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The Telegram
  • Dan Seaborn: Stand up to bullying

  • It’s homecoming season in a lot of high schools. The idea behind homecoming is to welcome back alumni to the school during the first few months of the school year.

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  • It’s homecoming season in a lot of high schools. The idea behind homecoming is to welcome back alumni to the school during the first few months of the school year.
    The occasion involves daily activities for the current students to participate in during the week, and it culminates with a football game and special formal dance on the weekend. The activities for the week also include nominations of students for a homecoming royal court. Students then vote on the selection of a king and queen, usually seniors, and some schools also include a court of representatives made up of underclassmen.
    A few weeks ago in West Branch, Mich., the sophomore class at Ogemaw Heights High School voted Whitney Kropp as their representative. At first, Whitney was excited to be recognized because she didn’t believe she was worthy of such an honor. She thought only popular students were chosen. It was just hours later that she would discover it was all a prank. Her classmates voted her in as a joke. Instead of laughing, Whitney’s mom found her daughter crying later that evening, and then she learned about the cruel act of unkindness that caused it.
    Unfortunately, bullying is nothing new.
    It’s been around since kids started going to school, however, it seems to escalate every year despite efforts to stop it. Estimates are that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. One in seven students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Reports indicate that 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
    There are different ways in which kids bully. There is physical bullying, which can involve hitting, shoving, slapping, kicking or pinching. Bullying can be verbal and marked by cruel words, or it can be indirect, such as the humiliation intended to hurt Whitney. I would imagine almost every person can think of a time in their life when maybe they were a victim of bullying.
    After talking it over with her mom, Whitney responded by accepting the nomination and attending the football game. She wanted to stand up to her bullies. The community joined in, and someone offered to do Whitney’s hair and make-up for the evening while a retailer donated a dress and shoes. A Facebook page was also started in support of Whitney and against bullying.
    According to Whitney’s mom, the night was magical. Whitney was stunning in her gown, and many fans from the opposing team wore orange (her favorite color) in her honor. The senior class also voted in a young man with Down Syndrome as their king — no joke!
    It’s difficult to pinpoint what motivates a person to harass someone, but more often than not, bullies lash out to seek popularity and social acceptance.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dr. Emilie DeYoung, supervisor for child and adolescent counseling at our family wellness center, says that it’s important to help kids build empathy in order to prevent them from bullying. She says it’s easy for kids to become self-focused in our culture. Parents can help by modeling empathy and using teachable moments to discuss situations.
    For example, when your kids tell you about something that happened at school ask them questions like, “I wonder how your friend/sister/teacher felt about that?” This kind of dialogue will get kids thinking about things from another person’s perspective.
    It’s a great strategy to help prevent bullying and to stand up for those who are bullied.
    — Dan Seaborn is the founder of the Zeeland-(Mich.) based group Winning at Home Inc. Email questions or comments to hometeam@winningathome.com.
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