal/emotional, kids are encouraged to "laugh it off" and "turn the other cheek". while clearly there is value to mastering these skills, kids need adults to assure them that they did not bring the bullying on themselves, that they don't deserve to be treated this way, and that anyone who behaves in a cruel way will be appropriately disciplined.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to see if this topic generates as much discussion as that of sexual abuse. While sexual abuse horrifies and repels us more, the actual psychological damage to a child from bullying can be just as great, and many more children are affected.

Unfortunately, we live in a "bullying culture", in which people try to use intimidation or humiliation to try to gain an advantage in the most mundane of human interactions.

Many children, including those from "fine" homes, simply don't see being nice as a requirement for success in the world. If a child hears his mother haranguing the greengrocer and his father belittling the dry cleaner, he may not even understand the concept of being kind to people as a necessary part of life.

I'm constantly shocked at how many people begin routine business calls with an antagonistic and demanding tone of voice. I keep wondering if their parents didn't drill into them the old saws about "catching more flies with honey than vinegar" or "be nice to people on your way up; you'll meet them again on your down."

My children's schools spend a huge amount of time on Shmiras Haloshon and have had various bullying prevention programs. I can't say they haven't done *any* good, but it's hard to present the notion of "niceness" to kids who see it as a chumra of tzaadiks rather than a goal most of us can achieve with only occasional lapses.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I write as one with decades of public school experience. The problem is ongoing in all school settings. Not only do parents not believe their children were involved, but in many cases parents of bullies find nothing out of order in what their youngster has done. Infer what you will about the family lives of such people. Also, one of the worst tools employed by today's bullies is the internet. My Space and Xanga spread things over the twenty-four hour cycle that might die down otherwise.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A terrible problem not only in the yeshiva systems however they seem to be the last to deal with it. While bullying among boys tends to be more physical (which is not at all good) among the girls it is almost always psychological - which can be far more damaging in the long run. As "Rachel" said, the adminstration is slow to recognize the problem and worse is quick to place blame on the victim: "Sarala must be doing something to invite the bullies to bother her." Sending the victims to counseling is another favorite of administrators to "toughen them up" or teach them to "deal with" the bullying. I read and gave my school principal the book called "Odd Girl Out" by Rachel Simmons. A great book that deals with recognizing and dealing with girl bullying issues. I am sure the principal didn't even bother glancing at it.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was bullied by "friends" who turned on me and for two years I lived in complete hell. I even contemplated suicide. These boys turned the entire class against me and physically and emotionally bullied me, often in front of rebbeim who did nothing about it. Even today it still affects me and it did a real number on my self esteem. Kids can be pure evil. I will never forgive them (I couldn't even if I tried) and I am sure they paid for it or will pay for it one way or another. What goes around comes around. Tears well up in my eyes just thinking about it.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep on hearing about people who went to my high school who supposedly "know me" who I don't know. They don't actually know me. They just knew my nerdy reputation. Seven years out of high school, this past weekend I heard that my girlfriend's cousin's fiance supposedly knew me from high school (he was in a different grade), and said that I went to Harvard and was studying math. No, idiot. I always hated math. I didn't go to Harvard, I went to a state school.

All this person knew about me was my nerdy reputation. They didn't know me at all.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although nothing is good at the extreme, people oftentimes forget the importance of bullying and teasing in a child’s social development.

After a person is done with schooling life only becomes more and more difficult. It is very important for a child to learn how to cope with rejection and insults so they can deal with it when there is no one around to protect them or to cry to.

This is especially true for boys- because society expects a certain amount of toughness from men. Many psychologists today believe we are seriously harming children, especially boys, by encouraging such sensitivity and so strongly punishing “mean” or “wild” behavior.

