In the past decade or more, states have moved to address, legislatively, what once was simply the domain of schools. In 1999, only Georgia had an anti-bullying law. Now every state but Montana does. In the past 13 years, states have enacted nearly 130 anti-bullying measures, half of which came since 2008.
Immediate steps for adults and youth:
• Intervene immediately when witnessing bullying.
• Listen carefully and take action if someone tells you about a bullying situation.
• Tell someone if you are a youth who is being bullied.
• Tell a trusted adult if you are a youth who witnesses bullying.
• Declare the church a safe space where everyone is welcome.
• Create an atmosphere where youth can talk openly and freely.
• Teach youth tools to respond to bullying. Role play situations.
• Invest in youth ministry that is outward looking.
• Model compassion.
Ava, a bright ninth-grader, is ambitious with a sweet disposition. She also uses crutches. Ava moves with surprising agility, thanks to strong arm muscles and years of practice. Yet recently she wasn't getting off the school bus fast enough — or at least not fast enough for the boy behind her. He started pushing her — daily.
No one on the bus seemed to notice. No one tried to stop it. Ava's knees were bruised constantly and she was scared. Her grades started to slip and she wasn't sleeping well.
Bullying affects at least 1 in 5 teenagers, according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bullying toward youth who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender occurs at an even higher rate — 90 percent, according to the Trevor Project.
A USA Today article (June 13) pointed out what parents and youth know only too well: Bullying not only includes everything from simple taunts to brutal beatings, but technology has given predators access to their prey day and night and well beyond the schoolyard.
Every young person we know is likely a target of bullying, a perpetrator or a witness.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers