Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 3, 2010

Reporting bullying is key to stopping problem

Under-reporting prevents administrators from taking action, Palo Alto principal says

by Chris Kenrick

The hesitance of bullying victims to report incidents leads to a Catch-22 in addressing the problem of school bullying, Jordan Middle School Principal Michael Milliken said this week.

Bullying on middle school campuses affects a minority of students, "but for that small percentage it's an overwhelming and regular occurrence that can really drive them to the point of despair," Milliken said in a Tuesday panel discussion that was broadcast live on the public-access channel of the Midpeninsula Media Center.

"The majority of bullying victims don't come forward," Milliken said. "With such low reporting rates, sometimes we don't get access to the incidents as we'd like.

Even when they do report incidents, victims and their parents often want guarantees of anonymity, making it harder for officials to impose consequences on alleged perpetrators, he said.

"You really can't approach bullies using generalities and just talk about being respectful with their peers.

"If we get over that hump (of reporting), we do have the framework in place so we can provide disciplinary consequences and get fully involved in a situation," Milliken said.

"There have been multiple cases where we've used that framework with great effectiveness."

If a bullying incident is reported, administrators typically will try to confirm it with other witnesses before going to the alleged perpetrator.

"We try to make sure we're identifying the issue in a way that protects the reporter's confidentiality," Milliken said.

In surveys, "most students report not having been bullied in the last year," he said.

"At the same time, a good 4 percent to 5 percent report they've been bullied weekly or more."

It's important to "acknowledge both realities," he said.

Milliken was one of four panelists in the hour-long discussion moderated by Philippe Rey, executive director of the nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) of Palo Alto.

Other panelists were ACS Director of On-Campus Counseling Roni Gillenson; Mountain View therapist Erin Rosenblum; and Anthony William Ross, program director of Outlet, a Mountain View nonprofit organization aimed at empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Rosenblum said victims sometimes don't report bullying incidents even to their parents because "they think there's something wrong with them, that they're being bullied for a reason. They're ashamed, and they don't want to tell their parents because they might be judged the same way."

Signs that a child is being bullied could include missing property, unexplained scrapes, avoidance of school or usual routes to school and withdrawing from friends, panelists said.

Milliken said what worries him most are "the bulk of cases" that don't come to the attention of school officials.

"For us, the issue is making sure we have a culture in place and an educated staff who know what to look for and know how to intervene when they see and hear things. The bulk of our work is creating a culture where 'bystanders' become 'upstanders.'"

Most of the bullying on middle school campuses is verbal or social rather than the cyberbullying more prevalent in high schools, Milliken said.

Bullying among boys tends to be "more physical, more yelling and more aggressive," Gillenson said.

Among girls, it involves "more emotional manipulation and shunning," she said.

Social networks have transformed bullying from a phenomenon limited to the school grounds to something that, "from a target's vantage point, can feel like bullying 24/7," Milliken said.

"It now can take place at home, on the way home, on the weekends."

Panelists urged victims to confide in an adult at their school whom they trust.

"All three of us (Palo Alto middle school principals) take student safety, emotional and physical well-being as our top priority," Milliken said.

"Students in this situation (of being bullied) can't learn. They need to be safe; they need to be in a respectful environment. And it's something that absolutely needs to be brought to the attention of school administrations."

Milliken said every one of Palo Alto's 12 elementary schools has some kind of character-education program in place to support student social-emotional well-being and encourage a respectful school culture.

"It's our hope, now that every school has been doing something for at least a year, that over time we'll see a cumulative effect and a tidal shift in school culture."

Tuesday's panel discussion was co-sponsored by ACS, Foundation for a College Education, Community Health Awareness Council, Outlet and Youth Community Service. The discussion will be rebroadcast on Comcast Channel 28 as well as streamed live over the Midpeninsula Media Center website (www.midpenmedia.org) concurrently Dec. 9 at 11 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 9 p.m.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2010 at 10:37 am

This article doesn't say anything. Did the school officials not have anything to say about "bullying" that the public needs to know about?

Like ..

Who is bullying whom?
Is this bullying restricted to middle school?
Is this a male-on-male situation only, or are females involved?
Are students being physically assaulted in the process?
How many unique "bullies" are involved?
What is the point of the "bullying" (in other words, what problem is the "bully" trying to address with his actions?

There was an article in the Merc recently about a religious group (Sikhs) claiming that their kids were being bullied because of their appearance (headgear). Is this sort of thing going on in Palo Alto?

Are the bullies coming from one section of town, or one economic sector?

Can anyone fill in any of these gaps in the Weekly's reporting?


