Multiculturalism and Social Justice in Counseling (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Multiculturalism and social justice in counseling are areas necessitating increased understanding and competence. This essay addresses the revised American Counseling Association (ACA) multicultural and social justice counseling (MSJC) competencies (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, et al., 2015). Identified will be committee composition and controversial text. Addressed will be competency-meaning to this author, and ways of competency-inclusion in education and practice. Finally discussed will be difficulties regarding competency-integration into education and practice, and ways to lessen challenges.

Multicultural competence is “having…the ability to work effectively across diverse cultural groups and…expertise to treat clients from certain culturally diverse groups…[and]…minority and underrepresented groups” (Tao, Owen, Pace, & Imel, 2015). Social justice in counseling means understanding “societal structures…that marginalize and oppress individuals,” while broadly-addressing inequalities (Roysircar, 2008). The competencies have expansive personal meaning, though are not all-inclusive. An example is that the committee was diverse, though mostly included men and minorities. Most counselors are Caucasian (Hays, Chang, & Havice, 2008), with White women warranting inclusion. Further, divisive wording throughout the competencies, identifying counselors as “privileged and marginalized,” should be revised (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, et al., 2015).

There are several ways to include the competencies in education programs. Students can be required to complete relevant courses and intern at diverse facilities. Another way is to require achievement of specific continuing education credits. Potential barriers to achieving this include finances and time needed for program completion. Ways to overcome these barriers are obtaining student loans and adding educational requirements.

Counselors must take opportunities to experience diverse cultures and social justice issues, aimed at practice-application. Therapists must periodically check-in with clients during sessions to ascertain understanding. Challenges to applications in practice may relate to personal background and beliefs. Another challenge may relate to low degrees of diversity in some areas. Counselors must motivate themselves to expand experiences and apply competencies with broader populations to overcome challenges.

Over two decades ago, Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis (1992) encouraged multicultural competency implementation. Those standards were recently-revised, adding social justice competencies. Concerns remain, however, with this overdue revision. Challenges exist regarding competency integration into education and practice, though difficulties can be overcome. The MSJC competencies provide a framework for counselors regarding associated knowledge and skills.

References

Hays, D.G., Chang, C.Y., & Havice, P. (2008). White racial identity statuses as predictors of White privilege awareness. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development 47 (2), 234-246.

Ratts, M.J., Singh, A.A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S.K., & McCullough, J.R. (2015). Multicultural and Social Justice Competences in Counseling. American Counseling Association.

Roysircar, G. (2008). A response to “Social privilege, social justice, and group counseling: An inquiry”: Social privilege: Counselors’ competence with systematically determined inequalities. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work 33 (4), 377-384.

Sue, D.W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R.J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of Counseling and Development 70 (4), 477-486.

Tao, K.W., Owen, J., Pace, B.T., & Imel, Z.E. (2015). A meta-analysis of multicultural competencies and psychotherapy process and outcome. Journal of Counseling Psychology 62 (3), 337-350.

Author’s Note: This is an essay that I recently submitted for the American Counseling Association’s Doctoral/Graduate Essay Contest.  Fifteen awards were issued, nationwide. Although I was not fortunate to be selected as a winner, I have the satisfaction of having participated in the competition.  It is certainly difficult to create an essay of 500 words or less and include thorough references, as ethically should be done.  I could have included approximately 120 additional words in my essay without the references.  The sponsors of the competition might consider expanding the word length of the essays to 1,000.  I originally wrote an essay of that length, and edited out half of it!

 

Quiet Intimidation

All to often, when employees do report bullying and harassing situations at work, they have not just previously been intimidated into silence, but experience retaliation and a worsening of the situation following their report. More needs to be done to protect people from this, as well as to issue consequences to people who do it.

Mobbing and Bullying

 (Previously published in the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report)

©2014 Gail Pursell Elliott

“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed.” – William James

Of course when people are noticed in ways that are less than flattering or when only their shortcomings are noticed or taken into account, it is another form of intimidation that often crosses the line to abuse. People have a tendency, especially evident in the media, to jump on some information and begin to expand the possibilities for negativity.  I call this being ready, willing, and able to be offended and to spread that idea far and wide.  Actually, this is a form of mobbing and one which I find deeply disturbing, not only because of the correlations that I see but also the willingness of others to believe…

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The Process and Experience of Cyber Bullying and Cyber Mobbing (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Quote on the Art of Writing (Retrieved from www.WriteAtHome.com on June 26, 2014)

Quote on the Art of Writing (Retrieved from http://www.WriteAtHome.com on June 26, 2014)

Whether it’s bullying or mobbing, in venues that are online, in-person, or behind one’s back, it always seems to start in the same or similar fashions.  A person is either perceived as somehow different from the mainstream, and/or introduces thoughts, ideas, or perspectives that are different from what may be generally accepted.  In some instances, bullying also occurs toward those whose ideas or perspectives are different from those which most people might blindly go along with; in effect, the person who thinks outside of the box is somehow viewed as wrong or bad.  I would estimate that, in at least 95% of instances that I have experienced throughout my life in which bullying or mobbing behavior was directed at me, those situations have proceeded in the same or similar manners, which I will describe further herein.

The first instance of direct bullying that I remember experiencing was when I was in kindergarten.  I was in the coat room taking care of my jacket and book bag.  Two girls, who also happened to be cousins, approached me in the coat room; they were also in my class.  I believe that both were jealous of me in some way, and attempted to degrade me for my characteristics of kindness and intelligence.  I remember being very surprised about their hurtful comments toward me, as I had never said or done anything to them.  It was a shock to be approached and mobbed by two of my female classmates, especially having been taught that girls are supposed to be cooperative and agreeable with each other.  That was an eye-opener to my sheltered existence.

Another instance of bullying, that actually turned into mobbing, occurred when I was in fourth grade.  It began with another girl as the target, and I stood up for her.  This girl was intellectually disabled, taking her core classes in what was called a resource room.  For her enrichment-type classes, such as physical education, art, and music, she joined the regular education classes.  I remember this poor girl being taunted unmercifully by several of the “popular” boys and girls in my class.  One of the boys who was the ring leader of the mobbing toward this girl was the youngest son of the school’s board of education president.  Another girl was the daughter of a teacher who taught at the school.

