To Whom It May Concern:

 

The enclosed pages are my contribution to helping stop the violence in our schools.    This material addresses the trauma that bullies cause and the consequences of their actions.  My hope is that some students will recognize themselves in the letter and seek support, while others may tone down or (preferably) eliminate their bullying; possibly seeking help themselves to deal with their own anger and frustration over situations beyond their control.

 

For the last few years, I have considered pursuing a part-time career as a motivational speaker in the schools to address this very issue.  But, as a result of the recent shootings in Littleton, CO, I experienced horrible emotional trauma from my past, and I know now that it would be damaging to me to focus on this subject in front of an audience.  Having been bullied as a child, I consider it a moral responsibility to do my best to educate people about this problem.  The best I can do is provide my insights in writing.

 

I expect you have programs, planned or already in place, to address this problem.  I am simply providing additional information from the perspective of someone who remembers the pain of not fitting in and what I believe would have helped me.  Please use this material as you see fit.  One suggestion would be to transfer pertinent information to letterhead stationery so that those in administrative positions, who might benefit from the content, will take it more seriously.  Another is to have the students read the enclosed letter addressed to them out loud in some fashion (classroom, small groups, or large assembly).  Feel free to re-word, amend or add to the checklists as desired.

 

It is my fervent prayer that whatever methods are employed, we will, as a nation, deal effectively with this problem so that it never ends in horror for anyone again.

I have not signed these materials because I respectfully request to remain anonymous.  As was true in the past, I do not wish to incur embarrassment or animosity from anyone that knows me.

Thank you for your kind attention.

 

Sincerely,

"B"

 

P.S. A response, to inform my curiosity of how or if this material is being used, would be greatly appreciated.  Please direct all correspondence to: " B "  c/o Chait, P.O. Box 455, Winchester, MA 01890 or e-mail to: solovaye@hotmail.com


 

                        LETTER TO STUDENTS page 2

 

"People that are treated inhumanely are capable of inhuman acts in spite of their basic goodness and decency." --  B 

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STUDENTS

 

I want to talk to you about what happens if you are a bully or are being picked on by a bully.  First of all, what is a bully?  A bully is someone who makes fun of and hurts others -- whether it is teasing them, beating them up, or playing tricks on them to make others laugh at them or make them feel bad. 

 

Bullies can choose how often, and how much they will pick on others to make them afraid and sad.

 

Bullies aren't as tough as they act.  They hurt others to cover up their own pain.

Why should this matter to you?  Well, to begin with, it is clear that, if you are a bully, you are angry about something or how someone is treating you.  You are confused and think you need to hurt others so you won't feel so powerless about your own problems.  Or you may not be aware of how much pain you are causing.  The trouble is that being a bully isn't helping you at all and it is only hurting someone else.  You will have the same problems no matter who you hurt.

 

 BULLIES PUSH TOO HARD. . .  AND RISK BECOMING VICTIMS THEMSELVES.

 

The people you choose to pick on seem too weak or too scared to fight back or stop you.  They are easy targets.  You might even make them cry.  But you should know that the more they feel hurt and scared, the more they become filled with pain and anger at being unable to stop you. People who are scared and angry at the same time often have trouble eating or being nice to people.  They could start acting in ways that might not bother you at first, like: daydreaming, mumbling to themselves, avoiding being in the same room with you, pretending to be sick, hiding in the bathroom or somewhere else, using bad words, wearing strange clothes or different clothes than you, and skipping school.  Or, they may do worse things like: lying, stealing, cheating, or destroying things -- even hurting themselves and others on purpose.

 

The point is,  these kids that you are bullying feel helpless and will reach a point when they decide they need something really big for them to feel safe from you or more powerful than you.  That could mean something like … worshipping the devil (which happens more often than you think) ... or learning about guns or bombs and where to get them.  Sometimes these young people think they can escape all the pain they have been living with by killing themselves and possibly you with them.  That is really scary to everyone: parents, teachers, you and even police are scared of this.

 

If you are bullying a girl, she may try to hurt herself to escape feeling like she is a prisoner of the pain, fear and anger you are causing her. And, you will share the responsibility if she dies -- whether anyone knows you were involved or not.  Girls also are capable of killing others regardless of how weak they might seem to you.  On the other hand, if you are teasing a boy, and he becomes angry enough, he will think up a plan to make you sorry for causing him pain, or embarrassing him in front of others.   Anger and frustration can be very powerful.  They can make anybody at any age do terrible things.