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

As a parent with kids in middle and high school - my thoughts one your questions:

Who is bullying whom? Kids are bullying kids, occasionally teachers bully kids too.
Is this bullying restricted to middle school? Absolutely not, its starts as early as kindergarten. It does get better in high school.
Is this a male-on-male situation only, or are females involved? Boys bully boys, girls bully girls, kids bully kids of either sex.
Are students being physically assaulted in the process? Boys tend to be more physical in their bullying, girls are more verbal.
How many unique "bullies" are involved? Good question
What is the point of the "bullying" (in other words, what problem is the "bully" trying to address with his actions? Everything from trying to be cool, to picking on kids with physical or mental issues, kids who are from lower socio-economic levels trying to compete, negative attention is better than no attention, queen bees, etc.
There was an article in the Merc recently about a religious group (Sikhs) claiming that their kids were being bullied because of their appearance (headgear). Is this sort of thing going on in Palo Alto? Another good question. Kids in Palo Alto do seem to be pretty accepting of religious differences though. Much more than physical differences.
Are the bullies coming from one section of town, or one economic sector? Many of the parents of the bullies either condone it to some extent or are pretty hands-off parents. Aside from that, bullying seems to be an equal opportunity sport from all parts of town and a variety of economic levels. Don't assume that the disadvantage kids are more likely to bully, some of the meanest kids come from families with plenty of resources.


Posted by Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

The other question is what is the definition of bullying?

Is bullying the same as teasing? Is bullying the same as taunting? What one person defines as bullying may really be seen by another as teasing. What one sees as bullying by a child who is continually being taunted may be a form of self defence.

All these things are indeed wrong, but I ask how often is a child retaliating to constant taunting by classmates treated as the bully when they may in fact be a victim of something more subtle and the true culprits are never told that their behavior is what started it and they were also in the wrong?

There are always two sides to every incident and unless we have a group of tough kids trying to steal lunch money from the weaker kids then we really ought to look into what we are really discussing here.


Posted by Q, a resident of Southgate
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

Bullying is about "power"- one student trying to have power over another. If a victim is concerned about retaliation, all they have to do is report it to a school administrator again and again and again - every time it happens! Report it until something is done! If that bully has been warned already or disciplined already and continues bullying, I would like to think that the discipline gets harsher. Parents should be contacted every time a school administrator speaks with a student. Progressive discipline means that the consequences get higher each time. Eventually the bully gets suspended or even expelled, right? Finally, I have a hard time believing the statistics that Mr. Milliken reported that only 4-5% of secondary school students report being bullied weekly or more. I have seen national statistics that are much higher than that. Palo Alto is no different!


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:28 am

I agree with the concept of protecting the person who reports the bullying. However, if the administration can't approach a bully unless they have accounts from a number of witnesses, they might never be able to confront the bully at all. From what I've seen and heard in our district, bullying is at its worst in the middle schools, and it occurs when groups of kids run as a pack, with ringleaders, who use bullying to keep their followers in line. Any kid on campus can tell the administration who these kids are, but often won't as there is a code of not 'ratting people out.' With some observation, the administration could figure out who the bullies are and insist they modify their behavior in general. If specific episodes are brought before the bullies, all this will lead to is more targeting of the victims, not just by the bully but by his or her followers in an effort to remain in favor. If I had my way, the bullies would be removed from our schools and educated among other bullies. This would be more effective. I agree that sometimes the parents are pleased to have a bully as a child. Some encourage it as the law of the jungle. When their kid is in reform school they have the chance to rethink this. Until then, we have to support our kids in how to cope with badly behaved children.


Posted by The proble is bigger, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

The principal at Jordan statement "At the sam time good 4 to 5 percent report they've been bullied weekly or more" is inaccurate. There are a lot of students out there who are being bullied not just weekly but daily, but do not report because they have done it before, and whatever the school did to address the problem did not work only made things worst. An example of this is Barron Park School,where students get bully everyday by the same aggressors and all the principal does is asks them to write an apology letter and out they go to bully again. My own children were bully there and continue to be bully at middle school. They are afraid to tell because they told before and things did not get better. They got tease and bully even more for telling. At this point changing schools will be best, but is not easy. One of them cries and does not want to go to school anymore. Slowly they are getting depressed and their self-stem is going down. Kids are not the only ones bullying, there are also some teachers who bully kids and parents. It is sad. By the my kids are not the only ones.


Posted by Harriet Chessman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

I'm so heartened that bullying is receiving attention. Based on my children's experience, and the experience of their friends, bullying is at a minimum in the elementary schools (at Addison, for sure), because those communities are smaller and more hands-on, and the teachers know their own bunch of students so well, and can nip problems in the bud. Paly is also fairly calm, especially as the students become Juniors and Seniors, developing more nuanced social skills and maturity.

Jordan Middle School has a serious problem, however, in my view, and I have to say that in a SMALL handful of instances, teachers can also become part of the problem in their aggressive attitudes toward students. However, most of the teachers and certainly all of the guidance staff work very hard to create a safe environment.

