Back off! Bullying, especially race-related, is not uncommon. Yet, many people are unaware of the procedures for reporting bullying or dealing with it. The anti-bullying/harassment workshop held on Saturday, November 11 aimed to provide both parents and students with effective strategies to confront and avoid bullying.
The workshop began with speakers sharing bullying stories. First, Eva Guo read a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) bullying report filed by a student. The report detailed an incident which took place on a school basketball court on June 9, 2017 at 8:30 p.m.
According to the report, an Asian-American student and his friends were playing basketball when an African-American student walked up to them. The African-American student called out racist remarks, including “ching-chong” and “how can you see the rim with your small eyes?”.
Soon after, the bully nearly forced the students to say racial epithets back toward him, or he would beat them up. One particular student refused, and the bully then punched him in the stomach. After he went home, the victim told his mother what had happened, and his mother filed a bullying report to notify the school.
Because the incident took place after school hours, the local police department handled the situation instead of the school. As a result, the basketball court is now safe for everyone to use.
The next speaker was Chen Tu, father of a son in 5th grade and a daughter in 8th grade. In a WeChat group that Tu was in, he read that a mother asked what the phrase “ching-chong” meant because her son had been called that at school.
Tu then asked his children if they had been called “ching-chong” at school. They said yes, leading Tu to believe that bullying was prevalent and not reported at schools.
He followed up with an email to the principal of his daughter’s middle school, to which he received a reply within a day. The principal told him that a school investigation revealed that students had yelled at a teacher who had a Chinese accent.
As a parent, Tu feels that there are two things parents can do: take action against bullying, and interact more with society.
Kim Liang shared the final story. For most of his childhood, he lived in an Asian community in Texas, until he moved to Frederick, Maryland in fifth grade. There, he was the only Asian-American student in his entire school.
Kim felt like he “stuck out like a sore thumb” and started getting picked on by the other kids. He clarified that the bullying was never a big incident. “[It was] the small things, like jokes, over and over again until they got under my skin,” he said.
He got accustomed to all the bullying, and became a bully himself for power. He later got in a fight with his mother. When he did not apologize, he fought and lost with his brother, which was a reawakening for him.
Kim believes that the best way of preventing these situations is maintaining good communication between parents and children. “If your parents don’t even support you on why you’re being bullied, life sucks even more,” he said.
Next, Ms. Denise Bracalilly Schultz, director of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)’s Student, Family, and School Services, discussed how forms of harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying were to be reported to MCPS and how investigations would be carried out.
Schultz explained that not only should those acts on school grounds be reported, but also any related acts that disrupt a student and their education, such as social media messages and events on the bus. Cyberbullying is more difficult and saved evidence may be required.
She emphasized the importance of reporting not just acts of bullying, but also acts of harassment and intimidation, assuring that these reports would be dealt with by administrators based on Maryland and MCPS policies. “If things are not being reported, then we have no idea of how to help you,” she said.
After you turn the MCPS bullying form in, an investigation will immediately begin within two school days, as required by MCPS regulations. After a few weeks, a report on the investigation will be given to the victim.
As for the role of parents, Schultz emphasized one thing: “The best thing for parents to emphasize is communication, communication, and communication.” Talking about it and relating with other kids may also help the child open up. Encouraging kids to speak up is essential, since the ability to stand up for themselves and for others leads to confidence in themselves and their situation.
The best thing for parents to emphasize is communication, communication, and communication.
Afterwards, Cixin Wang gave a presentation titled “Bullying Prevention: Do’s and Don'ts for Parents”. She has a PhD in School Psychology and is a licensed psychologist and a nationally certified school psychologist. Wang is an assistant professor at the School Psychology in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education at the University of Maryland.
Wang stressed the importance of communicating with your kids. “Parents should be good listeners and try not to criticize too much,” she said. If a kid is comfortable with talking with a parent before the incident, they will most likely easily talk with the parent after the incident.
Wang suggested that parents talk about their culture with their kids more. They should be open to talking about racial and ethnic backgrounds. Parents should model healthy relationships and talk to other parents who may be experiencing the same things.
In her presentation, she discussed the best ways to deal with bullying. She recommends that you respond in an assertive but not aggressive tone if someone is bullying you, since no one will take you seriously if you do not seem confident in what you are saying. It is important to seek help from a counselor or physician if the bullying gets serious or if you need help. Wang shared the WITS system, which stands for “walk away, ignore, talk it out, and seek help”. “Know which strategy to use for which time,” she said. WITS is an effective way to stand up for yourself if someone is bullying you.
Another idea Wang brought up is to agree with the facts. For example, if someone says “You have slanted eyes”, you can reply with “Yes, I do” or respond in other nonchalant ways, such as by saying “So what?”. In taking away an expected reaction and even deflecting with humor, words lose their power, along with whoever says them.
After the presentations, the audience was able to anonymously ask any questions they had by writing them down on index cards and giving the index cards to the moderator.
One question was: “How can it be easier for kids to report if they are very humiliated and scared?”
Ervin Liang, the older brother of Kim Liang, responded that parents should build up a child’s confidence to report the incident by having strong trust and connections within the family. He said that one way to build this trust was not by micro-managing them. “Unless they ask for help, they probably don’t want the parent to fix the problem for them, because then when they are 25 they will still be asking for help,” he said.
Ervin said that if your child comes to you with a problem but they do not directly ask you to solve the problem for them, they just want you to listen. By listening, you give them the strength to ask for help.
The next question was: “If kids can’t trust parents and don’t communicate, then what signs can parents look for to check if they are being bullied?”
Kim replied that they will usually act differently, whether by avoiding school or not eating. However, because every child is different, the effects of bullying can differ in everyone. It is crucial for parents to understand how their child is feeling, and even more crucial to develop trust beforehand so the child will talk about their problems with the parent.
Ervin agreed, stressing that parents have to be willing to pursue open, unadulterated communication. A child not communicating with you is, in a way, still communicating. A tip he had for building trust was not living your life through your child, or trying to fix a problem behind a child’s back. Doing so would just decrease trust even more.
Dr. OuYoung, director of the Department of Career Readiness and Innovative Programs at MCPS, agreed. He told parents not to share details of their child’s life with the entire Chinese community, because that would only discourage the child from confiding in and trusting the parent.
Another audience member asked what the disciplinary actions with bullying happen to be. The speakers replied that it depends on the situation, but usually discipline ranges checking in with all kids involved every few weeks to a suspension or detention.
Surprisingly, schools did not tell parents what disciplinary action was being taken with a bully. The speakers replied that the overall goal is to end the bullying, and the means are less important as long as the bullying stops. Bracalilly added that every MCPS student has a right to privacy.
Next, a parent asked how to tell the difference between teasing and bullying. Wang replied that it depends on the power difference. If the teasing is only in one direction and the victim feels bad, then it is bullying. On the other hand, if the teasing is going both ways and both participants find it funny and are not offended, then it is not bullying. If the bully insists it was teasing but the victim thinks otherwise, it is ultimately for the victim to decide and not the bully.
Finally, a parent asked what the best way to prevent bullying is, whether action could be prioritized more at school or more at home. The speakers agreed that school culture was extremely important. Having an accepting and respectful school atmosphere, as well as talks about bullying, would greatly decrease bullying.
So next time you are bullied, remember that you can walk away or respond in a way that shows that you are not bothered. But overall, remember to communicate. Communicate with your parent or child, communicate with your school, communicate with those who care about you.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.