Recently, an 11-year-old Los Angeles boy named Michael* was tripped by bullies in his school gym and broke both his arms. Unfortunately, Michael’s experience is part of a common problem: As many as one in four kids are victims of regular bullying. The issue is so prevalent that last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics added a new section on bullying to its updated policy statement on youth violence.
The severity of Michael’s incident led him to be featured on a local TV news report about bullying. The reporter who interviewed Michael put him and his mom in touch with Champions Against Bullying (CAB), a nonprofit that raises awareness about bullying and educates kids, parents, and teachers about bully prevention strategies. “We empowered the boy and his mother,” says Alexandra Penn, CAB’s founder.
Penn, a child advocate for more than 20 years and a former counselor for the Toronto Board of Education, established CAB in 2003. The Los Angeles–based organization (managed by Penn, director of operations Leigh Rachel Faith, and 20 or so volunteers) aims to foster environments in wh ich children can grow up, learn, and thrive without fear of violence. “There’s still a mindset that bullying is a rite of passage or that it’s just teasing,” Penn says. “We have to teach kids that it’s OK to say something.”
CAB leads workshops at schools and kids’ organizations to teach children effective bullying prevention strategies. Both bullied children and the bullies themselves participate in the programs, which feature role-play and discussion about the kids’ experiences. There are also exercises to build self-esteem and quell misconceptions about being bullied.
CAB teaches bullying victims how to stand up for themselves and appear confident, says Leigh Rachel Faith. “We help them understand why bullies bully and tell them it’s not their fault.”
CAB also works with bullies. “[We] discuss the effect of their actions on victims, and give them the tools to recognize anger and quell it before it erupts,” says Faith.
The group works throughout the United States and Canada; any children’s organizations can request a workshop. In addition, an interactive CD-ROM for kids (“The No-Nonsense Guide to Kids’ Bullying Solutions”) is available with a $50 donation, which helps make the CD-ROM available to underprivileged and at risk children. To learn more about Champions Against Bullying, or to donate, visit championsagainstbullying.com.
*Name has been changed