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Washington Post reporters or editors recommend this comment or reader post.
The first bullying resource for parents is their child’s school. Whether your child is a victim of bullying or is the bully himself (or you are just concerned about intimidation at the school), you should reach out to your school teachers, counselor and principal for help. If you don’t get satisfactory results or assistance, don’t hesitate to go up the chain of command to the superintendent and ultimately the state Department of Education.
The government website, StopBullying.gov, can be a helpful resource to learn about bullying policies and laws. 49 states have passed anti-bullying laws. The website also includes tips on preventing bullying, responding to bullying and talking about bullying.
Based on a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 students and their teachers, No Kidding About Bullying: 125 Ready-to-Use Activities to Help Kids Manage Anger, Resolve Conflicts, Build Empathy, and Get Along (Amazon, $26) provides educators, parents and youth leaders with a wide assortment of activities that can be used to help children to resolve their conflicts without resorting to anger or violence. Geared toward grades three to six, this book and CD-ROM features games, role plays, group discussions, art projects and language arts exercises. The lessons affirm the importance of respect and kind actions.
This international best-seller is a favorite among parents and teachers. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School — How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence (Barnes Noble, $12) talks about topics from conflict resolution to the three kinds of bullying. This practical, compassionate book is aimed at helping the triad of bullying — the bully, the bullied and the bystander.
This 20 minute DVD is short, but it provides very good information for kids. Featuring nationally acclaimed and Emmy-nominated youth speaker Mark Brown, Stop Bullying: Standing Up for Yourself and Others (Amazon, $40) uses personal experience to help provide students with concrete steps they can take to respond to bullying. It talks about the importance of respect and tolerance. This DVD is appropriate for junior high school and up.
This bullying DVD is essential for your little ones. Perfect for parents to watch with children ages 4 and up, Stand Up To Bullying (Amazon, $13) features Lucky Kat and Daren the Lion to address the topic of bullying. It talks about the different types of bullying and teaches children the best ways to respond.
Another vital bullying resource for parents is The Bully Project. The Bully Project is highlighted by a documentary film, Bully, about bullying in our schools. Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film follows the lives of five students in Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma who face bullying on a daily basis. The Bully Project is more than just a film — it’s a call to action and a tool to raise awareness about bullying. On The Bully Project website, you can find out more about the film and its stories, as well as tips and suggestions for parents, students, educators and advocates. Kids can share their own bully stories by posting stories, uploading photos or recording videos. You can also find out about new initiatives in school, communities and online. Watch the trailer below to learn more about the film. Bully releases in theaters March 30.
How a bully can change your life
Is your child being bullied at school?
Protecting kids from cyber bullying
Find out more about what makes The Scary Guy so scary. Watch CNN Presents at 8 p.m. ET Sunday.
Austin, Minnesota (CNN) — Schools worldwide book him to put a stop to bullying. One Minnesota community promised him $20,000 to get him to come to town for two weeks last fall.
He calls himself The Scary Guy, and his price tag can run as much as $6,500 a day. The Scary Guy is his legal name — we checked. It’s safe to say his presentation is unlike anything most students have ever seen. The kids love him, and many school officials sing his praises. But CNN learned not every past customer believes he offers a real solution to the difficult problem of bullying in America’s schools.
Beyond the strange name and the four-figure daily rate, what’s most eye-opening is how this in-demand bully prevention guru defies the squeaky clean image expected of educators. He’s no Mr. Rogers leading sweet sing-alongs in a sweater vest and tie — far from it. He’s a tough-talking former tattoo artist covered in ink.
Lacking formal academic credentials, The Scary Guy acknowledges his looks and his lesson plans are a bit unconventional.
Scary, as he likes to be called, delivers a shock-and-awe approach. Speaking before a packed auditorium of schoolchildren in Austin, Minnesota, he barfs up apples, groans and rubs his ink-stained belly and intentionally pokes fun at the shortest middle-schooler, the bald PE teacher and the “geek in the wheelchair.” He explains he’s demonstrating classic bullying behavior to make kids aware of the problem.
The entertaining antics are followed up with fist-pumping and a steely look as he delivers his takeaway: “You travel around on this world, and you put out hate and anger, and you cop an attitude, you’ll draw all this into your life wherever you go.”
