Bullying, Harassment, and Cyber Bullying Mtg
at TCWest 5/12/10 (6-7:30pm)
    Attended by 7 concerned citizens (6 women + 1 man), plus 2 speakers and 1 or 2 TCAPS Staff)
  TH Detective (Todd) Heller: Grand Traverse County cyber bullying detective.
  JK Joe Kelly: main speaker and local area professional counselor; also Christian pastor of "Friends of the Light (Quaker) Church", located in downtown Traverse City.
  BW Bill Wiesner: www.TCFamily founder and webmaster.
  L1 Lady #1: one of the six other attendees, all women.
  L2 Lady #2:     ""
  L3 Lady #3:     ""
  Lady Lady: one of the six female attendees.
Speaker Description
0:09:38 Joe
…So part of our difficulty is, "What do we do?"  Dedective Heller is going to talk about the laws, and I think that the laws are being -- the law changes slowly, because law comes from the legislature, so it doesn't change slowly because they're bad; it changes slowly because it's the process.  And so, the legal system can only enforce the laws.  And the schools can write policies, and will, as the parents -- as it becomes an important issue for the parents, and parents make it known that it's a real priority for them.  [tape end = 0:10:39]
0:10:56 Lady 1 ["Lady 1", a concerned mother, shares (for 4 minutes) an overview of how her young elementary age son was bullied repeatedly for 4 years in various Traverse City schools, and how her persistant and repeated attempts to remedy the situation by soliciting the help of teachers and administrative staff did not stop the bullying and harassment of her son.  She said many days she was in tears regarding her son buying physically bullied, and she approached the staff fifteen or so times without being able to get the bullying stopped. Lady 1's following words sumarize the depth of the pain she, and especially her son, went through from 4 years of bullying:]
0:13:55 Lady 1 "… The damage that was done -- begging not to go to school; and being afraid; and getting bad grades because constantly looking over your shoulder, never knowing … There was one Math Teacher that (at the end of 6th grade) called a meeting for the Principal, the counselors, the teachers -- everybody.  And the one Math Teacher said, "He's suffering from depression, and he's depressed because of this."  And no one else caught it.  And she really hit the nail on the head because I believe if the child is bullied, whether physical or verbal, they can't focus.  Like you said, they are so afraid.  The need to have that group of, "I have friends, I'm liked.  Maybe this one doesn't like me, but these guys like me."  And that's what kind of makes up there support system.   And if that's not there, then they can't focus on anything else.
0:14:57 Joe
I'm going to make some suggestions [about 5 indecipherable words] … that you can do in this kind of situation.  Because I think what you're describing is not a rare instance.  I think part of what happens in that schools is that the definitions of "what is bullying and what is not bullying, are pretty vague -- it is pretty tough to determine.  And schools get caught parents: they get caught between the parents of the victims and the parents of the perpetrators.  And that puts them in a pretty difficult kind of position.  But I think that one of the reasons they're asking people to come in and do these kinds of things, is to begin to make some solid policy changes.  However, whatever policies they do, they will always be less than perfect, because the policies can only be exercised as policies.  They are always by human beings.
0:16:14 Lady 1 Well there's loopholes.  And there is probably not a policy to fit every single situation.
0:16:20 Joe
Why don't we look at the study that Detective Heller brought, and then we can talk more about possibilities.
0:41:05 Detective
And in conclusion, this is one of the sayings I like: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but in this day and age, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but will heal; insulting words hurt and sometimes take forever to heal ...and it sticks with these kids for a very very very long time."
1:00:34 Joe
In terms of, one of the things that I meant to mention -- it's never popular in schools, or any place else, but -- really, if you're trying to get an institution to, if you're concerned about inaction in an institution, a short discussion or mention of the term "liability" goes a long way, and it really works.
1:01:00 ? [low, short "chuckle" laughter heard from one attendee.]
1:01:04 Lady Joe, do you address counseling for kids who are bullied, and those who do bully?