 


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STUDENTS - Page 2

 

So the next time you start to say or do something nasty to another person, think about this: The boy you are picking on may try to kill you and others because he thinks he can't escape or stop you with any other way.  It seems to be happening more and more these days. You might be responsible for damaging more lives than you think -- and one of them may be your own.

I know all this because I am a grown-up who was picked on all through my school years.  Since elementary school, I thought about killing myself and others.  Lucky for me I didn't want to go to jail.  I didn't know how to get a gun or make a bomb.  But, most of all, I had one, small hope, that someone, someday would care about me.  That is why I tried and tried and finally found good counseling, when I grew up, and my life has turned around.

But I still have deep emotional scars from what happened to me so long ago.

 

Over the years, I have come to understand much more about why I suffered for so long and was unable to stop it.  The adults around me - who had the power and the answers did not agree with me or understand that my pain was real.  There were people I should have been able to speak with and get help from, but they all said I was the problem and I had to change.  I had to fit in and then the kids would stop teasing me.  I tried to do this, but it felt fake.  It felt like I lost respect for my abilities and talents -- even for who I was.  I had to pretend to be something else to please THEM. I had to pretend to be happy and not upset by the teasing and attacks on me both at school and at home.  The opposite happened instead.  The kids picked on me even more for being quiet and walking away from them.  I felt more worthless and more alone than ever.  But, finally, many, many years later, the small hope that I kept hidden finally came true.

 

Don't give up.  Find someone who will listen.  Get the help that you need NOW. I just want you to know that if you are being bullied, or if you are the bully doing the teasing, you can and you must seek out help and learn to deal with whatever is making you sad, angry or needing to feel better than someone else … or worse than anyone else.

 

I don't want you to end up emotionally disabled, and I certainly do not want you to end up dead at an early age.  It would be such a waste of talent and ability. 

 

I think I could have become an astronomer or achieved great things in the arts.  Instead, I am afraid to work closely with any people.  I am emotionally disabled, but I am making progress now.  Not too long ago, I started getting help from lots of different places and people.  Now, when I am almost 40 years old I have become a music teacher and I am very happily married and able to enjoy my family and friends.  This makes me hopeful for both your future and mine.  

It is very hard, but worthwhile to work to make your life better.  You and everyone around you will be rewarded for this.

              

"Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  Take responsibility for your actions.  It is so simple. Just care."

 

Sincerely,

" B "

 

 

 


TO THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS - PAGE 4

 

The message being given by the abusers and the abused in the schools is: "LISTEN TO ME … VALIDATE ME … HELP ME … PROTECT ME  … or else, (in order to make sense of what is happening to me) I will come to think of myself as a bad person.  I will lie, cheat, steal, abuse, destroy, and kill myself or others or both. 

 

Gun control will not stop me -- caring, support and understanding will."

 

There are other places they can carry out their plans for retaliation, besides the school grounds.

What can you do? 

1) Create a volunteer Support Pool.  Advertise this need and canvass the teachers, guidance  counselors, community leaders, civic organizations, business people, chambers of commerce, and others to find a local body of people who can be approached by the abused on a confidential basis.

2) Let the student body know where that help is available so that none feel stigmatized about making an effort to accept the help.  No one should have to worry about being seen looking for help.  Include the days/hours each volunteer is available for contact.

3) Make available a complete list of hotline support phone numbers of specialists in adolescent and family therapy in your area.  This information should be obtainable by students and parents either from within the school or from the adults who have offered to be part of the Support Pool.  For these issues, I believe the cognitive-behavioral approach yields the quickest positive results - better than the Freudian and non-directive approaches that I also have experienced.

4) Create a short questionnaire to be distributed by guidance counselors and all Support Pool members to students who approach them.  Have the questions focus on the types of behavior the students are experiencing as abuse and on the origin of the abuse (including the environment where the abuse takes place).  Also ask each student to itemize on the questionnaire their own behaviors and the coping mechanisms they employ.  A checklist (such as the ones I have provided) would be less overwhelming than an essay response, although an opportunity for expository writing would be useful. This information is key to your helping the students learn to help themselves through counseling and guidance.  It would give them some hope and an appreciation that someone really wants to help them.

