Monday, September 17, 2012

R.A.B. Foundation

Let me start off by saying - I'm not really "into" kids.  I mean, I'm not the Crotchety Old Cat Woman who shakes her cane and throws empty Ben Gay tubes at neighborhood tykes when they dare to violate a blade of her front yard grass with the toes of their precocious little shoes.  But I don't exactly seek them out for a discussion to learn their innermost thoughts, either.  I like kids that are like my kids.  I like kids that are, say, over 12 or so.  I like kids that have their acts together, and I like kids who aren't annoying as hell.  I like kids who actually have a little fire in their middle, instead of just a belly ring.

This is why I like Emily.

This is Em.  She is freshly 17, and she is a sparkly sparkler.  Her dad is my friend Alex, who you all hear about on a regular basis, and who should be hanging his head in shame for not coming to see me since I moved here.  She is stunning.  Emily is the kind of girl that we older, wizened women look at and think, "Wow..when she's 25, men will be dueling with pistols on Main Street over her."  It's safe to assume that Emily spends her days coiffing, texting, driving around town, going to dance lessons, and compressing as much teen angst into her every waking hour as possible. Well, you know what they say about assuming.  Imagine my surprise when I went to Emily's Facebook page recently and saw this:

"Hey everyone:
This is something important to me and I'm ready to take on the challenge if making this change. I'm organizing an *ANTI-BULLYING* group for private schools. I feel like this is becoming more and more of a problem. I constantly hear of children being bullied and I feel it has gone on long enough. If any of you care as much as I do I would appreciate you sending me your stories, thoughts; and anything that could help me....I'm going to try and organize school assemblies, or single class talks from 3rd grade all the way through 8th....I can't seem to find where anti-bullying is stopped in private schools so now I'm going to end it. Help me to stop this now."
Yes, this teenage dynamo has taken it upon herself to stop bullying in the private school system here in Spokane.  I wanted to tell you all, my readership, about this young woman's mission, because it is altogether impressive, noteworthy, colossal, necessary, and by Gawd, I think she's going to pull it off.  We sat down at the mall last week over soft pretzels (I ate, she talked).
Introducing - R.A.B. Foundation.
Kat:  Okay, Emily.  R.A.B. Foundation.  Where did this come from?
Emily:  It was midnight, I was talking to my mom - she told me a story about a little 7th grade girl with a strange haircut.  Turns out the little girl was being bullied at school to the point that she had started pulling her own hair out, so she had to get her hair cut.  So I went downstairs and began brainstorming ideas; I was bullied at that school too as a child.  I came up with Rise Against Bullying - set up a Facebook page - and have asked for people to send me stories.  I've looked at bullying policies in the public and private schools - the public school is a huge folder, the private school is just a few pages.  Basically if you aren't going to be killed in your sleep or have your head bashed in, you aren't being bullied, according to their standards.
Kat:  I've been looking at your Facebook page, watching your updates, which I just love to see.  Sounds like you are trying to get in to meet with some principals?
Emily:  Yes, I've drafted a letter to the principal of the private school at issue and have asked to meet with him about his policies.  I want them to implement a method of reporting for kids to be able to report this bullying without having to to use their own names; they can feel safer knowing that the principal can address the bully and still remain anonymous.
Kat:  So let's say you get in with that principal.  Then what?
Emily:  Then I will go to the rest of the private schools in the diocese to be implemented for all the schools in the system.  If I can get one principal to go along with what I'm doing, then maybe the rest will too.  And from there, if they can push it into other diocese and other states...that would be so great.
Kat:  You know you are stunning.  Seriously.  You are gorgeous.  It's hard to believe that anyone would find a reason to bully you.  Can you tell me how you were bullied? 
Emily:  I liked to be active in grade school, so I was teased about being a tomboy, playing with the boys.  I used to go sit in the tires on the playground and cry because I was so sad about being picked on.  My parents divorced, so that group then used that to pick on me too.  Later on, in middle school, my clothes weren't right, I was petite, the girl groups always found something about me to pick on.  When you get it all the time, every day - you start to believe it.  Seeing these kids go through the stuff I 've been through - nobody deserves that. 
Kat:  So how would you respond to an adult who says to you, "Emily, it's a rite of passage.  It's no big deal.  Everyone goes through are making a mountain out of a molehill."
Emily:  I understand that everyone gets bullied, it's part of life...TO AN EXTENT.  There's a point where it needs to stop.  At that point, it's not a rite of passage, it's a girl pulling her hair out.  It's a fine line that gets crossed and it's not okay.  You do need to learn to step up and defend yourself when kids are calling names, but if a kid is not able to focus in school, it is beyond bullying.  It is affecting the quality of their education.
Kat:  How do you think your generation is defined?
Emily:  Passive - school doesn't matter - "whatever, I'll figure it out later" attitude.  I'm choosing to find the drive to pursue something I love.  I'm a junior and I have to get my butt in gear for college scholarships and all that.
Kat:  How is the response to your call for stories on the R.A.B. Foundation page?
Emily:  I've gotten a few great stories about being bullied.  But I'd really love to hear from the other side - a story from someone who used to be a bully, how they felt about what they did.  I'm not going to judge someone for being a bully, if they found a way to overcome it, there's no reason for me to.  If they would come to me and tell me how they did it, it could really help other kids who are bullying others.  Any kid can play victim.  But if you can take the other side and get them to think about it - "This is what bullies do.  Hey, I'm doing that too."  Takes them out of victim mode.
Kat:  Are you prepared for negative reactions?
Emily:  It's email.  It's words on a computer screen.  One click of the button, it's gone.  If I get any hate mail, it's proving my point even more.  You are only encouraging me even more by cyberbullying me.  I'm not waiting until my senior year for my culminating project.  I'm doing now.  I'm not going to stop.
Do you see why I love this girl?  Can you just imagine what she's going to be doing in 10 years?  I, for one, can't wait to see.  She sees a problem and she's going after a solution by addressing POLICY at the ADMINISTRATIVE LEVEL.  I don't know a lot of grown men and women who would have the courage to do what she's set out to do.
So I have a favor to ask of you all, my dearest readers.  Here's the link to Emily's Facebook page for the R.A.B. Foundation.  Click on it, look over what she's done, and hit 'LIKE'.  You could be really super-cool and even leave a comment for her.  Give the girl some shout-outs, tell her you saw her on Kat's on Fire and want to give her a cyber-high five for what she's doing.   If you happened to be the victim of bullying when you were younger - or even a reformed bully - leave your story.  She will put it to good use. 
Emily - you rock my socks off.  You are a firecracker.

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