I had the distinct pleasure of the Voices of Women’s (VOW) Anti-Bullying workshop in San Diego, California on March 31st 2012. VOW collaborated with the United Women of East Africa for this workshop. I was quite pleased to be in the minority in the crowd. The majority of the attendees were women from the Somali community in City Heights neighborhood in San Diego. The array of panelists provided insight into the policies and realities of anti-bullying today in San Diego and more specifically the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The array of handouts that SDUSD uses with documenting bullying and the anti-bullying efforts impressed me. I kept multiple copies so that I could share them at home. And, here I include my screen shots.
The first speaker, Agin Shaheed, is an administrator with the SDUSD. His exact position focuses on Race Relations. I couldn’t help but think that his job must be incredibly rewarding and exhausting. Shaheed noted that the SDUSD is the largest school district in San Diego County and second largest in the state. This would make it behind the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Shaheed opened up his remarks reading a moving poem he wrote. He reminded the audience of 50 about the murders of Shaima and Trayvon. I was glad I packed my tissues. Shaheed made a germane point about cyberbullying and the way it invades the home–it makes this form of bullying more invasive. Victims of cyberbullying are not safe anywhere.
The next speaker Maslah Farah, Director of the Neighborhood Unity Foundation shared that he was bullied and got into trouble while he was in school. He shared that the bullying stays with you for the rest of your life. He also opened up my eyes to how important cultural issues are. He noted that in Somalia families really look to the teachers as a second parent and that corporal punishment is more common in the schools or other forms of discipline that are not allowed here. (I could hear some warm laughter as he noted this). What I took from his talk is that he was kicked out of high school and is now successful and using his community work to mentor others in the community. He reminded us that we need to move away from a mainstream culture that enjoys witnessing misery.
This portion of workshop really made me think about the ways that we think about bullying. I also wondered what sorts of policy the local schools in Victoria (where I live) have regarding bullying. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how bullying is bad, and that kids should not do it. But, until we practice this and don’t encourage bullying among adults we unfortunately model bad behavior. Just turn on some reality television shows and we can see and hear bullying. Look at some of the news magazine shows and we can also see the bullying nature by the hosts. We live in a society where bullying is rampant. Not to seem trite–but we need to model better behavior.