In spite of this, Jordan's culture seems to me to give too much space or implicit permission for bullying -- the kind that involves "pretending" to bump into a younger student in the open breezeways or hallways, for instance, or calling other students "gay." If a child is a little overweight, or sensitive, or shy, or marginal to a perceived norm, the very largeness of this school can be daunting, and teachers can't be omnipresent, overseeing every social interaction.

I am not an expert on the breakdown of girls' and boys' bullying, but I agree with one comment above, about boys being more physically aggressive and verbally abusive, and girls being sometimes more subtle. In both cases, appearance and popularity appear to be big factors. The less athletic or "popular" a child is, the more open she or he is to bullying, whether of the physical variety or the shunned-by-clique variety. As for wealth, I think it's unclear how this plays into the mix. Some bullies I've known at Jordan have been quite wealthy, and some have been quite poor.

I wish now that I had moved my middle school student into a private school for 7th and 8th grades. I should add, it does get better the older all of the students grow.


Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

In reality school administration has no real powers of enforcing any of its code of conduct policy rules. They are just guidelines... Many cases of cyber-bullying in the last few years left parents completely frustrated with lack of meaningful response from the administration. Legally they have no "legs" to go after cyber bullies.


Posted by Batar, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

Milliken and his team are doing a good job, which we had a chance to see first hand last year. They uncovered a problem, came down on the bullies, and that was the end of the story.

Unfortunately, the teachers are another story. Some are great, but there are some real bullies on staff at Jordan. The kids all know who they are.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Jordan administration and staff are serious about stopping bullying. My child reported witnessing a student being punched and the student was suspended for a week. Another time, a student was continually being harassed and verbally abused and once it was reported by witnesses, staff and administration immediately acted upon it.

Parents need to be aware of their children's attitudes and realize if they seem bothered because children will not always tell them about their days in school.

I recall in middle school, I witnessed a student being verbally and physically abused but I stood and watched along with others. While I felt sorry for the victim, I never thought of reporting the incident.

Jordan administration should publicize (via JTV and emails) the message that students can report to staff or administration if they witness bullying and this will help the victim. Many times, victims are too embarrassed to admit they have been bullied or think the bully will see them reporting it. Witnesses should know that administration will keep their reporting confidential. Jordan administration is professional and competent.


Posted by Joyce, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm

This is avery urgent and important topic. I hear so many parents complain that their kids are being bullied but they say "they are scared of complaining to the officials as bullies will get more angry and take it out gain on their kids".

My son always complains that he is constantly being bullied. I talk to the teacher right away and luckily this school takes bullying seriously. At the same time I tell my son that the bullies have all time low confidence and incompetent. So the message is that my son is not at fault. Words can't express the amount of damage bullying does to a good kid.

Hope schools make a strong agreement with the child and parent that at no cost bullying will be tolerated after admission. Suspension of One week here and one week there won't teach them a lesson instead community service (pickup garbage from side walks 2 miles for each instance) would definetly send a lesson.

For these kids we need to re-invent dictionary which has only one word - "NO".


Posted by Mummy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Well, my son survived bullying in elementary school... and middle school and is now in high school.

His take on bullying is that the victim that reports bullying ends up in more trouble than the bully himself or herself. Hence the reluctance to report bullying. It is just no safe to report it. At best, both bully and victim are punished. At worst only the victim is victimized all over again.


Posted by Becky Sanders, a resident of Ventura
on Dec 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I found Chris's article very informative and true to the nature of the panel discussion which I watched live on Comcast Channel 28. It is really impossible to cover such an important issue as bullying in one hour. But Philippe and his guests gave us a lot of helpful tips. Philippe promised to put some resources up on their website so check them out Web Link and if you don't find resources you're looking for send them an email. Their doing a great job over there. But like so many non-profs they have limited resources and unlimited desire to do good. If you missed Parent Talk it will be broadcast on CHANNEL 28 as well as streamed live over the MEDIA CENTER website (www.midpenmedia.org) concurently on:
Wed. Dec. 9 at 11 pm and Friday Dec. 11 at 9 pm. There are more scheduled playbacks in the pipeline so you can always check their website for more playback times each week.


Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

My child was bullied years ago at Ohlone, where nothing effective was done to stop it, and then at JLS, where the vice principal immediately nipped it in the bud when it was brought to his attention. My child reported it, and it turned out the bullies had already been actively bullying other students and were known to the vice principal already, so he spoke to them right away. Whatever he said really had an effect because they stopped. What a difference from elementary school. The administration's response actually worked for a change, and it made my child feel, at last, that the situation wasn't hopeless.


Posted by Denese, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

This is big problem at middle school. When my kids were in middle school there were a group of girls who had bullied a group of other girls until their parents went to the school the girls stoped for a period and then started bulling my kids. After much back and forth with Administration my kids started fighting back, what happened, my kids were sent home for fighting along with the bully. Finally, I told the kids the next time the bullies came after them, call the Police.

