Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

News Release

For immediate release – 10.20.10

Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

Free downloads help church groups prevent bullying, speak against anti-gay harassment

On a day when many people are speaking out against bullying, the Golden Rule Pledge is releasing materials which can be used by churches to help prevent youth bullying.  Available for free download on the Golden Rule Pledge website, these lesson plans and class activities can help churches become part of the solution to youth bullying.

A national partner of the National Bullying Prevention Month, the Golden Rule Pledge was created in 2008 in order to advocate for the application of the Golden Rule in schools and especially to speak out against anti-gay bullying.

“People of faith need to minimize ideological worries and become part of the solution to bullying in schools,” said Warren Throckmorton, co-leader of the Golden Rule Pledge. “A middle school student who is bullied every day doesn’t care about religious differences. He needs help.” In September, three young teens ended their lives after prolonged anti-gay harassment. Churches can play a vital role in partnering with schools and other community groups to model the Golden Rule – treat others the way I want to be treated.

“I hope youth leaders can use these resources to raise awareness about the need to treat all people with respect – even if you have differences of opinion,” said Throckmorton.

Andrew Marin, Founder of the Marin Foundation and author of Love is an Orientation has endorsed this effort saying, “With such drastic consequences that have been proven time and again, it saddens my heart to see so many in the Christian world avoid a bold front-running stand to cut off all bullying in our schools, churches and communities. This curriculum is an easy and productive way to not only start the conversation, but show Jesus’ biblical mandate for His followers to stand up and live differently. The time is now. The time has to be now. Download this curriculum. Implement it. And continue to be serious about sprinting towards what so many sprint away from. Bullying is never an option.” 

Bob Finch, Director of Missions of the Pike (KY) Association of Southern Baptists agrees saying, “Recent headlines with regards to students taking or attempting to take their lives should be a wake-up call to all Christians to train our youth to not only stand against all forms of bullying, but to equip them to be used of God in putting an end to it in the schools where they attend.  I believe this program can be used to equip and empower them to do just that in a way that will also show their classmates the love of Christ as well.”

The Golden Rule Pledge (www.goldenrulepledge.com) is co-led by Warren Throckmorton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Michael Frey, Western PA Director of Campus Ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ. The resources can be accessed at no cost at www.goldenrulepledge.com/grpresources. For more information, contact Dr. Throckmorton at warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com.

CNN: A Christian’s response to anti-gay bullying

Dan Gilgoff’s CNN Belief Blog published my article on anti-gay bias involved in recent bullying related suicides. I am allowed to print a little bit and then link to the rest. I hope you’ll read, recommend, and discuss it at both places…

This week marks the beginning of the 5th annual National Bullying Prevention Month. Tragically, this comes just at the time when the nation is mourning the recent suicides of three young teens, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown and Seth Walsh. Although each situation was a little different, a common denominator was that a central feature of the harassment the boys experienced was anti-gay name-calling.

 

Sadly, these boys join a string of other suicide victims who’d been subjected to anti-gay bias.

These tragedies have heightened the attention of the public on an already contentious debate about how to prevent anti-gay harassment. While everyone agrees that such bullying is harmful and must be addressed, not all agree about the means to that end.

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My view is that evangelicals need to put ideological worries aside and become part of the solution.

I go on to describe how churches and schools in Grove City are working together to combat bullying and recommend that adults put the culture war aside for the good of children.

By the way, I am not ignoring Tyler Clementi. I wanted to focus in this article on young teens in public schools.

Previous related articles:

Broken arm, unbroken spirit; Ohio boy wants to keep cheering despite bullying

An Ohio boy who loves gymnastics joined a cheerleading squad. Some other, older boys broke his arm over it. Roll the tape:

An Ohio mom is disappointed that her son’s school didn’t do more to stop at least two boys who allegedly picked on her 11-year-old cheerleader son until the bullies beat him so bad they broke his arm.

An 11-year-old says classmates attacked him for cheerleading.

She says the beating didn’t break his spirit however. Tyler Wilson has vowed to continue cheering with hopes it helps him get into college some day.

“I’m going to keep going. I’m going to make a lifestyle out of it,” Tyler told ABC News affiliate WTVG.

According to the mother, the incident where Tyler’s arm was broken was the culmination of previous assaults.

“When I went to the school, about two days after it happened to discuss Tyler’s story, the principal said there was an incident Monday and the Friday before, that the boy who started the fight had jumped on Tyler’s back and tried to start a fight,” she said.