The mobbing of this girl became contagious, and before long, I recognized that I was participating in teasing and bullying this girl.  When I became aware of what I was doing, I was upset that I had been sucked into the actions of the popular kids – who were actually bullies; it felt very ugly, and I resolved to change my actions.  No teachers ever stood up for this girl when she experienced bullying and mobbing from our peers, and that was another issue that was extremely upsetting to me.

One day while my class was walking in the hall to P.E., several boys and girls began taunting and teasing this girl, calling her stupid and crazy.  She was silent, not responding at all, and taking all of the verbal abuse.  The more it continued, the more angry I got.  Then, I spoke up for the girl, directing my comments specifically at the kids who were bullying her, stating to them that they were the ones who were stupid, and that they should shut up.  The more they repeated their taunts to her, the more I told them to shut up.  At that point, I had taken action in standing up for someone who was vulnerable and unable to protect herself, and I became ostracized by the popular kids whom I had believed were my friends.  When they stopped being my friends, I realized that they had never been my friends at all.  I was happy and proud of myself for standing up for what was right.

Over the years, I have experienced many more instances of bullying, harassment, and mobbing.  Because I am very self-aware and confident in myself, I recognize how these issues begin, how they proceed, and the manner in which a need seems to exist in society for people to hen peck, gang up on, and destroy those who are somehow different, and therefore, who are perceived as bad, inferior, or weak.  I can resolve these issues for myself because I am a person who is a leader.  People who are confident in themselves can take a stand against others whose behavior or communications are wrong, immoral, inappropriate, unethical, or even criminal.  I recognize that it is those folks who really have the issue because they are unable to cope with what they don’t want to hear.

Throughout my life, it has been my experience that such folks may not only be bullies, but who have pathological issues or psychotic features.  These are often the folks who always have a need to be right, who can never consider another’s perspective, who can never compromise or admit they are wrong, who always have to “win” and can never admit “defeat,” and who are masters at convincing others that the targets of the bullying are those who have the problem.  Typically, these types of situations occur in the same ways, and often lead to the pathological bully blaming and punishing the target, including taking actions to intimate, harass, harm, destroy, and/or suggest or state that the target somehow is the one who has a mental deficiency or mental health issue.

In these situations, I have also observed that when a person is in a position of authority, and another individual challenges them to consider a different perspective, they take offense to it, seeing it as not only a threat to their bullyishpower, control, and authority, but also a threat to their identity.   They, then, lash out against the person with whom there is merely a disagreement or, to them, who has some appearance of threatening their cozy existence in which they are typically successful in exerting their bullyishpower, control, and authority over others.

A situation of cyber mobbing that I am currently experiencing is in the international, nonprofit writing organization in which I am a member, and which is male-dominated.  The situation began when another writer deleted a substantial amount of information that I had contributed to an article.  Even before contributing to this particular article, I reviewed its history, and noticed that this particular writer had often made deletes of other writer’s contributions during the past several years.  I actually expected that she would delete some or all of my material, and I was correct.

Quote about Quality of Writing (Retrieved from www.WriteAtHome.com on June 26, 2014)

Quote about Quality of Writing (Retrieved from http://www.WriteAtHome.com on June 26, 2014)

When I challenged this writer regarding what I perceived as an action that was excessive, unnecessary, inconsiderate, and one that did not follow established standards of procedure, she responded by degrading me and my work on the article.  The situation got ugly and deteriorated from there.  Also, having experienced such situations in the past with five male writers in the organization, I expected that she was male, but discovered otherwise, much to my surprise again.  This, then, began communications between us in which the other writer found and stated more and more reasons to discredit me and my work.

Never taking into consideration any of the perspectives and thoughts that I presented to this writer in regard to what she could have done to maintain my information, have formal discussion about it that was open to everyone, and/or make a compromise regarding my proposals to her of how the situation could have been improved or handled better, she continued communications with me by furthering her attempts at discrediting and discriminating against me by introducing her ideas that I did not know how to write (intellectual and professional bias), that I was a kid (age discrimination), and just generally doing her best to add other “issues” to the one that should have been the focus of resolution and compromise.  The writer’s conduct was also hostile and disrespectful toward me, including her use of words in all caps (which is generally regarded as yelling), as well as threatening to report me for simply following protocol by communicating, personally, with her.

Continually, I brought the writer back to the real issues at hand, including being blatantly honest about the lack in sourcing of the article, reflecting a low quality of it, even though it was rated as high in importance.  I had attempted to improve on all of that, although this writer’s deletion of nearly all of my material, as well as her regular deletes of other writers’ contributions, reflected to me her unnecessary and bullyish power, control, and exclusivity regarding the article.

Now, my experience in writing spans decades, and I have also established myself in having taught writing.  I have also had experience in researching, editing, and proofing, including in the professional writing arena.  This writer has many years of experience, is a senior writer, and has numerous outstanding contributions to her credit, though her pathological bullyish nature has caused her to believe she is always correct and never wrong, thus also causing her to be unable to consider any value in alternative perspectives such as mine.

The writer continued to harass, degrade, and discredit me, my writing, and my experience, even going so far as to suggest that I had some mental health issue.  To me, she is the person with the issue.  Even so, three other writers supported her point of view, also being unable to even consider an alternative viewpoint, thus causing a situation of cyber mobbing.  The writer’s threats and attempts at intimidation toward me caused me to report her to the mediation group of the organization due to her inappropriate and unacceptable conduct.

With regard to the mediation group, I also expect that there will not be one person who will side with me.  In fact, I expect that there will probably be another 10 or so people who will add their perspectives to this situation about how “wrong” and “bad” they believe I am.  In these types of experiences, that is what I have observed to typically occur.  People cannot cope with what they don’t want to hear, discredit and degrade the person who is the target of bullying and/or harassment, and support the person who is basically the victimizer.