What happens they call the police and the administration sent the police away telling them they will they will take care of it. It was not until I sent a letter to the Board and Superintendant that we got results.

Sad things these same bullies go on to high school and do the same thing


Posted by denese, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Dr. Skelly are you reading this?


Posted by Still have 1 in pausd, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 1, 2010 at 5:49 pm

This would be nice report if you could trust the pausd. At Fairmeadow while my kids were the principle would do nothing about bullies. Some of the things that happened.
One student poisoned.
One with peanut allergies had peanuts forced down his mouth.
One girl was threaten with broken arm if she did not do what the bully wanted. Since she did to save her arm the principle said she was a willing participant and nothing needed to be done.
Many kids choked.
Many kids hit.
Lots of things taken by intimidation.
All of this the principle knew about and gave a total of one two day suspension. The assistant superintendent at the time said principle could run the school as he wanted to and the district would not interfere. Things got better when some of the parents starting calling the police to the school. If a girl wore a shirt that he thought was to short he would call her to the office and deal with that moment. The principle was promoted for his good job or connections to assistant superintendentfor HR. Now it is staff that get him but atleast the students are safer. In the pausd students come after staff


Posted by Batar, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

"At best, both bully and victim are punished. At worst only the victim is victimized all over again." Found exactly the same at elementary--crazy admin just didn't care and in that sense kind of conspired in the bullying.

But we were very satisfied with Milliken's team at Jordan last year. No nonsense about both kids being at fault--just punishment for the perp.


Posted by Jordan parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2010 at 12:13 am

I've been impressed with Mr Milliken's efforts in his very short tenure so far. He and his team are making huge strides in setting a positive school climate despite the best efforts of the middle schoolers to behave like middle school students. It's an enormous school to manage and I find it quite daunting; however, I do volunteer at the school to see with my own eyes what's going on... and to help with setting a positive atmosphere. I encourage everyone to do so. It's amazing how the kids respond when they know adults are around.


Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:02 am

I agree with Batar's comment--"No nonsense about both kids being at fault--just punishment for the perp." There seems to be an attitude at the elementary school level that both children involved in a bullying incident are always to blame, when in fact sometimes it's simply a power play where one child is picking on a more isolated or vulnerable child who is different than others. When the bullied child finally musters up the courage to approach an adult and is immediately asked how they provoked the attack or contributed to the conflict, it discourages them from going to adults again. the bullying then continues with no resolution. And the "yard duties" and principal in my child's elementary were ineffective in helping to resolve conflict. They seemed blind and deaf to what was happening on the playground. When it was brought to their attention, they always assumed that both children were to blame. Sometimes this is the case, and sometimes it's not, but adults need to consider that the bullying is often one-sided.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:21 am

School leadership/administration must do whatever they can to put in place a positive atmosphere for learning. Our memories of Jordan are not entirely pleasant. At the time, there didn't seem to be an effective way to deal with bullies (both male and female, incidentally). I don't know the current administration, but they CAN make a huge difference and taking active steps to foster safety and reasonable respect in the halls should be part of their job description and requirements.


Posted by Parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:21 am

Anyone ever considered that sometimes the kids are playing out some of the things they are learning in the classroom?

Some of the middle school literature choices bring out some hard topics and introduce attitudes that they have always been told is wrong. Books like "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry" are good examples of this. They know that the treatment in these books is completely wrong, but the fact that they are studying it as supposedly good literature sends a mixed message. How can we treat tolerance of everyone when they are studying about the exact opposite.

I am not saying that we should not teach history, but some of this literature and dealing with these topics in such detail should be done at a later stage in a child's development, at least wait until high school. Some of these kids find it much harder to see the difference in what was acceptable in a different day and age, than nowadays, and perhaps we are putting prejudices in minds where it heretofor never existed.

I think it is worth thinking about anyway.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

From a posting above:
---
> One student poisoned.

> One with peanut allergies had peanuts forced down his mouth.

> One girl was threaten with broken arm if she did not do what
> the bully wanted. Since she did to save her arm the principle
> said she was a willing participant and nothing needed to be done.

> Many kids choked.

> Many kids hit.

> Lots of things taken by intimidation.
---

It's frustrating reading these postings, and knowing that there is no paper trail in the public domain to make some sense of the problems being alleged. Most of these incidents would likely end up being considered as "assault" if they happened off the school grounds. So, why shouldn't they be considered "assault" on the school grounds.

If parents started calling the police and demanding incident reports, so that the public could get access to information that has more credence that blog postings, there might be a basis for some sort of "community" action to get at this problem.

If parents aren't willing to stand up for their kids, then who is going to?


