Saturday, November 12, 2011

Parents Getting False Sense of Security with Bullying Prevention Programs

Academics Masquerading as Self-Defense Experts May Give Parents False Sense of Security with Bullying Prevention Programs?
  • Is The Anti-Bullying Movement like the Failed Stranger Danger Movement?
  • Why is the Anti-Bullying Movement now a centralized Federal government effort, spending your tax dollars, rather than a local, family, teacher, school issue?
  • Why are the so called bullying prevention programs not designed by professional protectors?
  • Does your child's anti-bullying program infringe on free speech?
  • Does your child's school anti-bullying program scare your child into being a victim and not defending himself if physically attacked?
  • Is bullying really a crisis? Is bullying an epidemic? Is bullying really different present day as compared to the past? What exactly is "bullying" by strict definition anyway?
Did you know that recent research* shows that school-wide anti-bullying programs aren't working?

The so-called "ANTI-BULLYING" programs your child's school is teaching may not be what they are promoting them to be. This is especially true for some of the more politically motivated programs being pushed in some schools.

Here is a discussion I have had on more than one occasion with a parent, administrator or well-intentioned teacher...

Teacher: "We have a great bullying prevention program." (implying we don't need yours).
JN: "Really? What makes it so good?"
Teacher: "They make sure to teach the kids to speak up. Our school takes bullying really seriously. They have meetings, assemblies and everything."
JN: "That's great. What do they teach if the child is getting beat up?
Teacher: "Uhhh??"
JN: "Here's my question...what if right now, your child is being held in a headlock, hair pulled, punched in the eye then thrown to the ground?"
Teacher: [Blank stare. Pause. Eyebrows raise.] Hmm. "To report it?"
JN: "Do you believe that is the best response and willing to accept those consequences? What about the child?"
Teacher: "Hm. I never thought of it that way."
JN: Research indicates that over 85% of bullying goes unreported. What about those times?
JN: If there were a way to teach your child how to safely escape that situation with minimal damage to either child would you want to learn about it?"

That's my definition of a bullying prevention program. It must address the reality of aggressive behavior, conflict management and problem solving in the context of a child's daily life - in or out of school.
If your so-called bullying prevention program doesn't include physical intervention skills, then it is not a bullying prevention program.

Before you think I am bashing teachers, the public education system or our government's programs on bullying, please take a moment to understand my background.

o Trainer to military, law enforcement and bodyguards
o Graduate of Gavin de Beckers Academy for Protectors and trained in Advanced Threat Assessment and Management
o Taught over 10,000 students in my career
o 6th Degree Master multiple Black Belt holder
o Trained by the US Army for Military Intelligence
o 20 plus years of bullying prevention and self-defense research, practice and training

My goal is to be the catalyst for a more informed discussion and one that includes safety and self defense experts. My contention is that it could be better. That's why I created training programs and an organization (The Bullying Prevention Initiative International) dedicated to that mission. We have better answers to the problem but can easily be lost in a sea of misinformation being aggressively promoted.

I was the target of bullying and learned to over come it. More importantly, I have been SUCCESSFULLY been teaching men, women and children how to deal with bullying and self defense situations for over 25+ years. I'm confident in what I teach because I have evidence and personal experience to back it up.

While I deeply respect the teaching profession, the numerous professional educators in my schools and seminars over the years my contention is with the merits and approach to the bullying programs - not the individuals.

My belief is that when teachers and parents know better then they can choose to do better. Right now, some serious emotional placebos being promoted when it comes to leading people to believe that some of these popular bullying prevention programs are going to effectively keep children safe. While they may* contribute toward safety, they could be much better.

Heard or read any of these? If you want the facts, you should consider doing more research.

The Facts About Most Bullying Programs
What many schools are representing as a bullying prevention program is in fact a verbal and emotional abuse reporting program.

Wishful thinking is not effective self-defense. Nor is leaving children to their own devices when push comes to shove. If children do not know what appropriate physical intervention skills they can use, they may over-react and respond with excessive force.

Excessive force can be the result of ineffectively or inappropriately applied force options. There are appropriate force, humane and responsible physical intervention techniques available.

Our programs present options for using simple distractions, leverage and defensive physical intervention techniques. It protects all the children involved while being socially, morally and legally conscientious.

Any good bullying prevention program will list the types of bullying as:
1. Verbal
2. Social (Indirect, Alienation, Cyber-Bullying)
3. Physical

Note: Cyber-bullying is one of the first two via a sometimes anonymous and often, poorly monitored 24/7 access medium.

So then where is the training for physical abuse prevention? What mechanism is in place that protects children from physical abuse? The fact is that it remains ill addressed and the only mechanisms that most programs suggest is prevention and reporting. These options, while important, are negligent and incomplete.

Pre-contact and post-contact solutions are important, however it does nothing to help a desperate child having the daylights beat and kicked out of him or her.

Inevitably, when we present this point to many schools they express concern about liability. This is a valid concern but not one a parent can put over their child's safety when it comes to a clear case of abuse. We have options for true bullying prevention training that also protects from liability. Our training covers program bullying prevention training program options for schools, teachers and private citizens.

Perhaps you've seen some of these emotional placebo type efforts. But think critically for a moment, do they actually reduce bullying? Are they keeping our children any safer?

Some of the bullying programs actually vilify children, many who are targets themselves and acting out with bullying behavior. These purported ANTI-BULLY programs can be just as aggressive as other kinds of bullying. Being a bigger bully is not a recommended nor acceptable approach to bullying prevention and raising happy, healthy safer children. These are the same types of poorly researched programs still teaching such irresponsible techniques as "just walk away" or "bullies don't like themselves and are just insecure". The facts do not support these beliefs.

My issue is with the security theater type approach so prevalent today. The facts just do not support the claims and impression they are misleading themselves and parents with.

While a applaud the well-intentioned efforts of teachers and administrators implementing bullying prevention programs, I take issue with the programs neglecting one of the most important aspects of human rights - the right to not be abused - the right to self-defense. Without options, it can get extremely violent.

Furthermore I deplore the idea that the safety and self-defense advice is coming from people without expertise in the field. That is clearly misrepresentation and misleading others to the children's detriment. I find it inexcusable that the required self-defense and personal safety information/expertise is available and willing to help, yet gets ignored.

We believe that children need to know when they have the right to defend themselves to stop an attacker from hurting them. In our programs we do not teach fighting. Fighting is not the same thing as self-defense. We teach that self defense is a last resort and only used when you are going to be injured and you cannot escape or get help. If you agree, we might be the training program you've been looking for.

Wake up call. Sunshine, rainbows, clever packaging and BULLY FREE ZONE signs don't solve the problem of fist meeting face. Denial and wishful thinking are not acceptable self defense options.

We're here to help when you're ready.

Yours for happier, healthier, safer kids,

John Nottingham
Bullying Prevention Specialist

NOTE: Since this is a brief blog article (rant really) the issues brought are addressed in more detail in our training programs. If you would like the answers to these and other questions please feel free to contact us at

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