|Posted on: Sunday, February 5, 2006
Kids call attention to school
Advertiser Staff Writer
Fifth-grader Erin Bamer, 11, performs in a student
play on bullying at Wai'alae School.
JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser
ADVICE FOR KIDS
If you're being bullied:
Be assertive, look the bully in the eye and tell him
or her to stop.
Get away from the situation as quickly as possible.
Tell a teacher, administrator or adult.
Keep on speaking until someone listens.
Don't blame yourself for what has happened.
Advice for parents
If your child is being bullied:
Talk to teachers about possible solutions.
Discuss concerns with the school principal.
Keep a log of all bullying incidents.
Encourage children to develop new interpersonal
Listen to your child and create a plan for the next
time it happens. Just telling children to stand up for
themselves is not enough.
Make sure children know it is not their fault.
Teach children positive affirmations.
Source: The Peace Table Project
Most children will not talk about being bullied, so
be aware of these possible signs of victimization:
Your child returns home from school with torn
clothes, damaged or missing items
Cannot explain where cuts, bruises or scratches came
Has few friends
Appears afraid to go to school
Has suddenly lost interest in school
Has trouble sleeping or has frequent nightmares
Appears sad, depressed or moody
Has poor self-esteem
Is quiet, sensitive and passive
Source: The American Medical
Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Wai'alae School
wrote a play, "Beating Bullies," and performed it in
hopes that parents, teachers and other students would
understand that bullying exists.
Photos by JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser
Nine-year-old Aja Grande, one of the performers in
the student-written play, "Beating Bullies," got some
help with her stage makeup from Stephanie Toshi, 21, a
student at the University of
On stage, 9-year-old Sean Romo plays a schoolyard bully stealing
a girl's lunch money, but in real life, he is the one who gets
"(The bullies) do all kinds of things — they tease me, they play
tricks on me," said Sean, a fourth-grader at Wai'alae School. "I
don't like it."
Sean is among about two dozen students involved in the Peace
Table Project — an afterschool conflict resolution course. Students
in the program discuss many types of problems, but bullying is the
"most pressing on their minds in terms of what they deal with on a
daily basis," said project coordinator Lisa Jensen.
The problem is also on the minds of some lawmakers, who want the
state Department of Education to take a stronger stand against
A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics
found that 14.4 percent of students ages 12 to 18 report being
bullied at school. But Jensen believes the incidence of bullying is
"It is all very underreported and under-attended as a problem,"
said Jensen, adding that parents and even teachers don't recognize
its extent. "It's everywhere."
Psychologist Robert Woliver, of Kane'ohe, said almost every
student will encounter a bully at some point. "It's a common theme
in my practice," he said.
The complaints of parents and students have reached state
lawmakers and moved those concerned with issues facing children to
introduce a resolution asking the Department of Education to do a
better job of enforcing anti-bullying policies.
Previous attempts to pass similar resolutions failed, but state
Rep. Dennis Arakaki said students whom he and other lawmakers have
talked to have identified bullying as their No. 1 problem. More
attention must be brought to the problem, he said.
The resolution asks the state DOE to come up with more
"consistent ways of approaching this problem," said Arakaki, D-30th
(Moanalua, Kalihi Valley.)
But DOE officials say the resolution largely addresses an issue
already included in Chapter 19, the department's conduct and
discipline policy, and individual school policies.
The problem prompted the play last week at Wai'alae School. A
group of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders with the Peace Table
Project wrote "Beating Bullies" to help other students, and to help
parents understand that the problem exists. Anyone concerned about
bullying was invited.
ASHAMED TO SPEAK UP
Afterward, during a group discussion including parents, educators
and kids from the play and in the audience, Sean — the bully in the
play — encouraged other students to do what he is taught in Peace
Table: Be confident in yourself and seek the help of an adult if you
are having problems.
"If somebody's hitting you and you don't like it, talk to
somebody about it," he said.
But Jensen said most students who are bullied do not talk about
"They're ashamed, or they're afraid of retaliation," she
Most parents shrug off the problem as part of growing up, said
Jensen. The Peace Table students included that theme in their play
because they said adults don't understand.
Alana Freitas, 9, said she is often teased by the same bully on
the playground at recess — a friend who did not like one of her
other friends. One day Alana was approached by the bully because she
was playing with the other girl.
"She came up to me and said, 'What are you doing playing with
them? You're supposed to be playing with me,' " said Alana. "She was
always mean to me," said Alana.
Alana's mom, Sharon, said she is concerned about what her
daughter deals with, but she wasn't sure she would classify some of
it as bullying. "It's kind of hard to tell," she
Many parents don't realize that to the child, this problem is
very real and can be emotionally damaging, said Woliver, the
psychologist, speaking later in a telephone
"Every parent is going to confront this," said Woliver. "It is
important to take the concerns seriously."
Erin Bamer, 11, said she is constantly tormented for looking and
acting different. "People mimic me," said Erin. "Or this one boy
teases me and says, 'Redheads are ugly.' "
Nine-year-old Michaela Carroll said teasing and taunting by
bullies take an emotional toll.
"Sometimes I don't want to go to school," said Michaela, a
fourth-grader at Wai'alae School. "I have pretended to be sick so I
don't have to go."
SHOULDN'T SHRUG IT OFF
Teachers and administrators need to take the problem seriously
too, said Kuulei Serna, an assistant professor of education at the
University of Hawai'i-Manoa.
"Adults kind of neglect the fact that it is taking place," said
Serna, who has worked with the DOE to develop bullying prevention
techniques for teachers. She said parents and teachers often mistake
the problem as "kids being kids."
"Bullying is everywhere — from excluding someone from a group to
physically hurting someone," said Serna.
Kathy Shinagawa's 11-year-old son, Hikaru, has been bullied
almost since he started school, she said. "It's very frustrating as
a parent because you're not there," she said. "You feel
Shinagawa has reached an agreement with Hikaru's school to allow
her son to visit the counselor if he feels picked on. "He has anger
issues because of this, and I'm trying to help him find ways of
dealing with it," she said.
Woliver encouraged parents to do what Shinagawa did. "Help kids
work out a plan to deal with bullies," said Woliver. It could
consist of everything from ignoring a bully, telling a teacher,
being assertive and even fighting back.
Woliver said school administrators also need to crack down on
bullying. "It is really important for schools to be proactive and
put an end to bullying," he said.
That idea prompted the anti-bullying resolution, which asks
school administrators to be more conscious of the
"It is so inconsistent how it is handled at different levels and
at different schools," said Ara-kaki. "When intimidation and
harassment interfere with a student's education, it has to be given
more serious attention."
Previous resolutions failed to pass, mainly because the DOE did
not support them, said Arakaki.
Greg Knudsen, DOE spokesman, said Chapter 19 and other policies
already address bullying.
"The department wants to eliminate bullying and would not claim
that it has completely eradicated it," said Knudsen. The word
"bullying" was added to the Chapter 19 statute in 2000, and the DOE
treats it as a serious offense, said Knudsen.
But no amount of legislation or policies will make bullying go
away, said Jensen.
"(Bullying) is human nature, and unless there is a concerted
effort to reverse the behavior, kids will always be dealing with
this problem," she said.
Parents and teachers need to help build children's self-worth and
self-esteem so they have the tools to "get through without being
damaged," said Jensen.
Reach Loren Moreno at email@example.com.