Thus, the target’s bullying and harassing behavior contributes to harming the target’s reputation and credibility which also has a potential negative effect of also causing financial and economic instability in the life of the target.  This is because bullying and mobbing sometimes becomes so extreme that the target is forced to leave an organization for purposes of self-preservation; the experience of bullying and mobbing is one that can cause many health problems.  It is no wonder that people who actually are vulnerable and whose identity is so closely attached to what others think and/or say about them contemplate or commit suicide as a result of these types of situations.  When many people support the bully, and no one supports the target, things can get out-of-control and potentially harmful or lethal toward the target very quickly.

So, this current situation is one that has caused me to feel offended, misjudged, and victimized, however I am not a person who rates my worth according to the negative and harmful perspectives of others.  Even after having informed the bully of how she has made me feel, she has continued to blame me, be unable to consider any of my views, and suggest that I have a mental health deficiency.  Refusing to tolerate any further bullying, harassment, and intimidation by her, I felt empowered to report her conduct for mediation.

While I doubt that my perspectives will be supported or even that anything constructive might come from my report, I am pleased at having brought the issue of her inappropriate and offensive conduct toward me to an official body within the organization in which these issues are supposed to be handled.  What I expect is that there will be even more degradation, bullying, and mobbing behavior to be experienced within the mediation group.  I hope to be wrong about that, and will follow-up later regarding the outcome.

This has been the perfect experience for me to observe the process of how bullying and mobbing works, particularly in a large, online forum.  I am one who has always believed and worked toward being an individual who holds high standards, and who is of high moral and ethical conduct.  Therefore, I ceased my direct communications with the particular writer, and made a report about her conduct.  Also, I ceased making any attempted contributions or work to the article over which she appears to exclusively “manage.”  And, I won’t be making any contributions to it in the future.  My intentions of being a part of the organization are to contribute and make improvements; anything less than that detracts from what should be the goals of each member.

This experience is also not the first experience of bullying, mobbing, and/or harassment that I have had, nor will it be the last.  It is, however, I believe a reflection in society of the disease of so many people being unable to not only tolerate, but accept people who are different, or who have different perspectives, values, beliefs, and behaviors.  Just because a person’s words, thoughts, or actions are different, does not necessarily mean that the individual is somehow wrong, bad, or mentally ill.  People who are pathological bullies are masterful at causing others to believe all of that about their targets.  Sadly, many others in our society often appear to blindly go along with them rather than consider something different and/or with which they may simply disagree.  If more people agreed to disagree, as well as to make compromises, I think our world would be a better place.

*Author’s note: I have posted this article in four online forums, including WordPress; Twitter; LinkedIn; and CoPromote.

*Follow-up (July 2, 2014): Within the organization, I filed three reports regarding this situation; each one was closed without resolution being achieved.  The first report that I filed was not even read, but promptly closed.  So, I filed another, and was directed to file it in another forum within the organization.  Therefore, I filed my report in the other forum, and was informed that it was not the correct location (in fact, the first forum actually was the correct location).  So, I was given the run-around by everyone involved in the “mediation” process, which achieved nothing.

Finally, I decided to request a “cease and desist” from the writer with whom conflict erupted, and while she did mock me and identify our organization as a “three-ring circus,” for the most part, she has stopped her offensive and harassing communications.  As I expected, I did experience escalated cyber bullying in this situation, which transformed into escalated cyber mobbing.  In all, there were four writers who communicated only negative and harmful statements to me; three writers who shared a mixture of both positive and negative communications; and only two writers who were supportive in any respect.  In fact, I am surprised that there were any writers, at all, who were supportive.

To me, this is a reflection that this situation could have been entirely avoided and, at least, de-escalated, had there been understanding, flexibility, compromise, and a willingness to consider and apply a different point of view.  By the other writer refusing to do so, conflict not only erupted, but escalated.  I informed this writer that her derogatory statements to me were inconsiderate, offensive, and misjudging.  I also shared with other writers that this was the worst experience that I had, to date, in the organization.  In fact, this experience has been the worst instance of cyber bullying and cyber mobbing that I have ever experienced, in any organization.

This really goes to show that there is much to be learned in these types of situations by everyone involved, particularly the adequate and sensitive consideration of others’ concerns.  In too many organizations, courtesy and consideration get thrown to the wind while people steadfastly hold to their own rigid views, contributing not only to diminishing the people involved in the conflict, but also the organization as a whole.  I have lost respect for many of the folks who joined in the conflict, as well as for the organization, all of this having been completely avoidable and unnecessary had consideration and compromise been applied to the situation.

*Follow-up (July 7, 2014): I was actually wondering when the retaliation was going to start, and it began shortly after posting my previous follow-up information of July 2.  I recently wrote and submitted six articles to the organization.  Out of the blue, another writer has been stalking, bullying, harassing, and degrading me.  I believe that the writer is the same person with whom there was the initial conflict, but that the writer is simply using a different account and profile.  The pattern of behavior is the same.

It is so unfortunate that such ugliness exists.  There are always those people out there who believe that their thoughts and actions are self-righteous and brilliant, though they could not be more morally and intellectually incorrect.  It is these types of folks who create hostile and toxic environments, and typically, as with these two particular writers, they are in high positions of authority in the organization.  To me, it is a very bad reflection on the organization, and serves only to worsen such situations and further discourage those who genuinely and honestly desire to contribute.  It is difficult to maintain respect for, and participate in, an organization that allows such unacceptable conduct.

*Follow-up (July 12, 2014): My to my relief, this story has a happy ending, at least for the moment.  The person who was stalking and harassing me in this online forum has now received consequences for their actions.  The writer has been restricted from the organization for an uncertain period of time.  This was an online harassment and stalking experience like I’ve never experienced before; one experienced writer at the organization of many years stated that it was something of the magnitude that he has never observed before, either.  Sadly, the writer evidenced in their communications of not being remorseful, nor of realizing the wrong that was done.

What is Authenticity? (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

Woman Shaking Hands (Retrieved on June 9, 2014 from http://thefutureofink.com/affiliate-sales-digital-content/)

Woman Shaking Hands (Retrieved on June 9, 2014 from http://thefutureofink.com/affiliate-sales-digital-content/)

Authenticity. Just what is authenticity? And, what is it not to be authentic? To be authentic, to me, means many things. A person who is authentic is real, honest, genuine, and appropriate. Someone who is authentic is one who is able to have respect and appreciation for another person, but not necessarily always agree with or go along with the other person, especially if that other person’s words and actions are inappropriate, unprofessional, wrong, immoral, or illegal.

