Facts about bullying
• 56 percent of students have personally felt some sort of bullying at school. Between 4th and 8th grade in particular, 90 percent of students are victims of bullying.
• The most common reason cited for being harassed is a student’s appearance or body size. Two out of five teens feel that they are bullied because of the way that they look.
• Nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation
• One in four teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4 percent of the time.
• A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim.
• One out of 10 students drop out of school because they are bullied.
Source: The Bully Project: www.dosomething.org
When Mark Brown asked 100 Great Bend fourth and fifth graders to stand if they know someone who is being bullied, teased or excluded in their schools, about 90 of them rose to their feet.
He challenged those students to take a stand against bullying by adjusting their words, attitudes and actions.
Brown had the students laughing as he talked about pop culture, school and his own family, sometimes invoking the accent from his native country, Jamaica, although he now lives in Georgia. A gifted speaker, Brown won the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking in 1995. Now he speaks to more than 200 audiences a year, taking his Emmy-nominated anti-bullying program into schools across the United States.
He mimicked the voices of characters from the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” to share a “teachable moment” he experienced with his own kids while watching that show on video.
In the movie, the villain Gaston leads a mob of villagers toward the Beast’s castle, all singing, “We don’t like what we don’t understand. In fact it scares us.” The Gastons of the world, Brown said, lead the villagers of the world in persecuting those who are different, or strange or isolated. It starts as early as kindergarten, and one study showed it's the reason 160,000 kids stay home from school each day.
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break by bones, but words can never hurt me,” really isn’t true, Brown said. Words, attitudes and actions become weapons. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but unkind words can break my heart — and there is no surgery for a broken heart.”
Bullying can take many forms other than physical violence, Brown said. It can be something written on a social network site or a look of scorn that lets the victim know he or she doesn’t fit in. It can be calling someone a “Loser!” he said, making an L with his thumb and forefinger, and holding it to his forehead. For some who are bullied, it’s a short distance for that L to turn 90 degrees – becoming the symbol for a gun.
“In 2010, 32 students in North America took their own lives as a result of bullying,” Brown said. The youngest was 9 years old. Other bullied students took a gun to school or attacked their tormenters. Some of the cases involved cyber-bullying on social network sites on the Internet.
The solution, Brown says, is for students to change. Instead of being like Gaston, they should be like Belle, the “Beauty” character in the Disney movie, who reaches out to the Beast with love, and liberates the handsome prince trapped within.
They should follow the words of Mother Teresa, who said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier,” Brown said.
Students were given “Take A Stand” bracelets and challenged to stand against bullying, rumors and unkind behavior. “Get to know one person that’s different,” Brown said. “Display kindness and compassion.”
Holy Family School Principal Karen Moeder said Brown’s program resonated with her students, who were already asking her if they could have a school-wide showing of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Fifth and sixth graders from Lincoln Elementary walked about a mile from their school to Holy Family School to watch the program, and then walked back to school. Mary Thurman, Lincoln’s school counselor, said the public schools in Great Bend start talking to students about bullying in kindergarten. “We have monthly discussions about bullying,” she said. They talk to students about character traits such as honesty, empathy, caring and respect.
Holy Family School has a character building program as well, Moeder said.
Kim Griffith, a parent of a Holy Family School student and representative of Great American Opportunities, said she’s been trying to get Brown into the school for some time. Great American is a school fundraising organization that also presents motivational speakers, including Brown.