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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Denver Mom Gets It Right on Bullying

The intense focus on bullying recently has led to several tracks to address it. A mom in Denver, whose quiet unassuming son was frequently picked on at school, turned to martial arts to address a problem the school couldn't seem to fix.
Martin had been bullied for many years by many kids and had simply taken it. His grades suffered and he would never stick up for himself," said his mother, Wendy. He's a nice, gentle soul kind of kid and now he didn't even want to go to school.
She sent him to the Gracie Academy in California to make him "bullyproof." There he learned three steps for addressing problems with a bully.
TALK to the bully and ask him to leave you alone. TELL the teacher and your parent that the bully won't stop even after you've talked to him. TACKLE the bully and use jiu-jitsu to gain control of him without resorting to punches or kicks.
Martin got the chance to use what he learned shortly after starting the new school year.
Four days into the school year and Martin was getting bullied again. He'd asked the bigger, stronger boy to stop calling him names and throwing a water bottle at him. But the abuse continued...

The next day the bully not only bothered Martin, but he pestered Martin's friend so much that the boy shook his head and said he might commit suicide. The bully then asked Martin if he could practice some new punching techniques on him, and hit him. Then he threw a water bottle at him.

Everything Martin had learned during his week at the Gracie Academy bubbled to the surface. He jumped off the lunch bench and while in midair pushed the bully in the chest with both hands as hard as he could. Both boys landed on the ground and Martin pinned the bully by placing his knee on his chest and holding his arms down with his own.

It was a classic jiu-jitsu combination -- decisive and effective without causing trauma or blood.

The bully was shocked and as he struggled in vain to get up he yelled that Martin was crazy. The bully's friends told Martin to get up, but as he told the principal later: "I chose not to."

It still took a little mother intervention to get the school to understand what had happened but ultimately they decided Martin's actions were warranted. He also has not been bothered by any other kids at school since.

This is different from the approach taken by New Jersey who recently passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights which,

demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.
While Martin's drama is over, with no cost to the district (some cost to his mother who had to fly him to CA and pay for the 5 day course), New Jersey's problems are just beginning.
Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its website. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses.
No one knows where the money is going to come from to afford all this protection. NJ's approach is like someone who hires security guards. They only keep you safe so long as they are paid to be on duty. Otherwise you are on your own and the root of the problem goes unaddressed.

Instead of instilling children with a false sense of self worth, maybe they would be better served by instilling in them a true sense of personal empowerment to deal with the problems themselves so they don't have to pay for protection.

Find out what your school's policy is regarding bullying to learn what your child can and can't do to counter a bully. Some schools with zero tolerance policies may not be as understanding of your child standing up for him/herself as Martin's school. But take heart. Even though the school may assign them detention (as my son's school did) chances are they will not be bothered by the bully again and it may be the price necessary to end the torment.

Read Martin's full story on The Post Game.
Read about New Jersey's policy on The New York Times

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