For instance, a friend who is a true friend can say something to another person that might be potentially hurtful, but may be something that needs to be said. A true friend is one who can say something to another that is honest, and that the other person may not like to hear, but also that is something that needs to be brought to the other’s attention in order for growth, development, and progress to occur within that other person. A person who is able to risk losing a friendship or personal interaction by behaving in these ways is one who is authentic.

There are also those who are not authentic. Inauthentic people are those who are unable to say what they truly think or feel. People who are not authentic say and behave in ways that they want, being oblivious of the manner in which they may speak or act toward others in ways that are harmful and hurtful.

When I think of people who are not authentic, I think of those who commit some type of wrong against another, and ultimately, against themselves. These are people who may be unfaithful to their spouse; sexually harass others; overlook, minimize, or deny serious issues occurring within relationships with others, such as different types of abuses; commit crimes against others; and deny that they have had any part in causing another person to think, feel, or act in a certain way.

People who use verbal, physical, and/or sexual harm toward others, therefore, are those who are inauthentic. People who use their power, influence, money, and status in ways that harm others, deny services to others, or marginalize others are those who are also inauthentic. People who are the puppets of others, doing harm toward others just because they are “doing what they are told” and/or “following orders” are those who are inauthentic, as well. They are unable to see how their words and actions are inauthentic and harmful toward others.

There are many more examples of people in my life who have been inauthentic rather than authentic. Perhaps this is because they are more prominent in my mind as a result of the hurt and harm they have caused. At any rate, some people who have been authentic in my life have been a school principal who became my supervisor in a school where I was substitute teaching many years ago. He was authentic.

Another person who is authentic is a lady who was an administrative assistant in a Catholic school at which I worked several years ago. She is authentic. My son is also a person who is authentic. Perhaps it is because I have taught him to be authentic and that it is okay to be truthful about something, even when his conduct could have been better, that he is real. I am proud that my son is authentic, real, and honest.  I have found that those who are truly authentic seem to be people who are confident and sure of themselves, without having to put on a mask and hide who they really are.

An example of a person who is not authentic is a former professor/mentor who wrote recommendations to accompany my applications to law school many years ago. Believing that he and I had established a strong and good rapport, I asked him to provide recommendations for me, only later discovering that they were worthy of lining a trash can. He was and still is inauthentic, as I also had a recent experience in interacting with him in which he proved to me that he has remained inauthentic.

Other examples of people being inauthentic are those who portray themselves as trusted members of the community, and then betray that trust and confidence. These can be people such as a church priest who threaten others with the Mafia, simply because they are unable to take responsibility for their own wrongs. They prefer to dishonor themselves and cause harm to others because they are in denial and are unable to hold themselves accountable for their own unethical or immoral conduct. The same can be said of the wealthy and powerful church Santa Claus who sexually harasses those of the opposite sex, beginning when they are young girls, believing there is nothing wrong with his behavior, and in fact, blaming the girl for his own misconduct.

The same can be said of those whose misconduct reaches a criminal nature, particularly in relation to sexual abuse or sexual assault. And, what makes it worse is when a group, church, or community supports the person who is inauthentic because they are unable to be insightful about and believe that others can conduct themselves in the inauthentic manner that was described, which simply leads to even more inauthenticity with even more people. Additional people who are inauthentic are those who stand by and doing nothing to stop another person from being inauthentic toward another person in a harmful way. Simply not wanting to get involved is a cowardly excuse to me.

In my experience, it has often been those who have positions of authority, and/or power due to wealth, influence, or status in a group, church, workplace, or community who are inauthentic. A person who is inauthentic can also be a parent or a spouse, simply because they are not real and are unable to consider or believe the truth of another’s story. Perhaps no one was there for them in their time of need, so they are unable to place themselves in the same position when a loved one is in a position of need.

It is important for people to be real and authentic. Often, people who are inauthentic believe they are always correct, believe they can do no wrong, and are unable to even listen to or consider that they may have had some part in a situation in which their inauthenticity caused another person to be harmed in some way. It takes two. And, sometimes, it may be an entire group that is inauthentic versus one person who is authentic. When people are unable to recognize that they are inauthentic, such inauthenticity only continues and potentially worsens.

What is needed for people to recognize is that in order to be authentic, one must be able to admit wrongdoing; take responsibility for his or her actions; not believe that he or she is always correct about everything; and make efforts to improve his or her conduct. Only in those ways will people become more authentic, being responsible and accountable for their words and actions, and making efforts to improve, no longer harming others, whether intentionally or not.

LinkedIn’s Restrictions on Free Speech Constitute Cyber Bullying (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd. wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/)

Yesterday, I received a notice on LinkedIn that my group postings are temporarily being moderated because someone didn’t like that I promoted my new group, “Stop Youth Suicide,” in theirs. All of the 30 groups in which I promoted this group two weeks ago were related to counseling, child welfare, bullying, and social justice.

How sad is it that anyone would flag or report about that, and thus, have my group postings across my 51 groups be moderated by LinkedIn. I think it just goes to show that there are those folks out there who are very insensitive about this issue, and who are unable to cope with the perspectives of others that may be different than their own.  It also reflects how easy it is on LinkedIn for company staff to limit and restrict members’ freedom of speech.

This situation further reflects the punitive nature in American society in which well-intentioned people are often blamed and punished rather than being provided with an opportunity to defend and protect themselves.  LinkedIn is no different.  There is no appeal process for this on LinkedIn, and due process does not exist.  If one desires to be a member of LinkedIn, he or she has no choice but to agree to such policies as these that may be used in a punitive and restrictive manner, as I have experienced.

In one counseling group in which I promoted this group, my post was placed in the “jobs” section, not even in “promotions.” The group manager of that group is a licensed counselor! This is so sad.  The manager of that group eliminated my posting from the discussions section of the group, thereby removing any possibility for interaction and communication about the issue.  I have since left that group.

