It’s no coincidence that a clenched fist symbolizes courage and also represents strength.
Internationally-recognized freedom-from-bullying expert Paul Coughlin painted courage as the centerpiece of his anti-bullying presentation at St. Joseph High School on Monday morning, reminding students that they have the power to stop the abuse.
The school gym was packed with students from St. Joseph — as well as seventh and eighth-grade students from Pacific Christian and St. Louis de Montfort schools — for the high school’s TRUST Week, a weeklong look at the dangers of cyberbullying and bullying in general. The week covers a different topic each year.
“Technology is great, but it also creates risks,” St. Joseph Principal Joe Myers prior to introducing Coughlin.
Students were asked to be “alongside standers” instead of apathetic bystanders throughout the presentation, sponsored by Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Maria Valley Y through a Santa Barbara Foundation grant.
A victim of bullying in his youth, Coughlin began teaching positive peer pressure to students eight years ago. The Oregon resident has also written more than seven books on the topic, appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Nightline” and founded the faith-based organization, The Protectors.
“The effects are you just feel awful about yourself,” he said. “Our goal is to transform the bystander. The problem is bullies aren’t interested in stopping.”
Coughlin cites a recent online survey by Harris Interactive, which found bullying is the No. 1 concern of parents sending their kids to school.
About 80 percent of bullying is verbal, he said, and only about 13 percent of people who witness bullying actually do or say anything to stop it.
“It’s not tattling. It’s reporting,” Coughlin said. “Bullying at its core is abuse. I want you to remember that you’re always valuable.”
Bullies make people miserable because they can, not because they have low self-esteem, Coughlin said. He urged victims of bullying to be more assertive, make more eye contact and smile more.
St. Joseph seniors Jacob Goeres and Austin Henderson liked the presentation because they could tell how passionate Coughlin is.
“Now that we’re in high school, it’s more cyberbullying,” Austin said, noting that he hasn’t noticed much bullying at school. “I think it’s one of the most important bullying categories.”
Jacob recalled he’s taken a bullying victim out of a trash can before, and has also seen some students stand up to bullies.
“I liked his message,” Jacob said. “He wanted us to put it into action. It made it real. I think everyone has the courage.”
- 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of being
- 1 in 7 students in grades kindergarten through 12 is either a bully or has been a victim of bullying
- 56 percent, of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school
- 71 percent of students report bullying as an on-going problem
- 90 percent of fourth through eighth-graders were reported as victims of some kind of bullying
SOURCE: bullyingstatistics.org from 2010