Nearly one million children nationwide stay home weekly because they are afraid to attend school and be bullied. And 262,000 middle school students are physically assaulted monthly. These staggering statistics, shared by Kim Harvey, co-founder of the anti-bully nonprofit Angels & Doves, highlight the growing epidemic of school bullying.
“Bullying has become a horrible hate crime in our schools, and it’s even happening in preschools,” Harvey said to attendees of The American Legion’s National Children & Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Saturday. “We have the power as adults to empower our youth and give them the things that they need just through the words that we speak (such as “You look great,” “I’m proud of you,” “Good luck on your test”). If we are empowering our children before they walk out the door in the morning, we could keep them from becoming the target; we could keep them from becoming the bully.”
Harvey co-founded the Indiana-based Angels & Doves in 2010 with her mother, Joyce Taylor, who recently passed away. The mother and daughter became alarmed with the growing number of young children committing suicide due to being bullied and therefore wanted to create a program that would end bullying by empowering and uplifting children.
Angles & Doves is a three-part program, starting with a presentation by Harvey.
Harvey, a member of Auxiliary Unit 155 in Carmel, Ind., travels nationwide to speak to and educate students in grades K-12 about preventing bullying, violence and suicides. She has spoken to more than 15,000 students, and it's during her presentations that Harvey hears and sees firsthand how bullying is negatively affecting Americas youth.
“'You know you should just go home and die’… this is what our kids are hearing in school. Children are not emotionally equipped to deal with the harsh reality of what bullying is,” Harvey said. “When someone continuously tells you that you're stupid, at the end of three weeks you believe you’re stupid. After so many times of hearing something, (children) end up wearing the traits that the bully puts on them.”
A suicide prevention tool, “The Bully Book,” is the second part of the Angels & Doves program. It’s a story about bullying that helps youth understand what it is and how to deal with it, and it features a 40-day journal to encourage youth to write down how bullying makes them feel and how to stop it.
While Angels & Doves focuses on youth being bullied, the program doesn’t put the blame on the bully. Harvey has found that bullying is a psychological imbalance of power that is happening with youth and during her presentations she tells the bully that “I love them; that I want to help them,” she said. “That’s what people need; people need love, they need to be sustained, they need to be empowered.”
Harvey is empowering youth to not be bullies and to be heroes instead through Angels & Doves’ third program, “The Bull Program.”
Students who participate in the program become a peacekeeper, otherwise known as “the bull,” and lead those being bullied to a safe place or to a trustworthy adult. The peacekeepers are easily identifiable by the T-shirts that they wear, which reads “No Bullying” on the front and “The Bull: You can talk to me” on the back.
When Harvey asks how many students would like to become a bull, “100 percent raise their hand. It’s my case study right there in front of my educators,” she said. “Our kids not only don’t want to be bullied, they don’t want to be the bully."
Learn more about Angels & Doves here.
October is National Anti-Bully Month and The American Legion supports efforts to end bullying through its comic book, "Bridging the Gap."
View all presentations from the National Children & Youth Conference here.