First off, I have NEVER called myself a bullying expert. However, I have (1) researched bullying for over 16 years, (2) traveled nationally throughout 45 states for over 40 years in schools, corporations, communities and churches doing bullying presentations and professional development with emphasis on research that reduces the effects, (3) in 2011 received my PhD in educational research and did my dissertation on the elements of successful anti-bullying programming, (4) parented two children who had to deal with bullying in school, (5) survived childhood, teenaged and (continues to survive) adult bullying!

Having said all that, I continue to contribute to, and learn from the growing body of knowledge of anti-bullying education. This is a continual effort to communicate with the targets of bullying, parents of victims and targets, teachers & school officials, and stakeholders where bullying is a concern. Along with that, I’ve watched celebrities gain attention by sharing personal bullying stories and share their insight, read so-called research related to bullying, grimaced through the tragedies that happened weekly, often daily, and I’ve patiently perused through the endless number of new anti-bullying phrases, programs and people looking to make their mark.

With that said, there are a number of concerns I have that I feel need to be addressed, out loud, even if just to myself, I think I will feel better! You may even find some of these concerns illuminating.

1. Let’s go ahead and hit the ground running with “post-election bullying” (also called “Trump-related bullying”). REALLY? We need to blame Trump for all of the bullying in America since the 2016 election? Say what you will and feel how you may about Trump, many media outlets (some reputable), scores of bloggers and Facebook drama queens have ruminated “Trump cud” for months now, reporting that bullying, since the election has spiked with only Trump to blame. All the while I stayed out of the fray, waiting for trustworthy research to takes its course and make aware the facts. My personal thoughts were that MOST of these “so-called findings” were smear campaigns against him and that bullying is a result of parental, social, institutional, communital (maybe even some genetic) influences. I was successful with my silent protest (though I may have a permanent indentation on my tongue from the biting)! Now, FINALLY, after months of follow-up, a recent study by POLITICO and first reported by the News & Observers it was found that in seven of the biggest districts in the nation (some located in battleground states, where campaign rhetoric was likely at maximum volume leading up to the election), “NO SIGNIFICANT SPIKE IN REPORTED INCIDENTS” of bullying. And just a reminder, be careful what you read online, and hear on TV and radio, and [especially] what people say.

2. A deluge of celebrities over the past few years have come out in support of the bullying mantra; from “It gets better” to Fox Sport’s “Stomp Out Bullying” (which incidentally was a copyright infringement of my “STAMP Out Bullying” program. Just so you know, I didn’t prosecute. I didn’t want to come across as a bullying, even though the “Stomp” people were in clear violation. Sorry, that’s my baggage. Anyhow, one celebrity who desperately needed to become relevant as a result of her burnt-out stardom, came out strong in the press saying she was bullied at the middle school where my son attended as well. She went on to say she was locked in the girls bathroom because everyone hated her. A mere cursory investigation of the matter by an armchair detective uncovers two key pieces of circumstantial evidence; 1. there are no locks on the bathroom doors, and 2. there are no doors on the bathrooms! Again, I said nothing. I was glad for the positive press against bullying behaviors. BUT…let me add; while many of us like to identify with celebrities and they seem to like to identify with us, remember what profession they are in — ACTING. I’m NOT saying their motives aren’t pure or ALL of their stories are fabricated. I AM saying we don’t need to stick a mic in front of a celebrity to gain insight on current events, especially pervasive and insidious bullying. Ask anyone close to you; a parent, teacher, neighbor, boss, relative or a friend. The face of bullying is ugly and has disfigured many around us. Be weary of those calling attention to themselves in the face of the cause.

3. Facebook is full of new and meaningful people, schools and organizations sharing the anti-bullying word, spreading the gospel of love and acceptance. I am delighted — we need all of the company we can get. One observation: make sure you’re not trying to re-invent the wheel. Meaning, there are many anti-bullying messages, slogans, acronyms, and much more research that is already “out there”. Instead of coming up with “your own thing”, maybe find one that is already founded on research-based ideologies and methodologies, proven principles and practices, creative, effective & illustrative resources. Here’s why I’m beating this particular drum…since my 16 years of anti-bullying awareness on the web, I have received many requests asking me to review and recommend new anti-bullying campaigns. When they have been an obvious re-invention of the wheel, I have suggested they look at related program(s). Honestly, of the many inquiries I’ve received, only a handful has responded in kind. The fact is, most people, schools and organizations inquiring have been looking for a spotlight to bask in, not illumination to build on. Sad to say, the end result was not the greater good but a stage to be heralded as greater and good. Again, I have still supported any and all contributions, be it self absorbed or deluded.

4. Then there are the “ambulance chasers” looking for headlines to call EVERYTHING bullying even to the point of trying to bring shame to good, wholesome, God-fearing people. Take the recent example of Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of the HGTV’s hit series “Fixer Upper”. The story, published on Buzzfeed claimed, “Chip and JoJo’s church, Antioch Community Church in Waco preaches against same-sex marriage, and that the show’s stars described as “dear friends” of Antioch’s pastor, might share his conservative beliefs.” The Internet’s response was an assumption that Buzzfeed was looking to shame the show’s stars AND a resounding, “Leave Chip and Joanna Gaines Alone!” As a Christian, I get it. Many in the media can point to pretty-poor examples of Jesus-followers and down right ugly excuses of Godly people. So let me say this once and for all: the over-arching message of the Bible is LOVE. The underlining message of Jesus is LOVE. The encircling message of Christianity is LOVE! Any person, place or thing that suggests otherwise is not consistent and therefore contradictory. Nuff said.

Oh wait, one more thing…I love you!

Dr. Jay Banks, educator, entertainer and author Facebooks, Tweets, YouTubes, and Googles.

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