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Monday, 09 July 2012 16:00

Council launches LGBT book drive

The City Council and Department of Education have launched a five-borough book drive for schools to heighten awareness and understanding in students about LGBT (lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender) issues.

A message from Christine Quinn's office says: "Access to these books can help prevent bullying, depression and other negative outcomes in students, many of whom come from non-traditional families and/or may be confused about their own thoughts and feelings. It can also help children develop empathy by increasing their understanding about how people around the world are both similar to and different from themselves."

A Chancellor's Regulation, updated in 2011, addresses the issue of bullying but some groups are concerned that the regulation doesn't go far enough as incidents of bullying continue.

Here's a list of requested books that may help spread the word:

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012 12:24

Ask Judy: My son is being bullied

Dear Judy,

My son has been physically attacked several times in elementary school – I call it bullying—but the classroom teacher is no help when it happens and the rest of the staff has not been helpful either. What can I do to help my son?

Frantic mother in Queens

Dear Frantic Mother in Queens,

Considering all the attention to combating bullying these days, it is really disheartening to hear that your school still has no clue about how to handle it. The week before schools closed for the winter break was Respect for All week  – to highlight activities associated with the Department of Education program to combat bullying.

The goal is to make the schools safe and supportive for all students. Under the Respect for All (RFA) program, schools are to create a school wide atmosphere of respect for all kids regardless of their race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion, weight or disability. The program calls for training at least one staff member to be the RFA – the one person in school that kids can tell about bullying without fear of reprisals, and who knows how to help. That person's name and where to reach him or her should be posted all over the school. Under city regulations both victims and bystanders are encouraged to bring their story to the designated RFA but they, and their parents, can also report online at

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Friday, 17 February 2012 14:39

Elementary Dad: Helping kids prevent abuse

I attended two presentations last week at my daughter’s Upper West Side elementary school. The first featured the chancellor in charge of New York City schools, who was on hand to absorb parents’ rage after a paraprofessional at the school was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with a young boy.

Talking to an overflow crowd, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said what you’d expect him to say: The safety of children is his top priority, and steps will be taken to make sure incidents like this never happen again. But less than a week later, a teacher at an elementary school in Queens was arrested on suspicion he inappropriately touched young boys.

Both incidents occurred just weeks after the arrest of a teacher’s aide at an elementary school in Brooklyn. Investigators say the aide possessed child pornography and may have created a sexually explicit video at the school.

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Friday, 06 January 2012 09:44

It's time to stand up to cyberbullies

When I was a kid in elementary school, I dreaded lunchtime when a nasty girl in my class would relentlessly make fun of my hand-me-down clothes, tell your-mom’s-so-ugly jokes, and threaten bodily harm. I looked forward to middle school to escape, but my tormentor followed me there. What was worse, my middle school was overrun with even bigger bullies and administration had their hands full. So I did what most smart geeks did, hang out with my teacher during lunch—and try to be the first one out the door when the bell rang.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 10:44

NYCLU to students: Know your rights!

Can a high school student ask to be removed from the military recruitment database? How much school can a pregnant teen miss for prenatal care? As part of The New York Civil Liberties Union annual "Week of Action," the organization is visit public high schools this week to inform students of their basic rights.

The group is providing information about military recruitment in schools, LGBTQ rights, police in schools, sexual health and reproductive rights. The information is also posted online and, in some cases, in other languages. NYCLU announced their "Week of Action" schedule last Friday and is visiting schools which are most affected by the issues (schedule is posted below).

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Dear Judy,

I  have a wonderful and very respectful daughter who suffers  from anxiety and ADHD. She has never had a fight or behavioral problems. I am concerned with the change of school because this year she will be going to middle school and I am hoping you could help me with some tips on what to look for. The elementary school which she attended was worse for her because of the overwhelming number of bullies there.


Dear AMG,

Middle school is a big transition for most kids and can be particularly hard on sensitive children. Kids are are growing fast and changing a lot during these years and are vulnerable to any slights from their peers. Bullying goes beyond  a simple slight. It is a real problem in any grade, but in middle school, it is  important to stop it before it gets out of hand.