Scary calls his performances “edu-tainment” — a way to grab the kids’ attention with humor and throw in a positive lesson at the same time. Playing the bully, he says, is how he role plays his young adult years when he would find fault with just about everyone.
When pressed for his strongest message about bullying, he says it’s to “show [kids] they have the power to make the choice to be who they want to be and not become what they see and hear around them.”
Kids seem to hang on to his every word, and schools and communities are buying into his act. Over the past 13 years, Scary says he has visited schools in 19 states, and he gets requests by countries worldwide. He’s even been booked by law enforcement and the U.S. military.
Some school administrators we talked to, however, wonder whether visiting outsiders like Scary are more than just “clanging bells,” as one Minnesota principal put it, rather than the culture change desperately needed in America’s schools.
“You can have these kinds of folks come in and they are, in a sense, a bit of a mercenary — a one-time, one-shot deal,” says Principal Kerry Juntunen of Hermantown, Minnesota. “Does that really change kids’ lives? And my answer is no.”
Scary visited Juntunen’s middle school last year. The cost was covered by a federal grant. Parts of Scary’s performance were positive, Juntunen says, but other parts were inappropriate enough to convince Juntunen he would never invite Scary back.
Juntunen recounts how Scary, in an attempt to show that hand-shaking and hugging is harmless, reached out to shake a student’s hand and sarcastically said, “Oh, that’s the best sex I’ve had all day!” to a room full of middle-schoolers.
After the crude comment, Juntunen says, he immediately knew his phone would light up. “Well, what got left with the kids?” he says, “The kids got, ‘Oh, that’s the best sex I’ve had all day,’ not that it’s OK to shake someone’s hand or to hug them.”
Scary says he was just role playing, and that most people find it funny.
In his interview with CNN, Scary also didn’t seem overly concerned about discrepancies in some of his business and professional claims. His invoice to schools and his website — before we sat down for an interview — claimed his charity, KidsVisionHeart, is a nonprofit. (He changed his website after our interview.) The truth is KidsVisionHeart lost tax-exempt status nearly two years ago.
“It probably fell out because I didn’t report all of my taxes for the last seven years,” admits Scary.
CNN also learned his for-profit business, VisionHeart, was dissolved in the U.S. so his earnings from past gigs have been going to his bank account tax-free.
He says he’s trying to work out his taxes and is restructuring his business now, but his life on the road has made it difficult. And. he says, schools don’t care whether he’s for-profit or a charity.
Middle school Principal Dewey Schara of Austin, Minnesota, the community that booked Scary for two weeks last fall, is still a true believer.
“I think his credentials are stellar. And we looked into them because this is risky,” Schara says, when “you bring someone in that looks like Scary Guy, that talks like Scary Guy.”
Schara, who together with a parent-initiated bullying committee booked Scary to come to Austin-area schools, says a messenger with shock value is exactly what the community needed to wake up and take action against bullying.
“I just love his approach,” says Schara. “It’s not perfect. Some would say not beautiful. Maybe shocking to look at, but it gets everyone’s attention.”
The fact that Scary never finished college and has no formal training doesn’t bother Schara.
“In our world, the academic world, you have to have a degree, the law says you have to have a degree from an academic institution in order to do the job,” Schara said, “but that doesn’t make you a good teacher.”
Scary is also quick to defend his self-styled teaching methods and shared with CNN a curriculum he’s developing to go along with it.
“My teaching is researched-based in my personal experience and how I read people. No, it’s not out of a book,” Scary says, “but the truth is I don’t know where anyone would go to teach what I’ve been doing.”
And Scary says he has letters to prove he’s making a difference in kids’ lives.
“[The letters] just tell me what it’s like to make a difference, to make a change — to wake up to the idea that they don’t have to live with stress and negative behavior around them,” said Scary.
Juntunen recognizes some communities benefit from a Scary visit because his controversial approach can start a much-needed conversation about bullying; however, he says, what really matters is the daily interactions adults have with kids from the bus drivers to the school counselors. As he points out, people like The Scary Guy come and go.
“It is an ongoing process and the adults in this building, the adults in this community, the connections we make with kids — that’s what creates the culture, the anti-bullying culture that you’re trying to provide,” says Juntunen. “I think a lot of people are just asking for somebody else to do what we need to do ourselves.”