Being teased for throwing like a girl will do the boy far more good than it will harm. The adults who have the hardest time adapting to criticism in the workplace, and working out relationships were the ones who were shielded by their parents and were constantly told how amazing everything they did was.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

i also got bullied alot, and having gone to both yeshivos and public school in my life (off and on) i've felt the brunt of noth kinds of bullying.

the boys just hurt.

the girl's kind eats out your soul.

in yeshiva i know they actualy told me to "learn to deal with it my self" and that was why they wouldn't do anything... well how on EARTH am i supposed to learn to deal with people who steal my things, hit me for personal pleasure, and do all kinds of other things to me? and what about the staff who actively allowed it?

1:27 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

Another great post. Unfortunately, bullying is another behavior that is found across all social groups. I've seen it with Yeshiva kids and I was a victim of sorts from it during the 7th grade from two girls that used to follow me home from the bus stop yelling ridiculous insults the whole time. Fortunately, I was able to ignore them, but many wouldn't have been able too.

One thing that I think was very positive about my schools which made the bullying less, was that there were so many clubs, activities, sports, and classes that one could find their social group even if they were not talented in sports. We had the math club, the chess club, the computer club, the various bands, the drama club, the various choirs, the foreign language clubs, the religious clubs, the community service clubs, and about 25 sports teams. At least if you were bullied by the ball players, you could find some peace and quiet amongst friends in the chess club or the community service clubs.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous 1:22

The only really sensible comment on this whole thread.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The boy who got teased every day during recess for "throwing like a girl"

If it is elementary or middle school we're talking about then people I know who did this had a dreaded sit down with the principal (assuming the kid told the principal, teacher, or his parents).
If it is high school then, to be blunt, get over it. Life is not all hugs and kisses. Protecting kids from these types of insults after a certain age is just setting them up for some rough times in life.

The boy who got punched repeatedly in the stomach every day on the long, unsupervised bus rides to and from school - and warned that if he "tattled", it would only get worse.

I NEVER heard of this happening in my area. The reason I suspect it never happened is because the school was small and the few times I heard of someone getting beaten up the bully was suspended.

I dont deny that the long term effects of psychological bullying can be far worse than physical bullying. I'm not saying they should be ignored. But after a certain age (which can vary person to person) protecting soon-to-be adults from anything negative is really going to make life rough for them later on. While you hope all kids are sensitive and kind, the fact is many inconsiderate, selfish, mean adults were kids once. You cannot hold a child's hand forever. You can just appeal to the insensitive/mean kids' sense of decency (if they have any, which they probably dont.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

and didn't switzerland or some country like that manage to correct their bullying problem?

looking back at it it was norway who changed it i'll write a trascript of what they did here:

first phase:
giving all perents pamphlets of signs of victimization. showing video tapes to students intended to evoke sympathy reactions for victims.all teachers are given special training for intervention

second phase:
discussions held in classrooms about how and why to stop bullying, to mediate peer conflics, and to befriend lonely children. the last action is particualarly crucial: having at least one protective peer "watching your back" not only prevents escelation of bullying but reduces it's emotional sting. for this reason teachers organized cooperative learning groups within classes so that no child could be isolated and then bullied, and teachers halted incidents of name calling or minor assault because they now recognized the undercurrent beneath the bully's excuses and the terror behind the victims silence or nervous laughter. principles learned that adult supervision in the lunchroom, restrooms, and playground where pivotal, and they redeployed staff to keep watch and intervien.

in norwegian schools if bullying occoured despide these preventive steps, counselors used very direct measures: they conducted intensive family therapy with the bully and perents,they removed the bully to a different class, grade, or even school; they helped the victim strengthen social and academic skills. (note: bullies and their families bore the major burden, if the victim were to change schools and the bully were to stay, the wrong child would be punished

(reprinted with out permission from "the developing person" authored by prof burger worth publishers citing the methods of Olweus)

these efforts worked to a segnificant extend reducing bullying by more than 50 percent.

just thought it would be nice to leave here. i got it from my developmental psych text.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, OM, for posting this - another psychologically sensitive essay which displays a great deal of wisdom. Yes, girls' bullying does "eat out the soul" - it's taken me at least 30 to get over most of it. And no, I'm not going to put up my real name because of the several commenters who just don't get how damaging children's aggressive behavior towards other children can be to the victim. My mother gave me the "don't show them you're upset" advice - how useless. It would have been better if I had followed my natural instinct, and slugged them.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The boy who got punched repeatedly in the stomach every day on the long, unsupervised bus rides to and from school - and warned that if he "tattled", it would only get worse.

