Every year in America,13 million school-aged children experience bullying, be it verbal, physical, or relational. “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior
among school-age children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.” Stopbullying.gov It can be direct or indirect, meaning in person or online through social media and texts. Bullying often occurs because the bully’s basic human needs for meaning, connectedness, recognition (power) and autonomy go unmet. Bullies also lack the ability to respect or empathize with
others.
Too often, their targets are unsupported by witnesses, so they feel isolated, humiliated, and exposed. The experts say those who are bullied often suffer from depression, anxiety, increased sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and a loss of interest in activities they use to enjoy. Targets must learn how to refuse provocation and cope with victimization. They must also learn new habits of assertiveness and how to form healthy
peer relationships. As a soldier who served in other countries, a parent, an educator, and now the executive director of a nonprofit that works to reduce bullying, I have experienced and witnessed bullying (peer cruelty) in its multifaceted forms. I have seen firsthand how hatred, fear, and racism can affect one’s livelihood.  While I was never the bullied, I have lived and worked closely with those who were. Some of the targets and witnesses rediscovered their power and overcame their terrifying experiences, others did not. In my role as a mom and an educator, I have seen firsthand the impact of bullying within our nation’s education system. Teachers and professionals who work with students need to be equipped with knowledge and training for addressing bullying. Educators play key roles in managing the front lines of bullying, whether through coping with incidents of violence, addressing situations with students and parents or fostering an environment of tolerance in their classrooms and playgrounds. We need to provide our educators with
the tools to effectively handle bullying.  This responsibility, however, is not only limited to our educators. Education and awareness is the responsibility of each of us. We need to change society’s attitude towards bullying; we must educate each other about the things that make us the unique individuals we are — the same things that other people use as a basis for bullying. We must create a new realm of understanding and acceptance of our differences.  Legislation alone will not eliminate bullying; we need the joint forces of parents, teachers, students, activists, and community members to effectively
change the attitude in our communities, in our nation. You can learn more about Colorado’s Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies at stopbullying.gov or visit Colorado Department of Education’s bullying prevention education webpage. We need you, all of you. If you see something, say something! You have a voice and you can make it heard. Speak up, report it, share your story, and educate others about diversities. We have a long road ahead of us, but if we each contribute, we can make a world of difference in reducing bullying.

Robyn Shank Executive Director,
PEER Kindness, Inc.