What To Do About Bullies

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On the weekend, NBA players are heroes. Their young fans look up to them and see them as sources of inspiration.

But the weekend is over quickly, and Monday is a school day. For many,
school is a place where bullying is a reality, and heroes are few and
far between.

So what do NBA players have to say to their fans about this growing epidemic?

Sacaramento’s Donte Greene knows about being bullied. “That’s been a problem my whole life,” he told us.

Fellow King Tyreke Evans talked about his high school experiences with
us: “I was a basketball player; I knew everybody, so I never got
bullied… But I’ve seen people who are new that bullies are trying to
bully or beat down.”

Bullying is a serious issue. School comprises an enormous chunk of time
in a student’s life, and it often represents the majority of an average
student’s daily social activity. It’s a space to learn and a space to
make connections with fellow students.

If bullies make that space unsafe for you, that can affect every other area of your life as well.

If you are or have been a victim of bullying in your school, you’re
not alone. Recent studies have suggested that almost 15 percent of
students in schools across several countries are involved in bullying.
 

The decision to talk to your parents or a teacher about bullying is a
hard one to make, because of the risk of making a bully tougher on you.
“It’s kind of hard,” Evans told us. “If they tell the teacher, that
makes it kind of worse. The bullies get mad and try to rough them up
some more.”

Helping the situation.
 

Boston’s future hall of famer Ray Allen gave us some advice: “What
kids deal with in 2011 is so different from when we grew up, so school
systems should adapt to the kids and the programming [and] social
networking; every child has a social network… the school should be a
part of that network to see how the kids are going, what they’re doing,
and just have an open dialogue and communication… you want the
counselors and teachers to understand the hierarchy of their schools…
you learn each other’s nuances.”
 

Bullying through social networks is an important issue. Many schools now
are adopting policies that will introduce lessons teaching students
ways to identify and report online bullying.

Allen also supported school uniforms. “The problem happens because
people aren’t the same… there’s always going to be bullying because
someone is taller, somebody [is] shorter, somebody’s shoes don’t look as
good… I believe if kids wore uniforms, then that would take a lot of
the pressures from the kids who come from households who can’t afford
certain amenities… you wear uniforms and your clothes are never
questioned. You have confidence; you’re going to school, you’re wearing
the same thing as a kid who comes from an affluent household.”
 

Sacramento’s Pooh Jeter told us not to let a bully scare us. “Don’t
fear them. Don’t do it… a bully is a person who wants to control
somebody, somebody who wants to be feared.”
 

Donte Greene told us the student’s parents have to get involved. “Let it
be known… let the school know, the principal know, and definitely
your parents, and try to deal with it in a respectable way.”

Most information on bullying tells us that adults need to help
kids. The Centre For Children And Families in the Justice System
asserts, “An important starting point is to realize that much bullying
occurs without the knowledge of teachers and parents, and that many
victims are very reluctant to tell adults of their problems with
bullying. They may be ashamed to be a victim, and they are afraid that
adults cannot or will not help to resolve the situation. They may have
been threatened with retaliation if they tell…. In the bullying
situation, though, there is a power imbalance of some kind, which
ensures that the victim always gets the worst of the interaction. The
victim and bully both need intervention in order to stop the pattern.”
 

“It ultimately starts with the parents,” Ray Allen said. “When something
bad happens in society, I don’t care if you’re watching a scary movie
or something bad happens in the government, parents should always be
there for their kids.”

Allen knows that the people around you are there to help. “I believe
that, no matter what, one day, the next day, you know, you can always
make it better… when you’re dealing with situations, you have to use
the people around you, use the community around you. We’re all part of a
team, whether you play on a sports team or not. Your home is your team,
your school is your team, your community is your team; you can identify
who your coach is, who your best players are, and use those people to
help win your game of life… you’ve got to be able to reach out to
people. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help… at the same time,
there are people out there who need help and you see it, and sometimes
it’s our obligation, our responsibility, to help those who can’t help
themselves.”

We know participating in sports helped the NBA players when they
were growing up; basketball became their passion. Do they recommend
sports for students going through tough times at school?
 

Donte Greene told us, “Always try to be active, whether it’s in school,
in sports, or student government, or safety guards, anything you’ve got
in your school, just try to be active.”

Ray Allen added, “I think if any country spent more money on their after-school program, it’d keep kids off the streets.”

To help, Canada has the Stop A Bully program, where students can
anonymously report harassment. Many schools often have counselors and
resources for dealing with bullying.

It gets better

The extraordinary It Gets Better project, which focuses on the bullying
experiences of gay and lesbian teenagers, was launched last September
with the efforts of syndicated columnist Dan Savage. It succeeded in
catapulting the topic of bullying into the collective media.

Celebrities such as Rick Mercer, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Hathaway, Neil
Patrick Harris, Katy Perry, Rob Thomas, U.S. President Barack Obama and
others lent their support to tell LGBT students that It Gets Better in
adulthood.

Though the It Gets Better project primarily deals with and confronts the
societal pressures that gay teenagers face, it’s still a spectacularly
democratic and effective message that applies to all victims of
bullying, whether they’re straight, gay, black, white, Asian, and
otherwise. It’s a message that NBA players are eager to give to their
young fans.

And it does get better. Remember how, early in this article, Donte Greene talked about being bullied?

“It’s crazy,” he told us. “This guy who bullied me or tried to bully me
in middle school is one of my biggest fans now that I’m in the NBA. I
went back home and saw him and he stopped me and talked to me. We put
everything in the past. He’s one of my biggest fans now. It’s crazy!”

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