1:01:14 Joe
Well, certainly, counseling can be effective for bullies, [2 seconds indecipherable on tape.] School counselors do a good job of it.  Private counselors certainly will address it.  One of the things that private counselors will do, and I can only speak for private counselors for this.  They will prompt the student to address it in schools.  They can't [2 seconds indecipherable on tape.]  You have to avoid that feeling of helplessness.  "I have no choices."  Yes you do.  [5 seconds indecipherable on tape.]   And action, the wise action, is healthy action, involving adults, as many as you need to get positive solution.
1:02:25 Joe
Any other questions?
1:02:35 Bill
I've got a question.  I think currently in the state government there's a bullying bill is being recommended to be voted on soon.  And one of them includes "sexual orientation" and "identity" … "sexual identity", something like that.  And the other one just includes "no bullying for any purposes."  What are the pros and cons of those two bills as you see it?
Well I think, I personally think that we need to stand really firm for "no bullying for any reason."  And we need to define bullying very carefully, and then, I think that we need to in general in our society, create an environment where we don't tolerate bullying at any level.  That's a big order, but I think that's the only thing that really works.  I don't know the bills specifically, so I don't know ...
1:03:55 Bill
I don't either.
I don't know what they read.
1:03:57 Lady 1 Well I think it sounds like, say that your tolerance for any kind of bullying, that's going to, if that becomes law, it's going to require adults, as well as children, to become tolerant of differences, which has been an issue for a hundred years 
1:04:22 Joe
No, I mean 2 or 3 thousand years.
1:04:25 Lady 1 We just need to learn to be tolerant of other people and other differences.  We are all equal, but we're all not made the same.  We're all different.  And it sounds like to have "no bullying of any kind for any reason" would kind of tackle that issue.
1:04:50 Bill
One thing that struck me, I like "Focus on the Family."  I don't know if anybody listens to it.  It's on WLJN, the Christian Station, and Dr. Dobson, a long time ago, he only taught elementary school, I think it was junior high, it was junior high, and he only taught it for a year or two, but when he first walked in the classroom, he stood up and he said, "There's one thing I won't tolerate, and it's any name-calling, any bullying.  I look at you as being my children, or whatever, he got that across right from the beginning, and he said there was almost a sigh of relieve from all the students, like "we can, we can be at peace here, we're not going to be threatened, he's not going to allow it, he's going to protect us."  And I think absolutely, that should be the case.  I don't know exactly how to get that idea across.  
1:05:46 Lady 1 It sounds like, if that does become law, law enforcement is going to be very busy detaining quite a few people.
1:05:55 Detective
Well, not necessarily busy, you've got to realize too, is just because something for law enforcement is investigated, it also states that the prosecutor prosecutes.
1:06:06 Lady 1 But even before  the prosecutor, you're still going to get a lot of calls.
1:06:09 Joe
But actually, a lot of, because you said before, a lot of things get resolved prior to, I mean a lot of police officers resolve a lot of issues without it going to the prosecutor.
1:06:25 Detective
It's usually when it can't get resolved when it goes to the prosecutor to get prosecuted.
1:06:31 Detective
[4 seconds could not decipher what was said.]
1:06:35 Detective
So a lot of times it gets resolved before it ever gets into prosecution.  Well I have another appointment to get to, so are there any last minute questions?
1:06:54 Bill
I've got one … how do you differentiate between "bullying" and "concern for someone's behavior?"  It's coming back to the homosexual issue, and the sexual orientation.  I don't think anyone should be bullied, but I'm real concerned about normalizing behavior  I consider is dangerous for the students themselves.  So how could you address, "we don't want any bullying," but still let concerned adults or students who might think that would be harmful to the person be able to -- in a respectful manner -- get that idea across, not day after day after day, but: "I care for you," "I'm concerned about this behavior."  And I know some people believe that it's innate and inborn.  I disagree with that.  I don't think they know where it came from; I think they were very young when it came, and as far back as they can remember, it's been there.  But I think people should be able to respectfully, voice their opinion in a respectful loving concerned way.  It's sort of like, "friends don't let friends drive drunk."  That would be a good thing, so if someone is concerned on this issue ...