I NEVER heard of this happening in my area. The reason I suspect it never happened is because the school was small and the few times I heard of someone getting beaten up the bully was suspended."

YOU never heard of it in YOUR area? Who cares? Does that mean in doesn't happen anywhere else? You don't say who YOU ARE, or where YOUR AREA is, so why do you think we're interested in your personal comments which don't have any point or purpose?

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My nephew was being bullied at his bus stop in Cedarhurst by one kid.This bully was taught a very valuable lesson,
never hit a kid whose big brother is bigger than you are.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

I, too, was given the advice of "ignore them" and "don't show them you're upset, it will make things worse". Garbage, all. How is a little girl (we're talking 3rd grade on up) supposed to just ignore every kid in her class? How is she supposed to already know how to hide her feelings so well that the other little brats decide it's no fun to tease her? And anyway, I think that the notion that bullying will stop when they get less of a response is garbage also.

To the anonymous who recommended "Odd Girl Out" by Rachel Simmons--good reading, that. I also highly recommend it.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I threw like a girl. I was a failure in high school. Had to attend summer school every year and took Earth Science because I couldn't pass the bio regents. Now my classmates send me their rent checks monthly. what a bunch of asshles

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I wonder if those advocating to accept (or even welcome) "bullying as part of normal growing-up behavior" were ever on the receiving side... or perhaps they were the bullies themselves..."

Im not advocating the acceptance of bullying. If a bully is caught he should be punished. The problem is making a federal case and trying to address the "bully problem."

There has always been bullies since the dawn of time and this will never stop. Except for severe or extreme forms, its something children have to learn to deal with. Teasing, insults, even getting roughed up. Its part of life, and if a child doesnt learn how to cope he is likely to end up the kind of person who cant function after getting dumped in a relationship or who cant handle criticism from his boss.

You guys need to get some perspective. Bullies should be punished, but we dont need to start implementing special programs and policies. For the most part, its not that big a deal.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to those who point out that adult life also brings us people who are "bullies": YES! And that's precisely the problem.

I was fortunate to grow up in a relatively small community, and people who were consistently unkind and obnoxious soon found themselves ostracized to greater or lesser degrees. Now I'm not claiming it was perfect, but there was a consequence for being a jerk.

While I've tried to find a similar community in which to raise my children, it's getting harder and harder. As long as we condone arrogance and bullying behavior by adults -- especially in our leaders -- we don't have a chance of changing children's behavior.

I don't go around like the "niceness police", but I do make it a point to support people and institutions that value kindness to others. I only shop where I am treated nicely, and I don't eat in homes where a well-known hechsher is served with a dose of unkindness. My husband, by the way, thinks I'm crazy. But why would I trust the kashrus of people to whom human dignity means so little?

4:02 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

Certainly teasing can be healthy in the growing up process, but at least in my world, bullying crosses a certain line and moves into more serious areas like property damage, physical fights that are more than a few punches, and more.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

And, I agree, that with girls the bullying can be much more cruel even if it doesn't cross into areas I said above. I guess one would have to be a girl to understand.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was bullied in the office by my boss, who belittled me, insulted me, overworked me to the point of exhaustion every day, and who was basically a scum of the earth. I was a middle-aged woman at the time! As long as I tolerated the bullying, it continued. When I went to the higher ups in the office, there was no help, because this man was a major producer of business. When I told our office manager that I was looking for another job, instantly, she transferred me to work for someone else. You can be bullied as an adult, and it doesn't mean you are at fault. But he did a number on me, and for a long time, I suffered quietly from the after-effects of this misery. I was in a position of vulnerability because I needed the job. He was powerful because he made the money for the firm. I had to work for him for 16 months before I gave my "ultimatum" to the office manager. Bullying is often about leverage, about power, and tolerance from the victim and those who look on and profit from the bully. When I took the power in my own hands and said I was leaving, I freed myself. If an adult is so victimized, how much more so a child! My heart aches for children who are bullied, and I despise the bullyers and their weasly parents.

