The Land of Indiana: A true story of Bullying from the Past

Once upon a time, I lived in the land of Indiana during a time when you were bullied or harassed, you did one of two things: 1) fight or 2) run. I vividly remember the torment of elementary school, tortured solely based on my race, which seemed to bewilder and anger white and black alike. I made people feel uncomfortable being both and I never really fit into a perfect box for my peers to accept. Of course, there were exceptions and friends. However, for years people would ask me crazy questions like, “What are you?”, as if I were some alien visitor from another planet. I got use to it and sometimes would head people off from the inquiry because I could see the question scrolling across their eyes.
I believe my father was fully aware of what was coming my way when I started school. He told me with seriousness, “The moment someone screws with you, pick up a chair and hit them in the head with it.” My mother, the non-violent and non-confrontational one, horrified with my father’s stern advice, told me, “No fighting in school, just walk away.” Dad gave me the look. The look as if to say: “You better listen up, girl.” I journeyed off to school with a backpack of anxiety because I kept hearing my father’s voice in one ear and my mother’s non-violent message in the other. Their opposing points of view created a deep inner conflict as to which parent to actually obey. My young mind considered only the choices my parents presented for me and limited my choice-making selections to fight or run.
As my father predicted, the first day of school was filled with rudeness, insults and isolation. I stewed in anxiety and anger for the entire day, staring at chairs. At no point did any instruction or education pass through my ears or make it to my brain. Why was this happening to me? Was it because I was the new girl? Was it because of my race? For me, it made no sense.
At the end of the day I had picked my target, a girl who had been the most vocal with her disgust for me. I was sitting on my weapon, but I did not want to disobey my mother. I decided last minute to just run home once school ended and escape the nightmare but as I stood to leave the classroom, my original target spat on me on her way out.
In a blink of an eye, I dragged my chair into the hallway, out the nearest exit. There she was with a group of friends, staring at me as if she was ready for a fight, but she quickly changed her mind when my chair hurdled into the air and smacked her across the forehead. Super-shocked, she and her friends ran from the scene as I stood there, hyperventilating and having an out-of-body experience.
There was never any adult intervention from the beginning of the day to the end. I believe the chair was still on the side of the building the very next day. While some may feel my actions were justified, I believe there were other options for me to consider, like, informing a teacher as soon as I was insulted or clearly and firmly address my tormentor instead of silently seethe. Invoking scenes from a movie, I wish I could say my retaliation prevented further bullying, but it did not. For several years, by different students and different reasons, I was tortured daily in the Indiana school system.
Today there are so many other options for students and parents to consider instead of fighting or running. Violence begets violence and running from our problems never resolves our issues and challenges in life. Although great strides have been made to bring bullying issues to the forefront of discussions much still needs to be done to end this social ill.
There is encouraging news from the land of Indiana. On Monday, February 25, 2013, Indiana’s House of Representatives passed legislation that bolstered the current anti-bullying law to include training for teachers, cyber bullying and harsher punishments for offenders of the law. It awaits Senate approval and is expected to pass into law.
Although, I will never be a benefactor of the new law that passes, I am filled with hope for those children filling the halls in Indiana schools. Hope because many students, teachers and parents now have access to wonderful services that are available to them, like the TURNING STONEchoice program, which equips adults and students with the tools to empower themselves to make positive choices.
Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

More than Cruel – Change for the Bully

Often we hear about and can identify with the victims of bullying, but we have little or no understanding of or compassion for the bullies, themselves. As a society, we have wagged our fingers and submitted judgment, with superficial consequences, but we hardly dig deeply enough to root out the reasons and causes; and if those causes seem wildly insurmountable, we shrug our shoulders and give trite excuses: “Kids will be kids,” or “Kids can be cruel.” We do an incredible disservice in limiting our children’s behavioral choices. The Turning Stone Process believes in the ability of children to make choices that require critical thinking, creating a generation of children attaining inner fulfillment through their positive choices.
If we limit our children’s choices, saying, “Kids can be cruel” and the like, they will neither seek nor accrue knowledge of the multiple choices that do exist. This mentality merely perpetuates the problem and squelches positive change. Everyone has the power to transform–especially children. Scott Callahan, a high school senior and former self-proclaimed bully, is making such a change. When he became conscious of the damaging effects of his actions, he stopped his abusive behavior and wanted to influence others in a positive direction. Take a look at his inspiring story.
http://www.wsaz.com/news/headlines/Former-Bully-Stands-Up-to-End-Bullying-in-His-District-190458371.html
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Art Imitates Life

Art often imitates life and often reveals more than subject matter to social issues like bullying and permits purveyors of any medium to “feel” the people, places, and experiences of which we would otherwise lack real understanding.
Art in its many forms can reach and teach, unlike typical lectures or well- intentioned speeches, with incredible power. Watching the movie, Bully, will bring you to tears and have you hurting for the children and their families. Lady Gaga’s lyrics for “Born this Way” encourage her Twitter followers–over 19 million young people around the globe–to accept the unique individuals they are becoming. Multi-media showcases like You Will Rise Project can make one cringe over the brutal truth of a picture. From White Plains, an Off-Broadway production, gives insight into the life-long consequences a bully experiences while attempting to redeem himself, and the simple clear messages of stick-figure drawings by first and second graders during a Turning Stone Moment beacon the reality that children are capable of understanding the power in their actions and the effect those actions can have on another human being.
Art is a language that communes with the inner person and brings forth the emotion and drive to make change happen. It is the therapy we grasp when simple lines of communication cannot render the message or when the pain is so deep our voices become mute.
Unlock the voices of our students, our children, our future by equipping them with the tools that allow them to make self-empowering choices and positive decisions, to gain greater control over their lives, and to give them the freedom to express and explore their thoughts. Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Coach Matt