For all of you who are members in the LinkedIn groups that I have founded and/or moderate, I have always posted everyone’s discussions. If there is a member who repeatedly posts about topics that are not relevant to the group, I’ve sent them a private email message informing them about that, deleted those discussions that are not relevant, and/or moved them to the appropriate section, such as “jobs” or “promotions.”  Most often, people are understanding about group expectations, or if not, they leave a group.  I have known of a couple of people who were restricted by LinkedIn who left LinkedIn.

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/Cyberbully/teachers.html)

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/ Cyberbully/teachers.html)

It is important for LinkedIn company employees to recognize that there are often times when people report on others simply because they dislike them and are unable to cope with a good message that is promoted and/or shared within relevant groups.

As another example, about two years ago, I left two anti-bullying groups that were out of the United Kingdom, after having posted relevant issues to the groups.  One member of those groups reported on me for posting about issues that were not relevant when they actually were relevant.  When I informed the group’s managers about my concern, after having been blocked in those groups, the managers did nothing, effectively supporting the bully who made the false reports.  I, therefore, left both groups.  By not supporting the target, and placing restrictions on the bully rather than the bully’s target, LinkedIn is also be supporting the bully.

For no one to even provide a professional courtesy of sending me a private message to inform me about their concerns related to my posting, and then reporting me to LinkedIn staff, thus causing my postings to be moderated across groups, is insensitive at best and bullying at most. If a posting is not desired in a group, it is very easy for the group manager to delete it.  It is also very easy to send an email to someone, or post a comment to the discussion, reflecting a concern.

The Computer Ethics Institute has published the 10 Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Among those rules of ethical computer use include the following: “1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people; 2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work;…5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness; and 10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.”  Obviously, not everyone practices these rules of ethics, including those within social networks, as has often been evidenced.

For LinkedIn just to drop the hammer, effectively restricting my posting status across groups, is not only cyber bullying, but also removes my freedom of speech.  Those who report on other members, rather than attempting to resolve a situation, have no insight about and do not practice professional courtesy.  Instead, they are doing what they want because of being unable to accept or cope with the views and perspectives of others that may be different from their own.  Instead of becoming part of the solution, they remain part of the problem, and may also escalate the problem.

I would like to know in which groups my posting about the issue of preventing suicide is not relevant or welcome in their group…so I can leave their group and continue to post in groups where my views are welcomed and supported. I have emailed LinkedIn customer service requesting said information, though I doubt I will get the information that I desire. I have been oppressed too much and too often in my life to take this lightly.  To me, networking and sharing information about ways to prevent and eliminate suicide are serious issues.  Cyber bullying about this issue must not be tolerated.  I will not be silenced!

Follow-up (July 13, 2014):  Two days ago, a LinkedIn employee again blocked my posts and comments to nearly all LinkedIn groups (48 of them) in which I am a member.  Again, LinkedIn has required moderation of my posts and comments in those groups.  LinkedIn did not provide me any reason or notification of being blocked.  I have done no wrong.  This is another example of LinkedIn’s restrictions and removals of freedom of speech.

Follow-up (July 16, 2014): In response to LinkedIn’s restrictions on my group postings, I re-posted this article in two locations on LinkedIn.  The next day, I found that LinkedIn had further restricted my posting settings by blanketing all groups, including those that I manage.  LinkedIn’s policies in regard to such restrictions only enable and promote cyber bullying and harassment from other members, and further escalate the situation.  There are several other forums in which I have posted this article so that readers are informed about such institutional policies that reward accusers and harm targets.  I guess I should be proud that my speaking out about these issues has caused others to bully and/or harass me, as well as restrict my participation, however these actions are also a reflection on how acceptable bullying, harassment, and infringements on people’s rights have become.  If something is inherently wrong, I am one to speak out about it so that it can be changed and improved rather than entrenched and worsened.

References:

Computer Ethics Institute (2014).  The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://guardingkids.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html.

“Children Need Advocacy and Support, not Ignorance and Punishment” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Not a day goes by that I am amazed and disappointed by the lack of insight and support that many people have regarding children.  Even in regard to people who one might believe are trained in child development and education may be completely oblivious to realizing that their words and behaviors are unsupportive of, and in many cases, detrimental toward children.  What children in our world need – especially those who may have special considerations, including disabilities – is advocacy, understanding, and support rather than ignorance, misunderstanding, and punishment.

When people in child development, education, and other fields are rigid and unbelieving about the needs of children – and who, in fact, do not have an understanding of children that is in the child’s best interests – children suffer in many ways and can be placed at great risk in many cases.  In medical and healthcare fields, individuals are supposed to do their best to ‘do no harm’ and adhere to the Hippocratic Oath.  While the medical field, however, often practices from a perspective of illness, the counseling field strives to recognize people from a view of wellness.  An illness or disease is not the person; but rather, it is the person who must be supported in a view of wellness in order to improve or recover from illness.

Educators, child care specialists, and others – including parents – need to have a wider view of what is best for children.  In cases of highly contentious and adversarial divorces, for example, psychological evaluations and/or assessments of the parties involved, may be ordered by a judge.  In such cases, by today’s standards, these reports, typically made by an unbiased psychologist, provide judges and attorneys with a more clear perspective of family relationships and parenting.  Thus, people in the legal field recognize that they may not have the training needed to make such unbiased evaluations.  They rely on psychologists to ethically and professionally perform them so that the best interests of the child are maintained.

Unfortunately, and to the detriment of children, not everyone recognizes that they do not have the insight or training needed to work in and make decisions that are in the best interests of children.  From my knowledge and experiences regarding many schools, particularly those in the South, individuals in education are quick to punish, including for minor issues, and may not realize that they do not have the insight necessary to best support children and do what is best for children.  Exercise as punishment (such as being made to walk or run laps outside, including in high temperatures) and lengthy detentions (including 30-60 minute lunch/recess detentions), particularly for insignificant issues, and issued toward children, do not resolve, but compound issues, making children potentially distrustful, disrespecting of, and hopeless about school officials.  (I know of at least four schools in my immediate area where these are practices.) 

