In Your Corner: Anti-bullying strategies

An older teen wanted me to address what she could do to protect herself from being bullied in her high school. She thought that teachers weren’t aware of how much of it is going on. Mr. Daniel Hamada, superintendent of schools, is very much aware of bullying and harassment, occurring in the schools, and is taking steps to deal with it. It’s a national problem, and some schools are finding some good solutions.

This is the first of two columns on anti-bullying, and will let students know what to do when bullied. However, the proven technique in reducing school bullying is to create a caring majority in the student body that is vigilant and won’t tolerate the violent behavior. That will be the focus of next week’s column.

Bullying is repetitive negative action that one person does to another. Bullies mean to scare or hurt the other person physically or emotionally. Some victims are so frightened that they actually become sick. Knowledge is power, so read this, and power up!

Bullies bully because they are seeking power and control over another person. They may also be trying to get material things from them. If they get into a fight, they don’t take responsibility for what they’ve done. They usually blame the victim for the problem. If there is a problem, instead of solving it, they’ll want to bully, or intimate the victim into giving in.

The first thing to do is to report the bullying to a teacher or counselor. Ask that adult what they are going to do and ask them how you can be safe while in school. Eighty-five percent of bullies who are not stopped, end up with a criminal record by the time they are 18. In a way, you are helping the bully to stop bad behavior before it gets to become a habit, and he or she really hurts someone. Here are some suggestions that you can also use.

You may be able to use humor. The bully is expecting you to be afraid, and using humor may throw him or her off. If he or she makes fun of your hair style, say something like, “Hey, I didn’t know you cared enough to notice.” Smile and walk away. Or you can own what they say. “Yeah, I’m having a bad hair day for sure.” Smile, and walk away. The idea is to not let them have power over you.

If someone has been bullying you for awhile, and is making you afraid, the plan that the helping adult made isn’t working. You may have to have your family report it to the police. Stay away from the bully unless you are with a group of your friends, or a teacher is close.

If the bully finds you and he or she is alone, and hasn’t hurt you physically before, speak up for yourself. Look at him or her right in the eye, and tell the bully how you feel. “I don’t like it when you say those things to me. That’s harassment, and I’ll report it.” You can be finishing up your sentence as you begin to walk away. Remember, bullies want power over you. If you don’t give it to them, there’s a good chance they’ll leave you alone.

If a bully puts you down, raise yourself up! Talk to yourself positively to keep feeling good about yourself if you are being bullied. You might want to practice what to say to yourself inside, like “I know I’m a kind person, and always try my best.” “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” “I’d rather be me than him or her.”

Get yourself in a safe situation as soon as possible, and tell someone what happened.

Don’t tolerate bullying. It’s not normal, and means that something is not right. Bullies need help to learn that what they are doing is wrong. They may be acting that way because they have been bullied, and that’s what they think is right to do. But it’s not.

Good luck, be safe, and begin to form groups of people who care enough to keep letting the bullies know that you won’t allow it in your school. Research shows that kids learn, are more creative, and remember better when they feel at peace. Our schools can be peaceful places if we all work to make it that way.

“In Your Corner” is a phrase that means support. Its origin comes from boxing: In between rounds, the boxer retires to his corner, and a group of people gives him coaching, medical help, water and support.

Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life!

They are county community response specialist Catherine Stovall, public defender Edmund Acoba, county prosecuting attorney Craig DeCosta, KPD officer Paul Applegate, superintendent of schools Daniel Hamada, DOE Mokihana director Jill Yoshimatsu and Hale ‘Opio teen court manager Annaleah Atkinson.

E-mail Annaleah at, or snail mail her at Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi Street, Lihu‘e, Hawai‘i 96766. She will field it to the person who can best help with the answer.


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