Bullying is a community problem that has to be dealt with by everyone. That was the message to Fred Fifer Middle School students at a Nov. 18 assembly.

Bullying is a community problem that has to be dealt with by everyone. That was the message to Fred Fifer Middle School students at a Nov. 18 assembly.

“Bullying isn’t two guys having a fight during lunch. Bullying isn’t two girls snickering at each other when they’re walking down the hallway,” said Jim Jordan to the seventh graders the school. “Bullying is [repeated] aggressive, intentional behavior to control you physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Jordan, an author and the president of the online resource www.reportbullying.com, used a campfire analogy to explain to the middle school students that just like a fire needs heat, fuel and oxygen to burn, bullying has a bully, victim and bystanders who don’t stop the problem.

Schools typically only deal with victims of bullying, which is only 10% of the problem, he said, prior to the assembly. Schools can never create a safe environment unless they focus on the bystanders who allow the problem to continue. By being complacent, they are complicit.

A lot of kids will watch bullying happening repeatedly, but don’t understand they are part of the problem, he added.

“All we want to know is who are the students who are coming through the door, day after day, trying to control you, trying to target you, making you feel small,” he said to students.

Jordan made sure students understood that reporting bullying is not tattling or snitching because they are getting someone out of trouble.

“The only reason there are bullies is because we say nothing and do nothing,” he said.

Jordan also spoke extensively about online or cyber bullying, giving statistics about the frequency. Forty-two percent of students have been bullied online, 35% have been threatened and 53% of students have said something mean online.

He told students to be careful what photos they put online as someone can manipulate the pictures, using the example of one girl who had her photo’s head cut off and digitally added to a naked body.

Students need to print out threatening messages, keep their privacy controls up on their Facebook page and not give out their password to anyone. Jordan said his daughter had a boyfriend for two years and after they broke up, he used her password to write nasty messages from her online account.

Finally, students should never start groups on Facebook called “I hate so-and-so” and if they see one they should report it anonymously to the administrators of the social media site.

In addition to students needing to understand their role in bullying, he said parents and teachers contribute as well. Often parents do things at home that can lead to bullying behaviors at school, and teachers have to be trained not to use their own value system when dealing with bullying.

Jordan said his assembly has shown results in getting more students to speak up. For example, a survey was given at one of the schools he spoke in front of, and prior to the anti-bullying assembly 18% of students said they would speak up about bullying. One year later, that number increased to 70% of students saying they would speak up.

Assistant principal Brian Smith said school officials felt the program was a good way to be proactive, not reactive, especially with the topic of bullying in the news a lot. The middle school hasn’t had a huge problem with bullying — only a couple of isolated incidents — and that’s the way they want to keep it.

“We wanted to empower the kids,” he said.

In addition, students took a bullying survey about where and when they felt more comfortable and uncomfortable, and some other group activities will follow the assembly.



Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com