These situations are compounded and worsened regarding children who have special needs.  Sometimes, it appears to be the children and/or parents who are blamed in situations in which school officials promise support and accommodation to such children, however they may just be going through the motions and not adequately or effectively be meeting such needs.  And, punishments toward children have been shown in research to be ineffective; truly, they may only serve to increase distrust and resentment in children toward adults who are supposed to have their best interests in mind, but who, in fact, do not.

In some situations, an array of psychological evaluations and assessments may be provided to educators that address children’s special needs – and parents may inform school teachers and leaders about what is best for their child – however, for whatever reasons, school teachers and officials may simply be ignorant about such needs, may not follow the suggestions of professional evaluations or parent recommendations, and may completely misjudge the situations.  Doing this places some children with special needs in greater danger and at higher risk for worse outcomes and situations at school.  Through the school officials’ own lack of insight – and in some cases – lack of compassion and motivation to learn, grow, and develop – children are, in fact, harmed by their ignorance and lack of support, and in some cases, are blamed and punished due to it – the pitfall of blaming the victim.

When children with special needs are not sufficiently, nor positively accommodated in schools, great risk and danger may be imposed upon them due to others’ ignorance.  To some people, what is clear and obvious in certain situations goes completely unrecognized – and therefore, not at all addressed – in others.  What is worse in these situations is when people who are ignorant about these situations categorically deny that they have occurred and escalate already tense situations that may involve high emotions.  Such lack of insight and understanding reflects not only their ignorance, but their rigidity, inflexibility, and absolute refusal toward even having an interest at gaining any increased understanding about the issues or situations.  

Even those most highly-trained in supporting children may sometimes miss critical pieces of information, however this should be an indication to others that as much training and information is needed to enlighten themselves to children’s needs and what is in children’s best interests.  Additionally, because there is often the tendency in people to desire to perceive issues and situations in an optimistic manner, there should be an awareness of this so that critical issues about others are not missed and do not turn potentially tragic. 

In short, particularly when it comes to educating children, it is not acceptable to be clueless about and not practice what is in their best interests.  And, situations that are detrimental and potentially tragic to children that occur out of the ignorance of educators and school officials should not be escalated – but diffused – in the best interests of children. 

In my book, perhaps schools in which ignorance and a lack of support prevails toward children may be performing okay with some students, but they may also be harming those students who are most at risk.  Such characteristics, policies, and/or the lack of policies of schools become dangerous to children when people in education do not even realize that what is occurring is creating a potentially harmful or tragic situation for children.  Parents must be acutely aware of and insightful about such circumstances in order to advocate for and protect their children as much as possible, particularly in schools where everyone may not be on the same page about what is best for children.

“When Sexually Offending ‘Pillars of the Community’ go Undetected” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pillar Ruins, Retrieved from wallygrom/Flickr, August 16, 2013

Pillar Ruins, Retrieved from wallygrom/Flickr, August 16, 2013

When men who sexually harass, assault, traumatize, or otherwise violate others, especially when they are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ – and they go undetected and are not held accountable or responsible for their actions – everyone, including themselves, is diminished and victimized.  Recently, we have heard and read about the sexually offensive actions of San Diego’s mayor; nearly 20 women have now come forward with accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct by this man.  Neither is he the first whose actions have violated and offended so many women, nor will he be the last.

Many other men from all walks of life may go undetected for years or even decades with their sexually offensive and/or harmful actions, especially if they are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential.  Often, these men – when faced with the harsh truth of their words and/or actions – blame, punish, revictimize, and do whatever possible to destroy the survivors of their misconduct.  For them, it is a vicious cycle from which they cannot escape because they may often be unwilling and/or unable to honestly admit to themselves that they are wrong, that their words and actions are harmful to their victims, and that they require assistance to overcome their misconduct.  In fact, they may not even see any wrongdoing in their actions, nor perceive their victims as victims; thus, the cycle continues, especially when these men are undetected and are not accountable, nor responsible for their actions.

In 2007, a female parochial school student at St. Joseph’s School in Gowanda, New York described to her teacher and her fellow classmates about how the parish priest, at the time, had sexually harassed her when he was alone with her in the parish rectory.  At the time of the incident, the student was 12-years-old.  This occurred during a time when a party was being held in recognition of the altar servers who gave of their time and service to the church and school at parish masses.  The student reported that she had not told her family about the incident, and therefore, the teacher took responsibility and informed her parents about it.  Sadly, the parents did nothing about it. 

The teacher, being concerned about the girl’s safety, suggested that she no longer be an altar server.  The girl, however, wanted to continue being an altar server – and did so for her remaining year at the school – while the girl’s teacher and certain of the girl’s fellow students made great efforts to be sure that there were no other instances of the priest being alone with her.  That the priest (who is now retired) was in his 60’s at the time, and the student was only 12, suggests that this church leader may be a pedophile. 

When confronted through communications by the teacher that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing rather than a pious church leader, the parish priest retaliated against her.  He privately stated to her, threatening that she “should be afraid” of “the Mafia.”  Far from fearing the Mafia for having done no wrong, this woman continues to believe that it is the priest who should be afraid – not of the Mafia – but of the judgment of God.

During the years 1976-2006, a former female member of St. Joseph’s Church – the church that is associated with the aforementioned school – experienced repeated sexual harassment, as well as two instances of pedophilia by one of the wealthy, powerful, and influential benefactors of these institutions.  The early instances occurred when the girl was 5 and 7-years-old, with one being at one of the man’s businesses and the other occurring while the man was dressed as Santa Claus.  The man sexually harassed this female, treating her like his sexual plaything, from his ages of approximately 35-65 years old.  In later years, the man typically sexually harassed the woman in church and/or on church property, including making sexually explicit actions and gestures toward her in church during masses.  The man has also been known to have sexually harassed other women and girls in his immediate community.

In 2007, the father of the man immediately aforementioned behaved in a manner of sexual misconduct toward the woman by committing a sexual battery against her, privately, while in church after a mass.  The woman remained in the presence of this offender and confronted him, though he simply walked away.  As a man whom this woman considered a friend – someone whom she had known only as a friend throughout her life, and who had provided emotional and spiritual support to her in the past, as well as having dated one of his grandsons – the woman expected an apology at the very least, but got nothing of the sort. 