Posted by Finally, a resident of Barron Park School
on Dec 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Parent of a formerly bullied child, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Finally:

I am not a member of the Barron Park school community and I don't know what happens there. However, I had a child who was bullied at school, by classmates and by his teacher, and the teacher and principal did not do anything about it. I ended up pulling my child out of the school for the rest of the year and home-schooled him for that span of time. He returned to school the following fall and things went much better for him then.

If you went to the teachers and the principal to discuss your child's problems and nothing serious was done about it, and the bullying continues, it is your right to go to the school district and to demand help from the school district, including, if need be, a transfer of your child to another school where, hopefully, things will be better for your child.

Don't let anyone make you believe nothing can be done. Take matters into your own hands, and go above the heads of people who won't help. Don't allow your child's bullying to continue.

Finally, if several children and their parents are in the same situation as you are, don't hesitate to intervene as a group with the principal, or with the school district if need be. Several parents acting jointly are even more powerful than a single parent acting on their own.

Good luck.


Posted by Parent of formerly bullied child/Mummy, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Oooops... I forgot I had already posted here and I changed my name. I apologize. I am "mummy" of and "Parent of a formerly bullied child".


Posted by Batar, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm

" but the fact that they are studying it as supposedly good literature sends a mixed message." I disagree. Those books can only help. A more likely source is observed behavior--some of these bullies are seeing the same behavior at home and learning from it.

And I have to agree with parent: sometimes the kids take their cue from a bully teacher.


Posted by What to do, a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Given that the behavior is hidden and that is what keeps it going, could there be public "shaming" of bullies? I'm not sure what form it would take, but maybe even a website where students or parents could post anonymously, as they do here.


Posted by Not in this century, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

@What to do: Posting photos anonymously and shaming? That would quickly go awry with cyberbullying and claims of libel.


Posted by Batar, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2010 at 4:13 am

What,

I don't think that kind of parent really cares about shaming.

Elementary story: brought a bully to the teacher's attention, no help. Vice principal: no help. Principal: no help. So we very politely mentioned issues to the parents in person and got vague expressions of concern. Behavior continued, so we wrote directly (and very politely) to the parents, no help and flat-out denials. Began speaking with other parents, and of course it turned out the little girl was causing problems for almost every kid in the class, and all the parents had all spoken to the teacher. Many of them had spoken to the principal, and some had spoken to the parents.

Eventually, the girl's parents were shunned, but the little girl kept up her bullying.


Posted by JordanParent, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2010 at 7:44 am

Not that I think punching a bully who pushes you is the right thing to do, but having some physical skills to defend yourself can certainly boost a child's (or adult's, for that matter) confidence to deal with situations that might escalate.

For those at Jordan, in particular, do you realize that there is a Karate instructor who teaches there a couple evenings each week? This guy has actually been doing Karate for over 50 years! (full disclosure: He is a friend of mine)

So many parents encourage their kids to play team sports in an effort to help get them into the best colleges. But do you realize that the more physical (as compared to purely verbal) abuse often happens at these physical activities? Perhaps a bullied student would be better off learning karate than baseball, football, etc., or at least adding it to their list of activities. There are certain skills gained from these team sport activities and I'm not meaning to discourage it. But don't you think it could be even more valuable to learn something that could someday save your life?

Sure, bullying is a case-by-case situation. But from my personal experience as someone who was bullied in jr and sr high as a kid, Karate turned things around for me. Without ever punching or kicking anyone, or even shouting back at bullies, my added confidence seemed to be enough. They eventually left me alone. And now I'm the guy that even the worst on the street wouldn't want to mess with. I would definitely recommend the study of a martial art for EVERYONE. But particularly for those who feel they are being bullied.

This being said, I would say that FAR more important for dealing with verbal bullying is notifying parents and teachers/administrators. And parents, please don't tell your child to just "deal with it" or to "hit them back if you get hit." There is often far more going on than meets the eye in these situations and both emotional and physical scars can stay with bullied kids for years to come. As parents, we need to monitor what goes on with our kids at school.

Link to Karate at Jordan:
Web Link
offsite Karate option not far away:
Web Link


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

In case you're coping with one of these problems for your child - the school district has a policy in place for filing a complaint about a teacher or other school related problem. The first step is to create a dated correspondence trail. When we've had issues with bad teachers, bullying, etc. nothing ever happened until we sent an email about it, thus starting a record of the transaction. Once they see this, anyone who works for the district is more likely to take action. If you don't, you'll often get the runaround. Having said this, we did have to make sure our children were involved in a sport with plenty of physical development and supervised aggression. Good coaching is very effective in teaching people how to navigate the many forms of aggression they will encounter in life. I don't believe in blaming the victim, and I would love to see bullies and their parents publicly shamed, but as mentioned above, it wouldn't go well for the rest of us. We have our share of mean kids and mean parents in our district. Put the problem in an email and cc everybody. Make sure your child is learning the skills to cope with mean people.