1:08:25 Joe
There is a variety of really really delicate issue opinion.  Part of it has to do with the arena that you're at; and if you're talking about a public school, that's probably totally inappropriate in a public school system.
1:08:46 Bill
Why is that?
1:08:48 Joe
I think communicating to any student about, that's critical of their sexual orientation, I don't think a public school could get away with that.
1:09:00 Bill
Would you do the same for someone drinking … or drugs …?
1:09:10 Lady 1 Children in a public school would not, they could get themselves, they could weave us a heavy web, by confronting, respectfully or not, another human being on their sexuality, and trying to sway them into understanding that it's wrong.  That's going to be a problem I think.  
1:09:35 Joe
Well, the comparison you're using, I don't think is particularly useful, because alcohol is against the law for children, for people under 18.  So "talking against alcohol in school" is a pretty appropriate behavior; but you'd have to be pretty careful saying to a child in a school: "I'm concerned about your weight."  That could get you in a lot of trouble.
1:10:10 Bill
Or at home.
1:10:14 Joe
So these are issues of, there's a place when, and public schools are in a very very difficult place to make any kind of moral suggestion.
1:10:31 Bill
I'm not, ok, for one thing, it's not the public school, it's a student initiated type thing.  For a teacher, I would see more of a problem, but for a student who is truly concerned, to be able to have that diverse opinion, shared in a respectful way …
1:10:56 Joe
Well that's what you're … [2 words not clear].
1:10:58 Lady 1 You can't do it in a public school.
1:11:00 Joe
It's an interesting concept.  I believe what will happen is that somebody will probably do it, and somebody will probably get charged with bullying.  
1:11:16 Lady 2 I can tell you just sitting here these hints of racism and homophobia, are giving me an extreme visceral response.  I can't imagine that being tolerated in a public school.
1:11:30 Bill
What is "homophobia," by the way?
1:11:32 Lady 2 I'm not going to get into an argument with you.
1:11:34 Bill
I'm not arguing.
1:11:35 Lady 2 I can barely stand to sit here and listen to this.
1:11:40 Lady 1 I guess what we're all trying to say to you is that respecting your opinion and respecting your Christian belief -- there is a time and a place for it, and it isn't going to ever be in the public school.
1:11:56 Bill
So Christians, when they come to the public school, then they leave their Christianity -- we can talk about other things -- but we can't talk about our faith ..
1:12:05 Lady 1 .. No
1:12:05 Bill
.. as a student, I'm talking about the students.
1:12:07 Lady 1 I understand that you're talking about the student, but first of all, putting pressure on a student to confront another student on their sexuality, is first of all putting a lot of pressure on the one student, and it's a web that that kid is going to not win.  You know at the end of the day we're all acountable for our own actions, and that's about all you can do.  
1:12:40 Joe
It's getting late.  It's getting late. And we do need to end it.
1:12:44 Lady 3 I was going to say, it's 7:30, and this was to run from 6:00 to 7:30.
1:12:46 Bill
Ok.  If I could just make one closing comment.  I'm very concerned on this issue -- you've probably noticed it.  I don't think it's "hateful" in any way, and that's the next word beyond "homophobic" -- it's going to "hateful" -- and I've heard that before too.  I think it's concern for the people and to be able to share that in a respectful, loving way, and for the students to be able to do that.  But, I'll just say this, I do have a website, and it's called "TCFamily.org," and it will be addressing a lot of these issues, hopefully within about a week or two.  So if you would like to see more of my thoughts on that, you can check out the TCFamily.org website.  Thank you for listening.
1:13:32 Lady 3 [to the presenters:] Thank you very much for your fine [(unclear) … presentation?]; it was very very helpful.