Kristy Wilson said if she had known that Tyler was being physically targeted said she would have certainly stepped in to stop the situation, going as far as removing him from the school.

“I really wish the school would have let me know a lot sooner, so I could have dealt with it sooner,” she said.

I bet now the school folks wish they would have dealt with it sooner.

Bullying prevention on CNN: FOF and GLSEN square off

Timothy Kincaid posted the link to this Anderson Cooper 360 segment on bullying prevention. Here is Candi Cushman and Eliza Byard discussing bullying policy along with author Rosalind Wiseman.

In the past I have favored laws which do not enumerate traits (e.g., race, religion, sexual orientation) because the context of bullying can be so diverse that a category could be left out (e.g., gifted kids). However, I think that enumerated laws are better than no laws at all and certainly understand advocates who believe listing is the way to go. I do favor numeration of categories for statistical purposes as bullying prevention programs are implemented. This approach provides a way to know where the problems are and if a district is improving.

Furthermore, I think implementation of bullying prevention often requires directly addressing various social issues, such as race and sexual orientation. If the school-wide assessment finds that gays are being harassed and disrespected, then you have to address the worth and dignity of sexual minorities. Wiseman and Byard are correct to note that silence on the issue sends a loud message – some disrespect is ok, while other disrespect will not be tolerated. Simply saying, ‘all people deserve respect and a safe learning environment’ is not enough and often does not generalize. Human nature being what it is, it is easy to allow bias to convince us that our prejudices are ok, as long as we don’t generalize them. Where a problem exists, it has to be named.

At the same time, I do think that school personnel have a responsibility to avoid stigmatizing religious people who do not approve of homosexuality. This is a difficult challenge and one which mirrors the problem we have finding ways to live together in a society polarized over many issues. However, we have to try.

Lessons from the True Tolerance website: Discuss sexual orientation

Titles are meant to grab attenion and perhaps that one will for those who have followed the worries of Focus on the Family about bullying prevention programs. Essentially, FOF is concerned that gay activists are using anti-bullying programs to infiltrate schools with political messages. To counter that perceived threat, FOF placed a list of bullying facts on their True Tolerance website. Given my interest and current involvement in bullying prevention, I checked it out. I will have a more extensive look at it next week but for now I wanted to post something I was surprised to see there.

As a reference for the contention that bullying of kids who are gay and perceived to be gay is not a big problem, the fact sheet lists an article from the Newsweek blog. First here is one of the FOF bullet points:

Statistics also indicate that race, ethnicity issues, and even opposite-sex harassment actually account for more bullying problems, than do homosexual-related issues.

As a reference for that factoid, the author of the sheet lists a Newsweek blog article by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, titled, “Does Labeling Bias as “Bullying” Hide the Real Problem?” The authors first describe the case of a young man, Alex Merritt, who allegedly suffered sexual orientation related harassment and then report the research of Stephen Russell on reasons kids report being bullied.

Russell went to public and private schools in California, surveying 235,000 kids in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades. Russell asked each student if he had been bullied within the past 12 months, and if they answer was yes, to describe the incident.

37.4% of the kids said that they had been bullied. 

Then Russell broke that data down by category.

14% of the kids had been bullied because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin. 9.1% of the kids said they’d been bullied because of their religious beliefs, while 10.3% said the bullying was gender-based. Like Alex Merritt, 7.5% said that the torments had been about their sexual-orientation – that includes kids who were actually homosexual, and those just perceived to be gay. Another 4.9% said that they were bullied because of they had a physical or mental disability.

By the end of his data analysis, Russell had concluded that 75% of all bullying came from some type of bias – racial, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

This article is apparently a reference designed to prove that anti-gay bullying is down the list of reasons why kids are picked on. I assume the reason for that point is to make a case that sexual orientation should not be discussed as a means of preventing bullying. However, that is not the message of the article referenced. Based  on the data, the Newsweek authors point out that bias is involved in the lion’s share of the bullying. The authors then raise the possibility that school personnel should be promoting discussions of the factors involved, including sexual orientation.

Dorothy Espelage has been analyzing the curriculum of the anti-bullying programs most commonly used in schools. She found that hardly any of the programs even addressed bullying relating to sexual orientation.

