More than 250,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each MONTH.
Susan Guess is a mother on a mission.
After her daughter experienced bullying earlier this year, Guess found herself at a bookstore looking for some poetry when she stumbled across a book that was out of place in the racks. “I truly believe the book found ME,” she says now of the incident. The book was written by Jodee Blanco, an author who suffered the abuse of bullying when she was a child. She is now a well-known speaker and consultant on the issue and Guess is trying to bring Blanco to Paducah to speak to students and parents on this pervasive issue.
It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Approximately 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Nearly 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school. And about 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
“We have all become acutely aware of the devastating results of being bullied when we’ve seen media reports on national television about young people committing suicide, for example,” Guess relates. “After reading Blanco’s book, I was struck by a comment she makes about our roles as parents.” In her book Blanco writes, “For years I put up with the abuse, because my parents and my teachers told me to ‘ignore the bullies,’ don’t give them the satisfaction. Today, I think of all the adults who give kids the same advice. I still don’t understand the logic. We preach to our children not to be bystanders, that if you see someone getting picked on, stand up and defend that person, but if YOU’RE the one who’s being harassed, ignore it. Isn’t that a mixed message? It always made me wonder, why was I less worth defending than someone else?”
Guess is now working on the establishment of a fund-raising campaign so that the community can bring the noted author to the community for a speaking engagement and workshops with students, teachers, and parents. Guess has produced several YouTube videos on the subject and her daughter’s personal experiences and has created a Facebook page so that others can share their personal stories. She has been interviewed by WPSD and Murray State University as well as local radio. She is also working with other community organizations who can help to shed light on the subject.
The Market House Theatre’s Footlights class will be performing Bullies Anonymous this spring to raise awareness of bullying. The Carson Center’s Class Acts is in the process of planning a performance on the topic and Maiden Alley Cinema is creating a series of educational films this spring, one of which will deal with the issue of bullying.
“We saw the signs and we fought for our child’s rights,” Guess explains. “Many other students don’t have this level of advocacy for their plight. Our family believes that, together, we can effect a change in this situation for the safety and mental/emotional health of ALL students.”