Posted by ParentofBulliedChild, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

I find hopeful reading the above comments that the bullying stops at high school.
I observe bullying going on with girls isolating other girls who are not in their clique, and boys bullying other boys who they deem not popular or athletic enough. Shy children who hide under a bully's "skirts" seem to escape bullying by other children.
The worst bullying that happened to my daughter was from girls on other girls. But another time two boys who did not like her, for whatever reason, stole a pen out of her hands in the classroom and would not give it back. Later they taunted her all day on the schoolyard, and when she frustratedly used a bad word, not that I condone that, she got detention not the bullies. Another boy who is bullied daily by other boys also gets detention when he says something back, and nothing ever happens to the bullies. When I discussed this with teachers or admin, they said they have to catch it in the act, so if they only see a child escaping from another child, that child gets detention not the bullies. I find that schools are more concerned with Star testing and academic performance rather than how a child does daily.

With all the teen suicides why can't the schools focus more on emphasizing that kids be nice to each other? Can't we all get along?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

JordanParent: Thanks so much for those links! I have been wanting to find a reputable place for my son.


Posted by justanotherparent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 3, 2010 at 9:55 am

ParentofBulliedChild wrote: "I find that schools are more concerned with Star testing and academic performance rather than how a child does daily."

Bingo. As long as our kids remain among the top test-scorers and get into the top schools, who cares if a few of them get physically and/or verbally abused along the way, or even if a few of them kill themselves each year?

Priorities seem to be off with many people in this area.


Posted by JordanParent, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2010 at 10:07 am

To "Parent," who posted:
JordanParent: Thanks so much for those links! I have been wanting to find a reputable place for my son.
----------
I really wish there were more good martial arts places around here. There are TONS of places that claim to teach martial arts that offer little more than temporary day-care for kids. Actually, some of them seem to do more harm than good, sometimes fostering violence and other times just having the kids play games and do some acrobatics (not a bad thing; just not martial arts that they claim to be teaching) and charging a boatload of money for it. If you are looking for a good place for your kids to do Karate, I think the 2 I mentioned are definitely among the best around here. For Aikido, check out this place: Web Link If anyone knows of a good Judo place, please post a link. Rule of thumb is to stay away from anyplace in a strip-mall and/or referring to their facility as a "studio" or the instructors as "masters" or "professors." And don't waste your time with places where the "teachers" are younger than 20.
Good luck.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

@JordanParent: I checked out the link about the classes at the Buddhist Temple in PA and phoned him and it sounds grand! I have a 6 year old who has been ready for classes for years. Sounds like a real class instead of a fitness class. Classes are Tuesdays, 4:00-4:45 and on Dec. 14, they are testing so it's a good time to view what the kids learn. New session begins Jan. 4. Thanks again!


Posted by mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Isn't the real world full of bullies? N Korea, Iran, the IRS and others.

Shouldn't there be an emphasis on teaching kids to deal with it, push back, etc so that they don't enter the real world totally incapable of functioning? Don't think the principal or teacher is going to be there to help -although there seem to be plenty of instances of helicopter parents trying to protect their kids post college.


Posted by lanie, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm

i am sad to hear that there is bullying going on in schools. but i do believe some kids around here, especially in the elementary schools are raised to play the part of victim - getting overly dramatic for attention, parents jumping in at every little playground squabble - anybody think this feeds the bullying?


Posted by jack, a resident of University South
on Dec 3, 2010 at 10:06 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by actually..., a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 3, 2010 at 10:31 pm

the worst bullies in pausd are the parents. where do you think their kids learn it from?

Most of the parents are great (probably 90-95%) but the ones who aren't (that 5-10%) are absolutely horrible -- the worst bullies you'll ever meet.



Posted by Harriet Chessman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 4, 2010 at 10:16 am

I am so glad to hear that Jordan's culture is changing under the guidance of a new principal. That is wonderful news indeed.

I hope that this principal is aware of the small handful of teachers at Jordan who bully their students. I am pretty sure that the students know who these teachers are. If you have teachers who shout at students, or use sarcasm, or say cruel things in the classroom to children ages 11 - 14, and children see that such teachers hold onto their jobs day after day, week after week, year after year, then the clear message is that the school is protecting the teachers, not the children. It is not a simple or a comfortable thing to raise a grave complaint against a teacher, and yet it is important. The more parents who recognize what sometimes happens in certain classrooms, the better. As parents, we should try not to be intimidated, and we should also talk together in forums as fruitful as possible.

As for the comments in this thread suggesting that children with claims to being bullied are being overly dramatic, and/or that they have to learn to stand up to bullies on their own, because life is filled with people who treat each other without kindness, I would agree with the majority of people on this thread, who know how few children actually EVER speak up. The fear is too great. Children definitely must learn social skills -- they must learn how to cope with difficulties -- but do we really want the schools to be a training ground for coping with cruelty?? Much better, for the schools to become a training ground for kindness, empathy, consideration of others' feelings, community.

