Bully Pulpit


// by Christie Pettus

With school starting back this month, parents and their kids have begun last minute preparations in anticipation of the first day. Unfortunately, preparing for school doesn’t just involve back-to-school shopping. With an estimated one out of three kids in grades 6-10 experiencing some kind of bullying, it’s an issue affecting millions of students.

Terrie Andrew, child psychologist at Baptist Behavioral Health and Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital, defines bullying as an “act of aggression towards a victim when there is a perceived imbalance of power. The bully is unprovoked and deliberately causes harm to a victim in the form of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual abuse or hazing.”

According to Andrew, the results can be devastating. They include loneliness, depression and anxiety. Bullying can affect a student’s grades and cause him to disengage and isolate himself socially or play sick to avoid school. In the worst case scenarios, kids who are repeatedly bullied over time are at risk for self-harm incidents, and the following supporting statistics reinforce just how serious bullying has become.

• 75% of school shooting incidents have been linked to bullying
• 35% of kids have been threatened online
• 6 in 10 teenagers witness bullying in school once a day
• 150,000 children miss school every day due to fear of torment by other students
• 83% of girls and 79% of boys report harassment
• A child is bullied on the playground every 7 minutes

To help bring awareness to this problem, Jacksonville-based Pilot Pen has partnered with STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization, to help erase bullying for good.

“Bullying in U.S. schools is a real problem and Pilot wants to help by being part of the solution,” says Elise Zacharias, associate consumer marketing manager, Pilot Corporation of America.

The upcoming “Erase Bullying & Back-to-School Stress” media campaign partnership with STOMP Out Bullying will launch in August and September with a variety of TV and print ads as well as social media. A website (helperasebullying.com) has also been created as part of the campaign to raise awareness about bullying in U.S. schools. The website offers more information about STOMP Out Bullying and the different programs available to those in need of help. Programs include a 24/7 help chat line which, to date, has assisted more than 33,000 kids who have been bullied.

In addition, the purchase of Pilot’s new FriXion Clicker erasable gel ink pen will help Pilot support and fund STOMP Out Bullying programs designed to prevent bullying in schools, and they will be making a minimum $125,000 donation to STOMP Out Bullying, spanning 2015 and 2016.

So what can parents do to help prevent bullying? According to Andrew, it’s all about knowledge.

“Talk to the teen's school to see what the school climate is in instituting a zero tolerance bullying policy,” she says. “Provide outlets for teens to increase their self-confidence and peer relationships such as organized sports or music/theatre/arts programs.”