There is never a lack of material to discuss regarding choices, considering that everything we do or don’t do is a choice. At times we can focus on those questionable choices with ease and take for granted positive choice making. Sometimes the material walks through your front door after a soccer game and eventually graces the pages of an article or blog. This particular article entry is influenced by my 11 year old son, Shawn* and the perspective he asked his impulsive mother to reflect on.
*Not his real name, but he thoroughly enjoyed renaming himself as did my husband, Carter and additional sons, Nicky and Joseph.
Anticipating Shawn’s return from his first indoor soccer game of the season, I opened the door and noticed Coach Matt’s car in my driveway. I was unable to attend the game and wanted details. Yes, I am one of those soccer moms, largely due to the immense respect I have for Coach Matt and all of the players on Shawn’s team, and considering the jagged journey traveled through the years.
This team lost games like it was their job! As parents on the sidelines, we were running out of encouraging slogans and wanted them to perhaps just tie one game and that would be a triumph. We celebrated the little victories when a player could beat another player to the ball or if our players were in their correct positions. We understood that losing every Sunday was character- building but also wanted to see them have the joy of winning. In hindsight, I think we, the parents, wanted the win a little more than our kids because– although they were defeated– they never became deflated! That mindset of keeping their heads held high during adversity has been inspiring. Well, that team was a few seasons ago. With a never- quit or give -in attitude, they have gone on to tie a few games and win many.
Shawn and Greg, Coach’s son, were beet red, sweaty and quite excited sharing the details of their first win of the winter season. “It all went very well until the end,” Coach said. What in the world could have gone wrong, I wondered. As I stood on my porch, I listened to the two boys and Coach unfold a pathetic story of poor sportsmanship, bullying, and physical confrontation by the opposing coaching staff. I immediately wanted to blast that coach, have him removed from coaching, and point out his poor choices. Then, Shawn asked me to write about Coach Matt as an example of a positive role model, one who made self- empowering choices, while keeping in mind that ten young men were looking to see how their coach would react. Thank you, Shawn. I was so wrapped up in the offensive behavior of adults, which disappoints and shocks me all at once, that I was missing the wonderful example that my son and an entire team of boys had before them.
Coach Matt, thank you for pausing for a moment and not engaging in what seems to be commonplace brawl behavior in sports. Thank you for choosing to be a gentleman with respect for yourself, others and the children in your care. Thank you for choosing a spirit of success despite loss. Thank you for teaching through your behavior more than the game of soccer. Winning coaches are a dime a dozen, but coaches that keep the integrity of relationship over the win have lasting life influences molding children into gracious adults.
Thank the Coach Matts in your life and in the lives of the children you care for. They are giving more than mere instruction to a childhood game. They are sharing the game of life. Please, share this article with a coach whom you respect.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Fight Bullying with Surgery? TURNING STONEchoice – A Safer Way

The following is an excerpt taken from The Huffington Post regarding the recent suggestion from school officials that a student have breast reduction surgery to fight bullying. Appalling! Even more shocking are the statistics of American teens having surgery to elevate the harassment. We can do better than letting our children risk their lives under the knife to avoid torment. Surgery is such a risky choice, with little or no assurance of a resolution to future problems. Sure, your nose may look “perfect” but is that really the problem? I respect the comments below from Psychologist, Vivian Diller. Additionally, making a choice to have surgery because other people are causing pain is not a self-empowering choice and will not diminish negative feelings. There is a safer way to navigate through adversity. For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
A Moline Acres, Mo., mother is furious with her daughter’s school for allegedly suggesting that her sixth grader get a breast reduction to avoid chronic bullying.
Tammie Jackson tells KTVI that her 13-year-old daughter Gabrielle has been harassed for her large breasts. When she called the Riverview Gardens School District to complain about the problem, the woman on the other end said the girl could be transferred to another school from Central Middle School, or go under the knife.
Riverview Gardens Superintendent Clive Coleman tells the station the officials are investigating the incident, though he suspects it was “a product of miscommunication, interpretation of information.” Meanwhile, students are being counseled on ways to resolve the bullying problem.
Avoiding school bullying through surgery is on the rise among American teens. In 2010 alone, nearly 219,000 cosmetic surgeries were performed on teens aged 13 to 19. And among procedures performed on teens, otoplasty is the most popular — more than 11,000 surgeries were performed in 2011.
Nadia Ilse, a 14-year-old girl from Georgia, made headlines last fall when she accepted a gift from the Little Baby Face Foundation, a charity that provides free corrective surgery to children with deformities. The foundation covered the estimated $40,000 cost of surgery for Nadia’s otoplasty — pinning back her ears, rhinoplasty — reducing the size of her nose — and mentoplasty — altering her chin.
Vivian Diller, a psychologist and author of “Face It,” questions whether plastic surgery is the right thing to do in bullying situations.
“A solution to bullying that involves surgical procedures (which have their own set of physical risks that few talk about) is a terrible message to give both bullies and their victims. Do we really think that changing physical features undoes the emotional damage created by being teased? And aren’t we validating the very message behind bullies’ actions, that diversity and variation is bad? We need to be encouraging young people to admire and embrace differences — and that starts from an early age.”