5) Make the students understand that if one member of the Support Pool is not meeting their needs, they can always approach someone else without questions, apology or reprisal.

6) Never expose the abused or abuser in a public way on school property. Reconciliation, if any, should be dealt with away from prying eyes and ears as much as possible to avoid later retaliation for the embarrassment. Suspension and expulsion along with other punitive measures will only feed into the negative attitude that is causing the problem in the first place.  It makes good kids feel like they are "bad" and discipline problem kids feel they are living up to their negative expections.

7) Keep tabs on these students by reissuing the same questionnaire quarterly to note improvement or new problems.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

" B "

 

P.S.  I am not a physician or a therapist.  My only qualifications for offering these suggestions are: caring about society, personal experience as a frustrated victim of abuse and neglect, and good cognitive-behavioral therapeutic counseling that have I received for the past 10 years.


                        CHECKLIST and INSTRUCTIONS  page 5

 

TO THE STUDENTS AND FACULTY

Checklist of observable signs for emotional distress (calls for help) possibly leading to criminal, destructive, and self-destructive activity: If any of these warning signs applies, it should be recorded and the individual should continue to be monitored from a distance.  If a second item is noticed simultaneously or soon after, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Both the abuser and the abused must be identified and counseled -- long-term if necessary.  Do not let it be conditional on parents' acceptance.  This is too important to be ignored by anyone.

               

SIGNS OF ABUSE

 

* ONLY PRINT THE SECTION BETWEEN THE BORDERS  FOR  STUDENTS'  USE. *

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

---

 

Name ________________________________Grade_______________  Date

_________________

 

Check all that are true for you.    CONGRATULATIONS on starting to make

your life better by facing these issues. 

 

I have been…

 

q  late getting to classes or the homeroom period at the beginning of school

q  skipping classes

q  skipping school

q  avoiding the cafeteria

q  wandering in the halls when they are practically empty (because that is

q  when they are safe)

q  getting poor grades because it is hard to pay attention to class work

q  expecting to fail even if I try to do well

q  daydreaming to avoid participating in the classroom

q  daydreaming for no reason at all

q  afraid to participate in class due to fear of being made fun of, in or

q  out of the classroom

q  screaming from anger or frustration about __________ (please write what

q  causes this)

q  crying from sadness, frustration or anger in front of others or alone

q  stealing small things … at home or in a store or at school … or from

q  somewhere else

q  disobeying teachers or parents on purpose because that is what they

q  expect me to do

q  using drugs, alcohol, pills, movies/TV, video games, or  anything else to avoid sad or angry feelings about something (please circle or add the itemsthat you use)

q  stealing large/expensive things … at home or in a store or at school … or from somewhere else

q  feeling it is useless to try to meet the expectations of others

q  saying and doing things to avoid responsibility because I can't doanything right anyway

q  trying to think and act like someone else that everyone thinks is very bad or very good (Please write who you are trying to be like)

 

 

q  writing or drawing scary, sad or angry things in notebooks or on blackboards (pictures or words)

q  feeling like a robot -- because robots don't have feelings

q  acting like everything is O.K. when someone asks since I know no one really cares

q  writing about or telling others I want to hurt them or someone else or myself

q  acting different or dressing different or feeling different from others

q  picking on others as much as (or more than) I am picked on by others, including grown-ups


 

 

                                CHECKLIST OPTION #2 page 6

 

Name__________________________________________   Grade_______

Date_______________

 

PUT A CHECK in boxes of all that are true.

