Indianapolis's NBC affiliate reports that a billboard has been erected on a main thoroughfare in Greensburg, Indiana. Greensburg is the hometown of teenager Billy Lucas, who took his own life after years of being bullied. Sponsored by a local organization called "Angels and Doves," the billboard makes its message clear: no bullying.
Greensburg Billboard: "No Bullying"
The recent tragedy has caused many across the nation to respond. Local residents like Kim Harvey, the founder of Angels and Doves, are stepping up to prevent another heartbreak like Billy's death. Another billboard is scheduled next week for downtown Greensburg. Steps being taken by the local school district include an action plan for schools and the community to prevent bullying; an advisory committee comprised of students, parents, teachers, counselors and mental health experts; a new counseling position for dealing with social and psychological issues; and training for staff, using "a nationally recognized anti-bullying program." That program is not specified, and there is no indication that Harvey's program is being considered.
Under the news article, three resources are linked:
Stop Bullying Now is a kid-friendly site from the federal agency Health Resources and Services Administration. My admittedly cursory examination shows a site that is good for a few visits from children, but it is not a curriculum to change thinking.
Teaching Tolerance, a website supported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a huge and deep resource for adults who work with children. It includes pages and pages of activities and information for four developmentally-appropriate age groups of children grades one to twelve. Of the three sources linked on the article, this is the one to explore more fully.
Bullies to Buddies is written by Dr. Izzy Kalzman, who goes to great lengths to convince his audience of his pedigree and the perfection of his methods. I spent some time on his site, considering that this link might be here because the school district is using it. (Who knows where these links came from?) I was concerned with a sub-link labeled "Columbine," which declared a diagnosis of the cause of that disaster within months of its occurrence. I am acquainted with the author of the excellent best-selling book Columbine, Dave Cullen, and it took him ten years of exhaustive research to reach his complex and layered conclusion that bullying had nothing to do with that massacre. It is on Kalzman's Columbine page titled "Solution" that I found unsettling and unorthodox philosophy that makes me concerned. He states that laughter is the solution to bullying:
Teasing is not a bad thing--it is a wonderful thing. ... Our lives would be much happier if we spent more time learning how to tease and be teased in real life...
Kalzman goes on to state that "kids who get picked on are more than glad to let you know about it" - not in my considerable experience in dealing with children and youth. The bullying continues in part because the victims are ashamed and silent. Kalzman states on the prior page about Columbine entitled "The Missing Element" that "teasing is a biologically ordained instinct that we all enjoy." Where do I start with such a flawed premise? The mind boggles.
While I applaud the district's actions--that are sadly too late to help Billy--I pray that Kalzman's school program is NOT the one they are using to help those kids who remain. If the link is a result of a casual Google search by the news channel, shame on them for not doing their homework. That's sloppy and irresponsible journalism.
Photo courtesy of WTHR Channel 13, Indianapolis