Folllowing this idea of the positive values I hope all of us want to inculcate in our children, I agree with the comment above, that the best response to bullies is to ensure that they do community service of all kinds, and for long periods of time -- some of this service could be at the school itself. "Shaming" is a terrible idea. The focus in a middle school, as in any school, should be on positive outcomes, nurturing, growth, and safety. To suspend a child who's troubled enough to BE a bully ---- to have this child made to stay home for a few days, and miss school ----- seems crazy to me; this child too needs help, and positive reinforcement for the good that he or she does have inside.

No one comes out well in a situation in which bullying can thrive -- bullies and the children suffering from the bullying. Best to protect and care for all our children, by hiring more counselors, encouraging more parents to be on-site modelling care and kindness, asking bullying kids to help others, and generally continuing to create school cultures emphasizing kindness and compassion and community.


Posted by Old School Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

How about we teach are kids two things. 1. Be kind to others. 2. Stand up for yourself, if some one is being mean tell them kindly to knock it off. If they don't, tell them off. If they are being physically aggressive, tell them to stop. If they don' t, punch them equally. Most likely, even if the perpetrator is bigger they won't bother them again. Also, assure your children that you have their back. It is okay to go be sent to the office in our home, if you are defending yourself.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2010 at 12:34 am

Milliken is a wonderful principal. From the bullying stories I have heard that are reported to Jordan administration, the bullying ends after Jordan is involved. The key is for witnesses to report the bullying.

Winston, at Paly, seems to really care about students also and seems professional when I have interacted with him.

I am wary of ParentofBulliedChild's comments which claim that the victim ends up with detention. From the bullying stories I have heard at Jordan, the victim has never gotten in trouble and it just doesn't follow common sense.

I have heard from many sources that Barron Park for years has had bullying issues and problems with administration and staff.

Still1in PAUSD's posting regarding Fairmeadow's choking, hitting, peanuts forced down throat, etc? Come on! If it gets to that level, it's YOUR duty to go above and beyond.


Posted by Still have 1 in pausd, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 5, 2010 at 9:51 am

In response to

"Still1in PAUSD's posting regarding Fairmeadow's choking, hitting, peanuts forced down throat, etc? Come on! If it gets to that level, it's YOUR duty to go above and beyondNo kidding."

We went to teachers, principl, 25 Churchil, PTA, newspaper, and the police. We took our son out of school for a time when he was getting death threats. The district took no action or kept records until we called the police to the school and we had to do that twice. The parents of the worst bully in the school threaten us with a lawyer to try to stop us and we did not stop. This could had been stop if the parents of the school worked together but most are like "Parent" above who would give advise but were to scared or could not be bothered to act. The bully was abusing their kids to and they knew it.


Posted by I hope, a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:59 am

I hope Dr. Skelly does something abut all this issues that are going on on the schools, and that things improve for students, so parents and students feel safe physically and mentally at school. If he does not, changes do not just happen, they are the result of people working together in benefit of the community and the world. Otherwise this things will keep going on.


Posted by JordanParent, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 6, 2010 at 8:43 am

"Old School Mom" posts:

> How about we teach are kids two things. 1. Be kind to others. 2. Stand up for yourself, if some one is being mean tell them kindly to knock it off. If they don't, tell them off. If they are being physically aggressive, tell them to stop. If they don' t, punch them equally. Most likely, even if the perpetrator is bigger they won't bother them again. Also, assure your children that you have their back. It is okay to go be sent to the office in our home, if you are defending yourself.
--------

I agree with most of this. But lets remember that bullying activity of girls vs boys can be drastically different. Even in the rare cases when girls get physical, there is very little chance of someone going to the hospital as a result. With boys, this is a definite possibility. Do you really want your son to take that risk? Self-defense is a huge gray area. Putting it simply to your son to "punch back when punched" could do far more harm than good. Rarely does the verbal abuse escalate to pushing and then escalate to punching. There is usually a chance for the bullied child to get away without risking his safety.

Kids being bullied should report incidents and the administration should handle it in such a way that they bully does not know who reported it and would therefore not try to "take it out" on the kid who reported it. But the kid shouldn't just report it to the school. They should tell their parents and we parents should show support and get involved.

Retaliating physically is rarely the best course of action. But knowing how to punch and kick - just in case - can be what it takes to give the confidence that keeps such bullies away. And in the rare cases that the bully throws a punch, remember that the best offense can be a good defense...If your kid blocks the bully's attacks so well that the bully recognizes that he's outclassed, he would probably think twice about trying to mess with your kid again...


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2010 at 8:55 am

If the victim fights back physically in anyway, they will get in almost as much trouble with the school. There is a zero tolerance for fighting. My son's friend got suspended for defending himself when another student started the fight.