q  late for school

q  late for classes

q  skipping classes

q  skipping school on purpose to avoid being seen by (name)____________________

q  avoiding the cafeteria because of one or more students

q  wandering in the halls when they are almost empty (because that is when  they are safe for you)

q  getting poor grades cause you have trouble concentrating

q  getting poor grades cause you think no one cares about you

q  daydreaming to avoid taking part in classroom activities or discussions

q  afraid to participate in class (kids may pick on you in class or outside if you do)

q  yelling, screaming or crying while alone somewhere

q  yelling, screaming or crying in front of others around you

q  stealing little things here and there that aren't important

q  stealing money or personal things that belong to other people (like books or jewelry)

q  disruptive behavior (not following the rules or talking back to adults)

q  addictions: (drugs, alcohol, sex, movies/TV, video games, and anything that keeps you from thinking about what makes you sad or angry) Circle the ones you do or write yours here.___________________________________________________

q  feeling unable to meet expectations of others or make anyone happy with you

q  acting up and talking back to people because that is what they expect you to do anyway, especially parents

q  caring a lot about a powerful person from history or the bible  (name)______________

q  writing messages or poetry in notebooks or on chalkboards about how bad the world is

q  showing no emotion; acting like a robot -- because robots don't have feelings

q  hiding your true feelings by saying things like, "I'm fine" because you don't believe  anyone really cares enough to help you or protect you and you don't want to be called a baby

q  writing or talking about hurting yourself or others

q  trying to be different to show how sad or angry you feel without getting help: (wearing weird or unusual clothes, listening to music that talks about violence, thinking and saying things about the world and people in it that scares others) Circle the ones you do or write yours here.__________________________________

q  wanting to hurt others worse than they hurt you

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------


 

 

                                CHECKLIST FOR SUPPORT POOL page 7

 

TO THE STUDENTS VIA SUPPORT POOL PERSONNEL

This is a checklist of observable signs for emotional distress (calls for help) possibly leading to criminal, destructive and self-destructive activity.  Print your initials on each completed checklist after you have read it and keep the forms together in a folder labeled, "Signs Of Abuse". Also, print your name and the school name on the cover of the folder. Create a separate folder for each school you have checklists from.  Staple follow-up checklists to the front of the prior checklist(s) for only that student.   If a student is to be followed by a person, other than yourself, forward all pertinent information and checklists to the new Support Pool member.  Keep These Filled Out Forms In A Locked Drawer.

SIGNS OF ABUSE

 

* ONLY PRINT THE SECTION  BETWEEN THE BORDERS  FOR  STUDENTS'  USE. *

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

---

 

Name ________________________________Grade_______________  Date

_________________

 

Check all that are true for you.    CONGRATULATIONS on starting to make

your life better by facing these issues. 

 

I have been…

q  late getting to classes, especially the homeroom period at the beginning of school.

q  skipping classes.

q  skipping school.

q  avoiding the cafeteria.

q  wandering in the halls when they are practically empty (because that is when they are safe).

q  getting poor grades because it is hard to pay attention to class work.

q  expecting to fail even if I try to do well.

q  daydreaming to avoid participating in the classroom or for no reason at all.

q  afraid to participate in class, because kids will tease me either in or out of the classroom.

q  screaming from anger or frustration about… (write where this happens and what causes this on the back of this paper)

q  crying from sadness/frustration or anger in front of others or when I'm alone… (write where this has happened and what caused this on the back of this paper)

q  stealing small things at home or in a store or at school or from somewhere else.

q  disobeying teachers or parents on purpose because that is what they expect me to do.

q  using drugs, alcohol, pills, movies/TV, video games, or  something else to avoid sad or angry feelings about something (circle or add the items that you use).

 

q  feeling I can not be as good or do as well at everything that my parents and teachers want me to do.

q  saying and doing things to avoid work because I can't do anything right anyway.

q  trying to think and act like someone else that everyone thinks is very bad or very good (write who you are trying to be

q  like)_____________________________.

q  writing or drawing scary, sad or angry things in notebooks or on chalkboards or walls.

q  feeling like a robot -- because robots don't have feelings.

q  acting like nothing is wrong when someone asks  if I am O.K, but I am really sad/angry.

q  writing or talking about hurting myself or others.

q  acting different or dressing different or feeling like I am different from others.

q  mean to others because I am picked on by others (kids or adults).

