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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

With Love for Phoebe

Phoebe Prince was 15, an immigrant from Ireland's County Clare.  She moved here with her mother and siblings for a chance to experience America.  Her experience was horrendous, and ended up with her death by suicide.  More accurately, she was bullied to death.

A beautiful young woman, Phoebe faced the ire of the South Hadley, Massachusetts "Mean Girl" militia shortly after her arrival.  Her most grievous error according to articles about her death--briefly dated a popular senior football player.  She was harassed daily at school, online, and even after death on her facebook memorial page.  Administrators appear to have known, and turned a blind eye.  This week nine of her taunters were charged, after an investigation into the months of peer abuse that preceded her death.   It's a good start, holding those responsible to at least a public accounting of their behavior.  But it's action taken much, much too late.

Bullying is not child's play.  I see adults in my practice who still bear the scars of cruelty suffered at the hands of their then-peers.  Sometimes, like in  Megan Meier's cases, adults were involved in the bullying.  The effects are profound.  Although our school district in Corvallis, like many, has a written anti-bullying policy, I hear several stories every year that show intention is not enough.  We need to support a real "no tolerance" policy for bullying.  In-school suspension with mandatory counseling or anti-harassment education would be a start.  Teacher reporting is essential.  It's not a matter of "kids will be kids".  It can be a matter of life or death.

Several years ago, just a block or two from my home,  a youth was severely beaten by his school mates after being taunted about his sexual orientation.  My partner, profoundly disturbed that this could happen in our allegedly tolerant town, canvassed places of worship and community business to purchase an ad in the newspaper decrying the action.  The ad contained a half-page poster that could be displayed on doors to designate the home/building as a safe space where all were welcome, regardless of race, sexual orientation, ability, etc.  It's time to take up the banner again-- not just with words but with deeds.  Stand up against bullying.  Call it out when you hear it.  Educate, educate, educate.  Don't let hurtful words go unchallenged. Ask your school officials what they are doing to teach and support not just tolerance, but compassion.

Resources:  Mean Girls:  Tina Fay directed this funny but poignant movie about being on the outside of the "popular crowd". This is a good conversation starter for middle school girls and parents.  The movie was inspired by the book Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman, educator and advocate.  Click on the link to visit her blog.
Click to listen to Janis Ian's At 17-- a classic song capturing the difficulties of being on the outs of the in crowd.
Tolerance.org is a site devoted to social justice and raising awareness about the problems of hate and intolerance in our culture.  They provide excellent curriculum to schools and other organizations at no cost.  Help them in their good work out with a donation.
Dr. Ken Rigby offers good resources on his site about school bullying and what can be done to address it.
An article about bullying and suicide, by Kevin Caruso can be found here, along with links to prevention sites. Read these four stories about those whose lives were cut short.  These were people's beloved sons and daughters.  Be part of the solution, in their memory.
Ryan's Story
Jared's Story
Maria Herrera
Jaheem Herrera
Be part of the solution, in their memory.

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