4:24 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

You guys need to get some perspective. Bullies should be punished, but we dont need to start implementing special programs and policies. For the most part, its not that big a deal.

That is an unacceptable answer. Little bullies turn into big bullies. Especially in Yeshivas, where the emphasis should be on Middot Tovot, there should most certainly be a "zero tolerance" policy towards bullying.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very important post, thank you. I agree that schools are responsible for mediating and protecting children in the classroom. As parents, we don't always know if our children are being bullied. Even if we do, there is not much we can do, aside from (1) insisting that the school contact the bully's parents and work with the bully and his/her parents and (2) work with our own child who has been bullied by training them in assertiveness.

While it's true that dealing with bullies is unfortunately part of life, and we can't protect our children from everything, it is incumbant upon parents of bullies to teach the value of empathy to their children. If your child is a bully, it is not funny or cute, and does not demonstrate that your child is "smart and sophisticated." It demonstrates that she is mean and hurtful to others and can not take the perspective of others. This is a real problem for her personality development. Parents of bullies need to discipline their children, teach them to develop empathy, and show them that you don't value that trait, and yes- it is your responsibility to extinguish the behavior through punishment or negative reinforcement.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Yes, I was under the impression that Judaism is supposed to teach people how to treat others well - "ve-ahavta le-reacha kamocha" - the point is not for the bullied to learn how to bear it and then learn the lesson that only power and force matter.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“That is an unacceptable answer. Little bullies turn into big bullies. Especially in Yeshivas, where the emphasis should be on Middot Tovot, there should most certainly be a "zero tolerance" policy towards bullying.”

Rather naïve and presumptuous of you to think to think some policy idea can rid the world of bullies. Children and adults bully for a variety of reasons. There will always be bullies and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent this. If you want to try and minimize bullying in a school that’s fine and all but lets not pretend that this will reduce the number of people who turn into “big bullies”. No one views themselves as a bully, yet most of us are to some extent.

Bottom line, youre treating bullying far worse than it really is. You really DO need to get some prospective. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. You shouldn’t try to socially engineer some kind of defenseless sissies who cant solve problems on their own.

I don’t know what kind of overprivileged life you and your kids have for you to think this is a big problem, but I should introduce you to people with real problems.

5:25 PM  
Blogger thekvetcher said...

That is an unacceptable answer. Little bullies turn into big bullies. Especially in Yeshivas, where the emphasis should be on Middot Tovot, there should most certainly be a "zero tolerance" policy towards bullying.

they turn into school aministrators and bully the crap out of everyone.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are 100% right Orthomom. Can't be eradicated, but accepting it is worse. It is not that hard to spot- teachers and others just don't address it. Cuz they have to deal with the parents.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"they turn into school aministrators and bully the crap out of everyone"

The biggest bully problem is by teachers/rebbeim and administrators. I'm not talking about physical bullying which I assume-maybe naively doesn't happen-but psychological bullying. Especially to the weaker students.

7:42 PM  
Blogger thekvetcher said...

mycroft you are the only one that has a clear head to the rest of you you will all walk into the ovens you should be ashamed of yourselves for putting up with the abuse that has been going on for years..

8:22 PM  
Blogger Orthonomics said...

Orthomom, I attended a frum event where the topic was bullying. The main thing that I learned was more often than not, authority figures are complete unaware of the bullying that is going on and turn the situation around the school needs to foster an environment where bullying is reported to the authority figures.

8:42 PM  
Blogger projgen said...

When bullying results in the death of students from the beatings, the death of a student from suicide, the withdrawal of a student from society, raising this issue is not overblown.