If the majority of bullying is bias-related, and yet we don’t even acknowledge this in anti-bullying programs, what does this mean? In the chapter of our book, excerpted in Newsweek, we presented evidence that demonstrated how many of us have assumed kids are race/color-blind, and thus we don’t need to talk about race with them – however, that leaves kids to their own devices on how they respond to racial and ethnic differences. Perhaps the same pattern is going on in other forms of bias. We think that we as a society are past making fun of people with disabilities, people of different religion or gender, etc. – and thus we don’t actively talk about these issues with our children. And that has inadvertently left the door open for kids to use these differences as the basis of torment. 

The implication is clear: at least in some schools, maybe most, we need to discuss the hidden elephants in the rooms, whether they be race, religion or sexuality. 

Looking again at the numbers, the 7.5% who were bullied due to sexual orientation is staggering. The prevalence of students who are gay or perceived to be gay is probably not much higher than 10-15%. That means a very high percentage of such children are getting harassed. In evaluating the meaning of the numbers it is not sufficient to simply rank order the reasons as FOF has done. One must also consider the prevalence of harassment in that population.

Schools differ and in some ethnicity might be the largest elephant in the room, but I suspect in many districts around the country and probably the corner, kids are being subjected to regular harassment based on real or perceived sexual minority status. In those situations, as this FOF referenced article reminds us, we need to talk about it.

Please leave anti-bullying programs out of the culture war

It is time to go back to school and Focus on the Family is warning that anti-bullying programs may lead to gay promotion.

Gay-rights groups’ push for anti-bullying legislation and school programs is an effort to “promote homosexuality to kids,” according to a conservative Christian activist organization.

The accusation has underscored the conflicting attitudes among some politicians and parents who have lent their support to these policies after a string of deadly bullying episodes across the country.

Focus on the Family has accused gay-rights groups of using tolerance and anti-bullying programs to introduce curricula and books into schools that promote political aims such as same-sex marriage. The same groups, it says, lobby for gays and other minority groups to be specifically mentioned in anti-bullying legislation and try to depict Christians opposed to such treatment as bigots.

Being on a local committee to implement anti-bullying initiatives, I have already heard fallout from articles like this one. Please leave the culture war out of this.

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My concern is that Christians are not leading the way against bullying but rather are putting up barriers to the implementation of methods that work. I am on the local committee to roll out the Olweus program and I can tell you that I have heard fallout from similar articles as this one.

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Locally, the school district is implementing the Olweus program. I am on a committee to assist and I am very pleased to see it rolled out. I can tell you however, that I have encountered fallout from articles like the ABC article linked above, where parents fear the program due to concerns over gay promotion.

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Mount Si High assault and Christian bystanders

Peggy Johnson’s son knows what it is like to be a friend. He also knows being a friend can hurt. Literally. According to a report in the Seattle Times, a fellow freshman friend of Johnson’s son was being harassed at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie Valley, near Seattle. One night Johnson found her son texting his friend, “Just stay by me.”

On November 6, during the school day, the two freshmen entered the boy’s locker room to change after P.E. Then taunting began, including anti-gay slurs and Johnson defied the bully. At that point, an older student assaulted Johnson’s son, leading to two broken teeth, a broken eye socket and a concussion.

The theme of the bullying reported in this incident is all too familiar: A student is bullied because he is perceived to be gay. Mount Si High is no stranger to the controversies surrounding anti-gay bullying. Two years ago, local pastor Ken Hutcherson led a protest of Mount Si on the Day of Silence, a day supported by gay advocates as a way to raise awareness about such bullying. Last year, there were no protests but nearly a third of student’s stayed home on that day.

Sadly, the Seattle Times article juxtaposed the protest from Christians against the very real consequences of antipathy towards gays at Mount Si. I do not blame the reporter for doing so. I believe the mistake was with the protestors. In their zeal to stand up for their religious beliefs about sexuality, they left themselves open to the charge that they do not respect gays as image bearers of God.

In 2008 and again last year, I looked for families in the Mount Si district to become involved in the Golden Rule Pledge. I found several who lived close to the district but no one stepped up to make that pledge. I will always wonder if the GRP could have made even a small difference there.

I am not suggesting that the attacker was a Christian who protested the Day of Silence. I don’t know anything about that. However, I do know that in bullying situations there are victims, perpetrators, bystanders and heroes. I believe there are too many Christian bystanders and too few heroes. Many students know there is a problem but do nothing.  