To have lowered themselves to committing pedophilia, offensive sexual actions, and/or harmful sexual misconduct – and taking no responsibility to correct it, nor to be accountable for it – reflects how men who are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ may go undetected in their sexual misconduct.  These men may be priests, business owners, award winners in their communities, and highly-regarded by most people.  That these men have not taken any steps to correct or seek forgiveness for their misconduct from their victims causes them to avoid identifying and realizing that they have a problem, and therefore, they continue the vicious cycle with other unsuspecting people.  They do not know or care in the least that they have lost the respect and trust of those whom they have victimized; they appear oblivious to the harm they have caused.  Rather than honestly admit and recognize that they have a problem, they do everything possible to cover it up, as well as blame, punish, retaliate, and destroy their victims. 

I feel sorry for men who have such a need for power, control, and dominance over girls and women that they behave in ways that sexually harass, assault, violate, traumatize, harm, and/or intimidate their victims.  That there are many men out there who are viewed by others with admiration and respect, though they secretly and/or discretely perform actions of sexual misconduct, reflects how easy it is for them to go undetected.  In situations where the men performing the sexual misconduct are wealthy, powerful, and/or influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ is worse because they have access to so many venues and opportunities to commit their sexual offenses.

Women and girls, in particular, are at great risk for sexual exploitation by the wealthy and powerful.  I have often heard the phrase, “From whom much is given, much is expected,” however in some cases regarding the wealthy and powerful, their sexual misconduct goes undetected and may continue for years and/or decades.  That many men violate the God-given rights of women and girls (and boys) by committing sexually offensive acts against them shows their lack of respect, appreciation, understanding, insight, and compassion toward them.  Many men, especially those who are among the wealthy and/or powerful, can do better to keep their sexual impulses controlled and in check so that they do not rise to the level of harassment, misconduct, assault, or trauma toward others.  By not doing so, they truly have no concept regarding the level of emotional pain, distress, trauma, and/or mistrust they have caused, and continue to cause years into the future.

I would like to recognize and send my appreciation to all those who stand up for women, girls, children, and the rights of women and children, especially toward survivors of sexual traumas and abuse.  In my own personal circle of friends, two of these women are Merrie and Frances.  Both women risked their own well-being and reputations, as I also have, to stand up against sexual harassment, sexual offenses, gender discrimination, and hostility toward women in our communities; we also experienced retaliation for our efforts, and still do. 

The ultimate in love and friendship occurs when people risk and sacrifice themselves for the good of others, much as Jesus did.  While strong women who stand up to protect those who experience sexual trama and offenses toward them are not often rewarded for their efforts, we have been rewarded by knowing that we have done the right thing in God’s eyes.  Our true rewards await in Heaven; the truth has already set us free.

When the Workplace is a School

There are too many people who are harmed by their bosses and peers through workplace bullying and mobbing. Sadly, it is not only legal but also commonplace in the US, whereas it is not in many other countries. The field of education is no exception. The US definitely lags far behind in protecting and supporting workers who experience damaging bullying and mobbing. Thank you for writing and publishing this article, Gail; I appreciate it!

Mobbing and Bullying

©2013 Gail Pursell Elliott

       With the new school year just beginning, many anti-bullying programs are getting attention.  A student came home last year after his principal had presented a well meaning bullying assembly program and observed that the program taught the students more of how to bully someone rather than how to stop it.  While that certainly was not the intent, the focus of many of the programs presented to students is on what not to do rather than on expectations.  Recently, New Jersey extended the interpretation of its bullying in schools legislation to include bullying by teachers, specifically meaning bullying of students by teachers which was triggered by a specific case.  It would have been easy to extend the law to anyone and everyone in the schools, regardless of status, if someone had had the courage and insight to do so.   

It is unfortunate that the interpretation of…

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“Student Exodus from Area Parochial School Could be Avoided” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

During this Summer of 2013, 15 rising fourth grade students left St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Only three new students entered the fourth grade in addition to the 15 who left.  During the Summer of 2012, eight rising third grade students left the school.  Only two students entered the school as new pupils in the third grade.  Interestingly, both of those students also left the school this Summer, after only one year at the school.  Additionally, the vast majority of students who have left are Caucasian; most others are of mixed race parentage.  Each year for the past three years, the school has considerably down-sized in terms of student population as well as faculty.  Currently, all grade levels have two classes; it used to be that most or all grade levels had three classes up until three years ago.

As a person who has been Roman Catholic all of my life, and who has provided a Catholic education to my child, the exodus of students and faculty from St. John Neumann School is concerning and disturbing.  One must ask, then, why there are so many who are leaving the school.  I have the answers to that, and it does not necessarily involve finances, budgets, or economics.

I suspect that I will come across as “the bad guy” to many by sharing this information regarding the school, however it is for my concern for students’ welfare, well-being, safety, and positive growth and development that I am doing so.  Additionally, my son is aware that I have a blog, and he also asked me to include his perspectives; my son is 10-years-old.

First, let me state that St. John Neumann School provides an outstanding – outstanding – education to the students.  Overall, my observations of what students learn through the challenging curriculum are well above my expectations.  Each year that my son was a student at St. John Neumann School, however, was a roller coaster.  There were wonderful and memorable experiences that he had with several outstanding teachers, however there were also many situations that he experienced by peers and adults at the school that were mentally and emotionally harmful and injurious to him. 

I often communicated with both school administrators and school system administrators, encouraging that greater sensitivity, compassion, and understanding be provided to the students.  Some of my suggestions were put into place, and some were not, and some were later removed after they were first implemented.  As an involved parent at the school, as well as an active volunteer for five years there, there was much that I personally observed and/or was informed about by students.  By far, the most serious issue facing students is the bullying, harshness, and often insensitive treatment they experience by administrators and certain teachers and staff.  I often encouraged upper administrators in the past five years to hold sensitivity training for employees of the school, though that never occurred.