I've been teased before, and I was always the last one picked for dodgeball teams. It hurt my feelings, but in the long run, was no big deal. When I was bullied by a schoolmate - punched, chased, terrorized, burned - that was serious. 35 years later and I still bear the physical scars and the emotional scars of being told by my parents, "just ignore her" or "try to make friends with her." I tried to make friends and the result was that I get to look in the mirror every day and see the cracked tooth she gave me.

This happened to me in public school, but whether public or private, the issue of bullying is NOT overblown. Don't confuse normal kid teasing and learning how to stick up for yourself with the real problem of bullying. I'm glad this issue is finally being addressed by the school systems.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(this is the "people think they know me but they just know my reputation" anonymous)

I still have psychological damage from being bullied throughout elementary school and high school. People told me to put up and shut up but all i really wanted to do (and should have done) was to kick all their asses.

Some people think that bullying is just joking around. It isn't. It's abuse. Because of that relentless abuse I couldn't handle even joking or constructive criticism from my friends until i became mature enough in college; and i've only just begun to learn the ways of 'witty reparte' and joking around with colleagues at work.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, being excluded from weekend plans by other kids is NOT bullying. It's part of life. Kids are by nature cliquish. You cannot compare that to the other instances you list such as being punched in the stomach and your post loses steam when you do.
Even if you attack bullying head on you will never get kids to include classmates they don't like in their plans and, come to think of it, they shouldn't have to.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we all understand that OM is talking about bullying phsychological behavior when it comes to weekend plans, not simple weekend plans that happen to.exclude a few girls. I can't speak for om, but I don't think she is taking issue with the weekend plans, so much as the specific exclusion of a girl and the taunting of her thereafter. I call that bullying, even if you may not. Trust me. My daughters have been there. A Yeshiva should nto allow such behavior.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(1) to the person who suggested if I do not think it's as big a deal as most here are making it out to be perhaps i was bullied (how does that make sense?) or perhaps i was a bully?: nope to both.

(2) to the person who said
"YOU never heard of it in YOUR area? Who cares? Does that mean in doesn't happen anywhere else? You don't say who YOU ARE, or where YOUR AREA is, so why do you think we're interested in your personal comments which don't have any point or purpose?"
a) Calm down
b) I never implied because it does not happen where I live it therefore does not happen in religious schools. Rather, contrasted with typical teasing which does happen in our (and i suspect all) areas, the comment was meant to surve as an example of what I felt was a proper balance. Certain behavior OM called bullying should not be tolerated under any circumstances while other bullying (use a different word if you prefer) should be recognized for what it is, part of life. Sorry if you missed the point/purpose.

(3) I could be wrong, but skimming the posts here it seems like there are considerably more women than men bothered by taunting or verbal bullying or whatever you want to call it. Of course that could mean nothing as most readers and or posters could be women. So whether it is accurate or significant I do not know.
Still, I would just like to point out I specifically selected OM's examples involving males because that's what I'm qualified to answer. Without attending a girls school I didnt feel qualified to respond to that issue.

1:30 AM  
Blogger eem said...

Anonymous 5:25, I guess neither you, your kids, or anyone you know has had to deal with bullying. No, kids don't have to be friends with everyone, but when it's done nastily, and on purpose, why should a childs self-esteem have to be destroyed like that? And if you want to say, teach them young to deal with it:
a) This is an age where self esteem is being formed. Kids don't "learn to deal with it". Instead they assume that they're no good, will never have any friends, and that the world is out to get them.
b)There's plenty of stuff to learn to deal with in school, including small teasing that goes on, learning to get along with kids or teachers they don't like, dealing with schoolwork and responsibility,etc. We immunize our children for diseases that pose serious danger to them, a risk that outweighs the possible benefit of their immune system becoming that much stronger if they do beat the diseases. Many, many kids don't come out of 8-12 years of constant physical or psychological bullying intact.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

this breaks my heart, children are so fragile and the thought that many children suffer in this manner; emotionally and physically is an awful realization. Naively I truly thought this didn't happen in our frum Jewish school (at the very least the physical blows)
What happened to our kids?

