According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 30 to 80 percent of kids in the U.S. report being bullied. We sat down with Lisa Wellington (on the right in the photo above), director of marketing science and advanced analytics at The
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Tell me about your personal experience with bullying. Why are you passionate about this topic?
I knew bullying was an issue. News stories of bullicides (suicide because of bullying) pass our television screens with too much regularity. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, where Matthew Shephard died after being beaten and tortured and left to die tied to a fence in 1998. For me, all this was sad and upsetting, but not personal enough. I was a bystander most of my life, rarely a target, occasionally even a bully. My interest in bullying heightened in 2009 when teaching bully prevention became a fundraising opportunity for the Girl Scout troop I was leading. I developed a passion for the topic as I taught bully prevention from 2009 to 2013 and heard and read about so many, too many, heartbreaking stories.
Selena Power Up
What led to your involvement with the Girl Scouts of Colorado and their bully prevention program? How many years have you served as a volunteer? Do you still volunteer with the group?
I was a Girl Scout volunteer from 1995 to 2015. I led troops, was a trainer of other leaders and girls, and chaired fundraising committees. I ended my Girl Scout career with a large pro-bono market research project where I received an award from the Board of Directors. In 2010, the troop I was co-leading got a travel bug, and the scouts wanted to travel and learn about other cultures. We needed a way to raise funds.
Power Up, a bully prevention curriculum, was created, and they needed older girls to teach the younger girls. My troop accepted the challenge, and between 2009 and 2013, we delivered over 20 bully prevention workshops to more than 1,000 girls and 200 adults throughout Colorado. Selena Wellington, my child who uses their/them pronouns, took the bully prevention work to a new level and earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for their work to prevent genocide.
What are some warning signs of someone who is being bullied? What are characteristics of a bully?
Barbara Coloroso is a good author on this subject and her work was the foundation for the Girl Scout bully prevention curriculum. She has a great handout describing the bully, the bullied and the bystander. There are 15 signs that a kid is being bullied including: shows an abrupt lack of interest in school or refuses to go to school; is hungry after school (because someone stole her lunch or lunch money); has physical injuries not consistent with explanation; plays alone or prefers to hang with adults; makes a beeline to the bathroom when arriving home (because they were afraid to go at school); has stomach aches, headaches, panic attacks, is unable to sleep, sleeps too much, is exhausted; uses derogatory or demeaning language when talking about peers (repeating names they’ve been called perhaps). Bullying is a conscious, willful and deliberate hostile activity, intended to harm. It isn’t about anger or conflict, it is about contempt and power.
How do events like GLAAD’s Spirit Day sustain the ongoing efforts to prevent bullying?
GLAAD’s Spirit Day can help raise awareness about the extent and consequences of bullying faced by LGBTQ youth. We can inspire and encourage our friends, family members and community to empathize with targets of bullying. And most importantly, we can also serve as inspiration to take action and stop bullying.
What advice would you give to someone who is being bullied?
First, know that it’s not your fault. If someone is bullying you, willfully harming you with words or deeds, it is never your fault. There is no justification for bullying behavior.
Second, take care of you. Rest so you can recover. Do something that makes you feel good, like exercising, watching a movie, visiting a museum, hanging with your friends, playing with your dog. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself... even a simple thing like cooking a meal. Hang out with friends and family who build you up. Having a good sense of who you are and what you stand for insulates you from the sting of insults from others.
Third, make a plan. Decide what you want to happen next. Play out scenarios in your head. Talk through them out loud alone, or with a trusted friend. If the bully says or does something again, how do you want to respond? You could leave the room. You could call the bully on his or her bad behavior. What help do you need from others? Making a plan gives you back some power, and when you have power and control over situations, you’ll feel better.
Lisa and Selena Wellington
What actions can allies take to support the LGBTQ community on Spirit Day and throughout the year?
The best advice I have is for the bystanders. In any bullying situation there is a target, a bully, maybe a cheerleader or assistant bully, and lots of bystanders. It is our moral responsibility to intervene when we see bullying happen. When we see bullying happen, we need to intervene, every time. First, call out the bad behavior. Second, support the target in a way that lets him or her save face. And, after the incident, seek the target out and offer sympathy.
To learn more about bully prevention and how GLAAD is addressing this issue, visit https://www.glaad.org/spiritday#what.