That said, another one of my son's friends has stopped a couple of bullies over the years by threatening them. Unfortunately, it works (or fortunately for the bully's targets.)

It is almost impossible to report a bully in such a way that they don't know who is reporting them.

One of the best deterrents is an adult presence. Kids are much less likely to misbehave in any way if there is an adult within earshot. Jordan is doing a good job with having parents and staff around during break times.


Posted by MOM, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

Unfortunately, I've found what "actually" said to be true. There are some parents who are just as much bullies, or worse, as their kids. I know two people, in two different situations, who reported bullying, and because their confidentiality was breached, the parents of the bullies took legal action against them for protecting their children, which are called "slap suits". These parents refuse to hold their kids accountable for their actions, and think they are protecting their kids by not letting them learn about the relationship between cause and effect, and responsibility. They also only care about having power over other people, so that THEY can do whatever they want without being held accountable as well. I wonder what can be done about preventing slap suits, where people actually use the law and the court system to bully others. I wonder if some of us posting are referring to the same parents and kids who bully.

I firmly support a zero tolerance to bullying stance that is strictly enforced. My son had problems with being bullied at Jordan, and two kids who bullied him badly were suspended. Another got a talking to by the counselor. All three never bothered him again after that. What people who say kids should just "learn to deal with it on their own" need to realize is that we adults can go to the police if we are assaulted, we can file a restraining order if we are regularly harassed, we can report sexual harassment at work, or malpractice in medical establishments. If we adults deserve these safely systems, then kids, who are far more vulnerable, especially do too.


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Dec 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm

To Palo Alto Mom and School District,

-One of the best deterrents is an adult presence. Kids are much less likely to misbehave in any way if there is an adult within earshot. Jordan is doing a good job with having parents and staff around during break times.

I agree with that the best deterrent to bullying is an adult presence. Parents could make such a big difference especially when the school is short on yard duties, as it often happens. I am wondering why so many Palo Alto schools do not allow parents to help during lunch or recess. Barron Park is one of those who keep parents away during lunch and recess time.Things could be so much better for children.
I hope the district do something about it, or hire more responsible yard duties bullying gets reduce.


Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I agree that the confidence that comes from knowing how to defend yourself can sometimes be a deterrent. Also, there are rules protecting the identity of minors, even when they commit what are considered crimes when done by adults. This creates a big problem. For example, here in this forum, nobody has even hinted at the identity of the bullies being discussed. If they were not protected by this legal screen, I believe we'd have less bullying. On the other hand, who's to stop the problem parents from waging a false public campaign against a victim. A parent did that to my son in elementary school. She told the teacher and all of the other parents that my son was bad and they refused to have him over or let their kids play with him. He is not a bully. He had normal playground issues with her son. This was just awful for him and for me.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Wondering - while an adult presence is a huge help, some schools have problems with the way parents treat the kids...


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:14 am

Regarding comments by Palo Alto Mom: "It is almost impossible to report a bully in such a way that they don't know who is reporting them. . ."the victim fights back physically in anyway, they will get in almost as much trouble with the school."

"Almost impossible"? There have to be witnesses unless the kids are in the bathroom or far removed from others.

Regarding "no tolerance", it depends on the track record of the student/victim and how physically involved he was and if it was an all-out brawl or a defensive move. Administration is reasonable, at least I speak for Jordan admin.

Regarding adult presence most elementary schools have about 3-4 yard duties, not enough at all to micromanage bullying. Kids are basically on their own.

@I hope: the superintendent has done nothing to address bullying in schools. He himself is pushed around by others. He was bullied into waiting another year to enact pre-break final exams.


Posted by Let's Hope, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Dec 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

Let's hope that with Melisa Casswell's new position, she will stands up to Dr. Skelly, who doe not seem to have the energy to tell principals what or what not to do About bullying. This is why we still have children who are bully daily at our schools. Just last week a child broke his foot when a very well known bully push him back. The bully continues to go to school (Terman). So "Melisa DO SOMETHING ABOUT BULLY, ONE ALREADY DIE FROM BULLY, LET'S NOT HAVE ANOTHER PRECIOUS CHILD'S LIVE BE WASTED"


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm



Let's hope,

what do you mean one already died from bullying?


Posted by Local Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm

My child does not attend school in Palo Alto, but she was bullied for years at a private school. The girl in question was violent, and the school supended her several times. Five years ago, when my daughter was ten, the bully attempted to murder her. We were going to enroll her in public school, but many of our neighbors warned us that the situation in the public schools was no better than at her private schoo. We've been homeschooling ever since.

For those who would like information on safety from bullies and other dangerous issues, Kidpower is a wonderful organization that teaches safety skills to everyone from preschool up. They work with people of all abilities, including those with special needs. You can find them here: Web Link Kidpower's Silicon Valley headquarters are at Hiruko Center, on Middlefield: Web Link


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