3:34 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Orthomom; I have to agree with the comment "I think everyone here IS confusing teasing, etc. with bullying. I do take bullying seriously. But as buffy says, excluding girls from weekend plans is not bullying. it's being cliquish."

It's two different issues -- both need to be dealth with, but differently.

The cliquishness of girls is AWFUL -- every week they rotate who is whose best friend, who is no longer a best friend, who shares which secret and who sits next to whom the bus. It also decides who is invited to which clique event.

That's very different than boys bullying each other... However, honestly, what do you expect when kids pick sides for sport teams -- there always has to be a kid who is picked last, right? Someone is always going to be last.

Having been picked last before, its not fun. Hey, even last week when we played hockey, I was picked last...

Next time, I need to show up on time.

But seriously - there is a difference between problematic, chronic bullying, and occasional teasing from other kids.

And the problem with girl cliques is very difficult to deal with.

(and there ends my ramble)

5:29 AM  
Blogger queeniesmom said...

The 1st thing that needs to happen is to admit there is a problem. Now that you've taken your head out of the sand, confront the issue. There are programs out there being used in both yeshivas and public schools that are appropriate.

On the main bullitin board as you walk to my children's school is a pledge that the kids signed about no bullying. Next to that is the sign derech eretz kadma l'torah. We seem tho have forgotten this in our preoccupation with the outward symbols of frumkeit.The school has taken a proactive role and is showing the kids that midot matter. As parents we have to "buy in" also. Does everyone, I'm sure not; will it stop all instances - no, but it's a start and isn't ignoring the issue. That's all I can ask of the school.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MoChassid- you are soooooooooo wrong on this it's unbelievable. Especially in yeshivos we should be trying to teach ahavas yisrael for every jew. the idea of "just cliquishness" is absolutely anathema.
And people who were bullied are not good at accepting criticsm etc. and get along better in the work place. That is total nonsense.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had better believe that girls can bully as well as boys. They also instigate boys into bullying.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on the definition of "bullying" given by orthomom and the other hypersensitive posters on this blog, id say about 95% of all elementary and highschool age children are guilty of frequent bullying.

Excessive beatings or even extreme psychological bullying is one thing, but what you jewish moms are calling bullying is really just the way kids are. There will always be cliques, insults, teasing etc. Im sure you and your children are just as guilty as everyone else.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect timing, OM. When I got home from work yesterday I was informed about an incident that just happened in my son's preschool, which includes about eighteen frum children. One of the boys had brought in a toy from home and was sharing it with some of the other kids. My son asked to play with it, and the boy refused. This, of course, is not the end of the world and my son is good about letting those things go. But one of his friends confronted the boy, and told him that "if you don't let x play with it, then my brother will beat you up!". The boy still refused, and for the rest of the day my son's two friends played only with my son, and excluded the other boy from all their activities. My wife found out this whole story from my son, who is pretty articulate for a preschooler.

The actual threat doesn't have much chance of being borne out, since the older brother in question attends a different school, the families daven in different shuls, and they don't live on the same block. And of course, the kids are only three or four and have almost certainly forgotten about the whole thing by now. Nevertheless, my wife was concerned and wanted to talk to the head teacher about it. My wife doesn't want my son being associated with any kind of bullying, and she doesn't want it to occur to anyone in his school. She asked my advice, and I instantly thought of this post. I told her she should talk to the teacher about it, but we also need to begin explaining these things to my son.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 11:25 - that's the point!!!! kids are like that. it's human nature. and it is the whole point of education and parenting to RAISE children so that they develop GOOD personality traits and get rid of the BAD ones. Just to say, "well that's the way kids are" and leave it at that is an abdication of responsibility.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

The Jewish way is NOT to follow the path of "Lord of the Flies". Saying "it's just how kids are" is a cop-out, and a dangerous one at that.