Some Christians have become fearful of anti-bullying programs because social conservative groups have warned parents that “bullying prevention” is code for pro-gay propaganda. Groups like Mission America have scared parents that anti-bullying means pro-gay. On Mission America “risk audit,” school’s score lower for having an anti-bullying program. Various groups have promoted this “audit” to their constituencies as a way to combat what they view as pro-gay instruction. I have talked to some of these parents who trust these groups. Some protest without knowing much about the programs they oppose. Other parents, out of fear of looking liberal, shrink away and become bystanders, allowing the problem to persist.

Peggy Johnson’s son was not a bystander and it cost him. In relation to the bullying problem at your local school, which role are you playing?

Another suicide related to bullying?

At least that is what the family and friends of Jaheem Herrera are saying. The story does not mention the anti-gay nature of the harassment but the mother says it in the interview. Sounds like there were multiple issues involved as well. I don’t know all the circumstances but an investigation needs to be conducted.
This is very sad.
What if Focus on the Family and Exodus partnered with GLSEN and PFLAG to issue a joint statement and/or campaign to teach kids that bullying for any reason is immoral? What if the Christian groups made a concerted effort to reach out to youth group leaders with the message that calling kids gay, etc. is harmful?
Can I get a witness?

Bullying and the scars

My webmaster, Paul, passed along a link to a poignant story of a dad about his adopted Korean daughter. She was a victim of bullying and has some scars to show for it.
Here is the beginning

Bullying defies stereotypes. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, from good homes and broken homes, and can be rich or poor. Bullying is not just a metropolitan phenomenon. Bullying can occur in even the smallest rural town. And those who have been bullied struggle with a sense of identity. I Left My Heart focuses on the struggles my family dealt with as a result of bullying in a small Nebraska community.
I hope you will share this article with someone. I doubt I will ever do a more important story. For change to take place it has to occur where our children are. Our schools need to become more sensitive to how much damage bullies can really do and that even someone they might consider as an unlikely candidate to bully may well be among the worst at emotionally or physically bullying someone.
Bullying leaves terrible scars and the healing process can be slow. Though my family found a way to help my daughter heal, she still suffers from what a therapist calls post-traumatic stress. And I still suffer from being unable to protect my daughter.
MY HEART
Labor Day, 1981. “She’s a good baby. She’s a smart baby,” the Korean adoption escort told us as she brought Hyun Soo In, now Amanda Soo Ann Meyer, off the Northwest Airlines plane. Wife Jane’s “labor pains” were over. Amanda cooed and fit perfectly in Jane’s arms. Kindergarten son Matt walked through the terminal carrying a teddy bear bigger than the tiny girl he just met, smiled a perfect smile, and announced to everyone “that’s my baby sister.”
Weeks after Amanda arrived, a bout with Salmonella brought a stay in Omaha’s Children’s Hospital. A much healthier Amanda came home, and she grew and flourished. Snap shots from those years show her crawling and walking, and opening presents at family gatherings. She loved story books and Sesame Street. Amanda was a healthy and happy little girl. The pre-school years were an idyll compared to what awaited us.
Precocious Amanda started school in 1986. She displayed a God-given talent with words, hated math, loved music, and did not care for sports. Amanda was a typical American girl who just happened to be born in Korea. Her grade school days were carefree, but then she entered North Bend Central Junior High School.
Our soldiers receive months of training preparing for war in Iraq. Amanda received no training for her tour of duty. What training could have prepared her for slurs, even physical threats, merely because she looked different than 99% of the students in that school? Nobody escapes adolescence heartache-free, but Amanda’s life was heartbreak after heartbreak. How could children be so cruel? Junior high was open season on Amanda, and scores of students had a license to taunt. Where were the teachers? Can’t they see a girl sobbing in the hallways?

Read the rest here…

Bullycide in America: New resource available

Some have asked me why I initiated and supported the Golden Rule Pledge Initiative along with the Day of Silence. Watch this video and I hope you can feel a little of the anguish that is the daily life of a child who is the target of bullying.

The song is a way of introducing the new e-book Bullycide in America: Moms speak out about the bullying’suicide connection. Full disclosure: I have some articles in this book and have done some volunteering for this group. These stories and those of kids I know have touched me in profound ways and I hope will go a long way toward creating change. There are multiple factors which inform an understanding of bullying and I hope these cases and articles will help raise awareness.
Bullycide