Before school starts, talk to the parent coordinator, the guidance counselor, the president of the PTA and  other parents in the school. One of these folks should tell you frankly if there is a culture of bullying and what the school is doing about it. Even if there is no current problem, there should be a  very clear policy about bullying and, importantly,  kids should know who they can confide in if they are victims. Moreover, the school should work hard, particularly at the start of the school year, to stress respect for one another, students and staff.  A recent White House conference on bullying spotlighted the problem so there is no excuse for a school ignoring it.

Here are some other ways that your middle school can ease the transition from elementary to middle school.  For your daughter, a small school where students get plenty of personal attention sounds right. A big school can also work if it is divided up into units where kids and teachers interact in small numbers. Big schools often have several different programs so look for one that interests your child and puts her in the company of kids who share her interests.

In either case, big school or small school,  look for “advisory” periods where the same  group of  kids meets with the same staff member once a week to talk over school problems. Sometimes they go on excursions together like skating or  picnicking.

Another feature to look for: weekly mini-courses or clubs, another chance to be with kids from other classes and grades who share common interests. Often scheduled on Fridays, kids take a class in something they really like such as art,   music,  astronomy, or chess. Usually teachers offer a class in their own areas of interest and their enthusiasm is infectious.

It goes without saying that if your daughter has an IEP and receives special education services, make sure the school offers the services that she is entitled to. Talk this over with the guidance counselor well before school starts. Most of all, be there to support your child, praise her accomplishments and tell her how proud you are.

Good luck.


Published in News and views
Monday, 28 February 2011 05:38

Elementary Dad: Mean girls meet the Old Maid

If trend-watchers are correct, today’s girls will feel the cruel sting of social bullying at a younger age and with more lasting damage than girls of their mothers’ generation. I want to shield my daughter against this gathering Mean Girl storm of rejection, snarky gossip and social ostracism. So she and I play Old Maid.

The logic goes like this: Card games involve groups, strategy, winners and losers — many of the same factors involved in social relationships. Learning to obey rules, to play wisely, and to win and lose gracefully can help children master some of the social skills they will need to successfully navigate a schoolyard dotted with backstabbing enemies and two-faced friends.

This strategy is found in the book Little Girls Can Be Mean and others like it. I interviewed Little Girls co-author Dr. Michelle Anthony last year when I worked for the New York Post. Many school districts have anti-bullying campaigns (like New York's Respect For All initiative, which several anti-discrimination groups recently criticized as ineffective), but they largely target physical violence and pranks (often boy vs. boy). Anthony believes such campaigns overlook a more complex and crippling pain that occurs as young girls stumble their way toward higher social status, often leaving victims in their wake.

“With boys, a lot of times, when you’re being bullied physically by someone, this person is not your friend. At all. And you know it, and you’re afraid of them, and you try to avoid them,” Anthony told me. “But with girls, more often it actually is your best friend. And you are sitting next to her in math class. And she does do wonderful things for you. So to just walk away leaves you socially isolated. And that’s a very different experience to have.”

Anthony describes ways parents can respond when daughters come home in tears because they have been a victim of gossip or betrayal, and these bandages seem helpful. I want to help my child avoid such emotional wounds in the first place, but here social scientists offer few tips for what most say is an inevitable part of growing up. Developing social skills through Old Maid is about the best you can do. So I shuffle and deal — and watch a 5-year-old mind begin to grasp strategic nuances that stretch beyond a card game.

“When I have the Old Maid, I hold it out in front so it looks special and people will take it,” my daughter told me during one of our early games. (Lesson One: Bait your opponent.) I said that’s a good plan — so long as you don’t tell others what you’re doing. (Lesson Two: If you’re going to be sneaky, be quiet about it.)

Since then, her skill set has expanded. Playing last week, she held out her final two cards, one noticeably front and center. I reached behind it, sidestepping her bait. (Lesson Three: Friends won’t let you win all the time.) I was surprised to find I’d fallen for a bluff and picked the Old Maid. (Lesson Four: Uh, something from The Art of War about varying your tactics and feigning inferiority, I guess.) A wicked smile crossed her innocent face.

Congratulations, kid. The schoolyard can be a rough place for little girls, but I think you’re going to be OK.

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