Also, to all those who are playing down girls bullying, I have a little quote for you: "Whoever said 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me' was obviously deaf." Girls bullying can be extremely psychologically damaging precisely because it runs under the surface and can be masked by "normal" behaviors. Therefore, it is far less noticeable and more rarely addressed. Yes, leaving one girl out of a playdate for one weekend is nothing to freak out over--but excluding that girl week after week after week, and taunting her about it constantly, will wear her down until she truly believes that she is unworthy of inclusion and normal friendship.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"MoChassid- you are soooooooooo wrong on this it's unbelievable. Especially in yeshivos we should be trying to teach ahavas yisrael for every jew. the idea of "just cliquishness" is absolutely anathema. And people who were bullied are not good at accepting criticsm etc. and get along better in the work place. That is total nonsense"

First of all, I'm almost never wrong and I don't think this is an exception. Second, I never said the second part of the quote. I agree it's nonsense.

Third, having raised two boys and two girls, I can say unequivacally that girls are MUCH worse at inflicting psychological damage.

Fourth, I am not advocating ignoring this issue. This post and most of the comments ignores two central realities: Kids can be cruel, and, homes are where these issues are best addressed. Laying it all on the schools is misplacing responsibility.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MoChassid- the home is important, but the school is where this kind of thing goes on and needs to be addressed there. I speak from personal experience. I was bullied for years until I had one teacher who made it clear that there was a zero tolerance policy on teasing. That was the best year of my life in school. I actually enjoyed school and learned things and began to develop a positive attitude about myself and life. Until next year...

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I really wonder- how many of the people who think this "isn't a big deal" were not the object of teasing and bullying when they were kids. I think that would be the most instructive question to be asked in this conversation. Of course anyone can claim anything in this venue.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

bullying has to be addressed in all arenas from school to home.

and it's not true that people have to deal with real bullying in life. with adults we call it harrasment and assault, the government deals with this. this is what is ment by the statement "if not for the government people would eat each other alive"

you deal with bullying, you deal with it in all cases, and if you teach them and dirrect them when they're young, then they wont depart from it so much when they're older.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Abacaxi Mamao said...

Great post. Thank you.

I think that girls use cliques to bully in the same way that boys often use sports to bully. I agree that there is a difference between teasing and bullying, but am not sure one hurts any less than the other. And I think that it is the job of parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders to teach right from wrong. Teasing and bullying are both wrong. I doubt there is any way to eradicate it entirely, but as the subject of much teasing and some bullying as a child, I feel that a strong "this is wrong and won't be tolerated" message from figures of authority would go a long way towards making victim's lives more bearable.

I cited an interesting article about the "outcast nerd" phenomenon and wrote a bit about my own experiences as a child here.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you plan on filing harassment charges when someone in the office calls you incompetitent and unreliable? or suing when you're not invited to a wedding/party?

these are parallel to OM's examples of "bullying." They're part of life and no, you can't sue someone for them.

as per "assualt" that's quite the strawman. no one here has advocated anything other than the strictest of methods in dealing with phsyical abuse in schools.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kids have to learn self-worth from an early age. First thing to teach a kid is to protect himself, and to strike back (or pre-emptively) at a bullying kid...

as long as the bullyers don't have weapons, of course...

then run for ze hills!!

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have yet to hear a parent complain to me about how their child is a bully"

excellent post. its a real problem.
however, i must say that i have been i rebbi for ten years, parents get quite upset when they find out their child id a bully. i have had numerous parents tell me they are very concerned that their child is a bully, and they are trying to stop it. it is a difficult situation. generally the bully is 'acting out' and if we can deal with the bully and 'find out what really bothering them', the bullying will stop.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all those who are saying that bullying is "part of life," that not being invited out on a Sunday is being cliquish, not bullying, etc:

I don't think anyone here is talking about a one-time problem of a girl who wasn't invited out, or a kid who has his/her own friends, but isn't in the "popular" crowd. We're not talking about a soccer captain or coach who says "listen, kid, your throwing skills need some work. You gotta practice more." Or a boss who is demanding or picky.