 

                              


 CHECKLIST OPTION #2

 

Name__________________________________________   Grade_______

Date_______________

PUT A CHECK in boxes of all that are true.

q  late for school

q  late for classes

q  skipping classes

q  skipping school on purpose to avoid being seen by (name)____________________

q  avoiding the cafeteria because of one or more students

q  wandering in the halls when they are almost empty (because that is when they are safe for you)

q  getting poor grades cause you have trouble concentrating

q  getting poor grades cause you think no one cares about you

q  daydreaming to avoid taking part in classroom activities or discussions

q  afraid to participate in class (kids may pick on you in class or outside if you do)

q  yelling, screaming or crying while alone somewhere (where)_________________

q  yelling, screaming or crying in front of others around you

q  (where)_____________

q  stealing little things here and there that aren't important

q  (what)_____________

q  stealing money or things that belong to other people -- like books or

q  jewelry (what)________________________________________

q  disruptive behavior (not following the rules or talking back to adults)

q  addictions: (drugs, alcohol, sex, movies/TV, video games, and anything that keeps you from thinking about what makes you sad or angry) Circle the ones you do or write yours here.___________________________________________________

q  feeling unable to meet expectations of others or make anyone happy with you

q  acting up and talking back to people because that is what they expect you to do anyway, especially parents

q  caring a lot about a powerful person from history or the bible (name)___________

q  writing messages or poetry in notebooks or on chalkboards about how bad the world is (What do you write?________________________________)

q  showing no emotion; acting like a robot -- because robots don't have feelings

q  hiding your true feelings by saying things like, "I'm fine" because you don't believe  anyone really cares enough to help you or protect you and you don't want to be called a baby

q  writing or talking about hurting yourself or others (why)_______________________

q  trying to be different to show how sad or angry you feel without getting help: (wearing weird or unusual clothes, listening to music that talks about violence, thinking and saying things about the world and people in it that scares others) Circle the ones you do or write yours here.__________________________________

q  wanting to hurt others worse than they hurt you

 

                        REFERENCE CHECKLIST FOR SUPPORT POOL page 8

 

SIGNS OF ABUSE -  A Reference Checklist

TO THE ADMINISTRATION, FACULTY AND SUPPORT POOL PERSONNEL

This is a companion checklist of observable signs for emotional distress (calls for help) possibly leading to criminal, destructive and self-destructive activity.  It is worded more appropriately for professional adults.  When able, contact faculty and others, by phone, in the evening to corroborate suspected/itemized behaviors.  Do not visit the faculty during school to discuss these students.  Students will notice and rumors will spread. Even after school kids are around and notice things. This will jeopardize the victim's feeling of security about coming forward.   Access to phone numbers for education personnel should be provided only as needed.

 

 SIGNIFICANT SIGNS OF ABUSE/NEGLECT/FEAR (illustrated by the student checklist)

· excessive tardiness

· skipping classes

· truancy

· avoiding the cafeteria

· wandering in the halls when they are practically empty  (because that is when they are safe)

· poor grades due mainly to poor concentration and apathy

· daydreaming to avoid classroom interaction

· reluctance to participate in class due to fear of ridicule either in or out of the classroom

· emotional outbursts of sadness/frustration or anger while alone

· emotional outbursts of sadness/frustration or anger in the presence of others

· petty theft in a variety of settings leading to higher levels of criminal activity

· disruptive behavior (e.g., openly not following the rules or challenging authority)

· addictions (drugs, alcohol, pills, movies/TV, video games, and anything else that can occupy and divert the mind for extended periods) to avoid experiencing feelings related to a painful reality

· sense of helplessness or lack of will to try to meet expectations of others

· words/behavior that exhibit the belief that one is a disappointment to others (especially teachers and parents)

· obsession and identification with a powerful historical or biblical figure (most likely an infamous one)

· writing messages/poetry showing belief that no one cares or will listen

- hopelessness

· showing little or no emotion; acting robot-like

- catatonic-like affect/flat affect

· responding in the affirmative when asked how they are ("I'm fine") due to embarrassment, lack of trust in or belief that anyone really cares enough to help stop the abuse

· written or spoken threats of violence/abuse against others or self

· involvement in activities or culture (clothes, music, beliefs) that help them express their feelings of anger and isolation

· retaliatory violence (physical or verbal), possibly surpassing what was endured

If one of these warning signs applies, it should be recorded and the individual should continue to be monitored from a distance.  If a second item is noticed simultaneously or soon after, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Both the abuser and the abused must be identified and counseled -- long-term if necessary.  Do not let it be conditional on parents' acceptance.  This is too important to be ignored by anyone.  There may be a chance that the student is not paranoid, but is being significantly damaged.

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