We're talking about situations in which, say, one child is SYSTEMATICALLY excluded from all activities of ALL the children in his/her grade, CONSTANTLY insulted, in mean-spirited, cruel ways, for things that are beyond his/her control or not even true.

We're talking about behavior that, in any adult setting, would be intolerable to most normal people. Sure, at work you get criticized if you mess up. But would you stick around in a job where the boss and all your coworkers have singled you out as "the nebach"? would you stay in that company if you were constantly harrassed about being fat and ugly, and the HR people just said "toughen up"? No- you'd quit.

Well, your kid can't quit. You are sending him to school every day to be with these people.

Yes, the world is cruel. But it doesn't HAVE to be, and most adults will flee a situation in which they are experiencing cruelty, IF THEY CAN. Come back to me when you are willing to stay in a job where you have never been promoted in 10 years, your coworkers call you "loser" to your face, and the guy at the next desk gets his jollies pinching your shoulder -- and you have no idea how you invited any of this.

Last note: In general I was a nice kid in school (and not bullied), but in 7th grade there was a girl in my class that the rest of us definitely DID bully. We were horrible to her. And I can tell you, as someone who participated in systematically excluding her, that bullying feels very different, on the part of the perpetrator, than teasing. I KNOW that what we did to that kid crossed the line from "girls will be girls" to cruel and unusual punishment.

Mochassid, I'm very dissapointed in you.

2:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the constant cold shoulder IS part of life in the adult world. no one's saying parents or teachers should stand idly by while a kid suffers. But you just can't force teenagers to "be nice" to one another. you can't force feelings of decency. you can, and should, teach them and try to impress positive values upon them. but even schools that are sincere in their efforts in this area will still have their fair share of 'verbal bullies."

at a young age you can group the three (exclusion, verbal teasing/bullying, and phsyical bullying) together and force kids not to do that. by the time they reach high school you really can't force kids to be nice to other kids. you still can force no physical contact.

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my "friends" in high school was a verbal bully as well as excluding girls from social events, she would laugh at clothing, hair styles etc. Now she is an adult and has unfortunately had some hardships in life she very often tells me what a mean B**** she was. I told her maybe she should address that to the people she was nasty to.
thats now what i wanted to say but it was in answer to someone who said parents don't believe their kids are capable of being bullies.
I personally get really upset if one my friends calls to tell me my kid is not being "nice". It has happened only once but i have to take a step back before i confront my child because i want to hear how she will verbalise it - will she see it as being "mean" or self defence. I talk to her and try and use the "put urself in someone elses shoes" eg How would you feel if you were excluded from a game in the school yard even if there are already too many kids in the game?" i try to make it as personal as possible so she can try and feel what the other child could possibly feeling.
(My daughter doesnt have a problem with being a bully, infact she is bullied on the school bus by older kids and although i did try and get her to cope with it on her own by trying to sit somewhere else etc. once it continued and became physical i stepped in big time and a) she isnt bullied and more importantly b) she knows i LISTEN to what she says and I will defend her and protect her when necessary.

Lastly ( i know its a long comment)
when i taught girls aged 11 and it was the Omer time a great time for dealing with Ahavas Yisroel, I would get the girls to take a paper and fold it in 4 and in each section a header 1) Things i can do to hurt someones feelings
2) things someone can do to hurt my feelings 3( things i can do to make someone feel good and 4) things others can do for me that will make me feel good.
Initially they thought hey this is easy i can do only 2 of the columns and then reverse it but once they thought about it and had to think how another person feels they come up with amazing stuff realising that what hurts someone else not necessarily hurts them and so on. It made them really think how their actions can hurt someone in ways they never imagined and the girls all shared their idea with each other in a discusiion.
The final part of the project was that they had to keep a diary for a week of the things they did every day that could be considered positive to another person.

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