Another very serious issue at the school is bullying that students’ experience from their own peers.  Some children repeatedly experienced bullying from teachers, adminstrators, and/or other staff, as well as certain peers.  This has created an unnecessary and avoidable stressful and hostile environment for many students.  One problem is because many of the school employees are so harsh and insensitive toward students, they are bullies themselves, and they therefore do not recognize, nor put a stop to student bullying.  Last year, more than 25% of parents responding to a school survey stated that bullying is a problem at the school.  I am one who has, again, encouraged school system administrators to hold anti-bullying and bullying prevention programs for faculty and staff at the school, however that has also never occurred.  Such training may help reduce bullying and increase sensitivity and compassion of adults and students toward other students.

A further big concern is the overwhelming pressure that is placed on students to be perfect in every area and in every way – academics, behavior, sociality, religion, and extra-curriculars.  Beginning with the youngest children, students who do not complete their homework are regularly disciplined.  In the past, teachers required students to stand outside for 5-10 minutes “on the line” – as they would say, on the outdoor paved parking lot play area, typically in the excessive heat.  This was an unspoken rule practiced by primary and early elementary school teachers and paraprofessionals.  Older children who did not complete homework are required to write answers to particular questions on a “behavior reflection” that reduces or eliminates their 15-20 minutes of recess time. 

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

For two of the past five years, another unspoken disciplinary rule practiced by at least three school faculty involved making students walk and/or run “laps” outside during recess on the parking lot, again, typically in the excessive heat.  Sadly, this practice appears to be somewhat of a common, unwritten practice in this area – requiring students to run laps as punishment in excessively high temperatures – as I have discovered that it occurs at many schools.  In regard to one second grade boy, I informed his father that he was required to run laps as punishment by a paraprofessional, outside in the searing heat, and the dad did not believe me.  How sad that some parents are not more concerned about what their child is experiencing at school.

Other teachers at the school regularly separated certain students from their classmates by requiring them to keep their desks far-removed from those of other students, whether for certain assignments or even months at a time.  I often observed where many teachers would use guilt, humiliation, and embarassment toward students to demoralize them into doing what they wanted them to, rather than speak to children with respect, compassion, and understanding. 

Early elementary students are also required to miss 45 minutes of lunch and recess by serving detention in the main office, including for extremely minor offenses.  Such harsh and unnecessary punishments are unethical, demoralizing, and depressing to many students, particulary those outstanding students who get caught in the crossfires of the political drama at the school.  In consulting with employees of other area schools, lengthy detentions are required only in the most severe situations of high school – high school – students, not early elementary students!  I personally requested of school administration to reduce or eliminate this practice, though there was no positive change, and in fact, only a worsening of it, amounting to nothing less than emotional sadism toward students.  When those who are charged with caring for children see nothing wrong with such unnecessary, harsh disciplinary action toward children for the most minor of offenses, definite positive change is needed. 

Also in practice at the school is suspending children as young as second grade – to my knowledge; one very sweet little girl was suspended last Spring for I cannot imagine what.  In other area schools, such a practice of issuing out-of-school suspensions to the youngest students is unheard of and entirely taboo.  Such a practice proves the lack of sensitivity, understanding, and compassion by school administration.

I feel sorry for the students who are at St. John Neumann School due to the harshness, coldness, and lack of sensitivity and compassion that so many experience from alot of adults as well as peers at the school.  I have often encouraged those in charge who could make a positive difference to consider being more sensitive, understanding, kind, and compassionate toward students.   Harsh, demoralizing, excessive, and/or inhumane punishments that are disguised as “disciplinary actions” – even for the most minor of wrongs – are well beyond what school employees should expect of children.

When students get seriously hurt or ill at the school, a parent is lucky to get a phone call or communication about the incident from anyone.  A second-grade student got a serious blow to the head during outdoor play, but no ice was placed on the injury and no phone call was made to parents.  Upon picking up the child from school, it was obvious to the parent that the injury was serious.  When the child spoke of dizziness a number of hours after the injury, the parent took the child to their pediatrician. 

A kindergarten student fell in the hallway and sustained a large gash near her chin.  Parents received no communications from the school about the incident, and only a band-aid was placed on the wound.  Upon removing the band-aid after the child got home, the parent observed the depth of the wound, taking her to the emergency medical clinic where she received four stitches.  There have also been instances in which students were genuinely ill, but when they asked to go to the clinic, they were refused by certain teachers and paraprofessionals.  Keep in mind that absolutely no communications to parents by anyone at the school was made in any of these situations.

Safety is also a concern at the school.  There are no security cameras at the school, so there is no tangible record of situations that occur there – it is one person’s word against another’s.  A parent can inform an administrator about a teacher who belittles, bullies, and yells at a student – such as, simply for asking to use the restroom – but without any recording of it, the administrator does not believe it, does not want to get involved, and further, had already behaved in a bullyish manner toward children, so it is a lost cause.

Additionally, even with improved security measures having been implemented at the school this past Spring, it has not actually gotten better.  All visitors are to sign-in at the front office upon entering the building, however have been many occasion – including since the new policies were implemented – that I personally observed people enter and walk through the building without signing in at all, nor going to the main office.  There are also repeated instances of no one being at the front desk at the main office when people enter the school. 

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

Last Spring, there was an actual “intruder alert” that occurred at the school that was not a drill; I was at the school volunteering when it occurred.  Parents were not informed by any school officials that the intruder alert occurred.  While the Superintendent stated in an archdiocese newspaper article that such drills and procedures regularly occur at all schools, a teacher at the school shared that only one such alert – whether actual or drill – occurred there in the past seven years!  If she means that such alerts and/or drills occur every seven years, she would be correct that they occur regularly, however it has been my experience that many public schools, for example, practice them between 2-4 times each year.  Because these drills and alerts are not “regularly” practiced at the school, many teachers really do not know what to do.  When fire and even tornado drills are practiced more than intruder drills, I for one, am concerned about the safety of my child at the school.

Teachers are also known to leave outside doors propped or even slightly ajar when they are supposed to be closed and locked.  Unfortunately, this is also a practice at many schools, so that late colleagues can enter the school undetected by supervisors.  However, that this is regularly being done on the hallway that houses the youngest children is a serious safety concern.

Again, I will likely be viewed as the bearer of bad news by sharing this information, however I believe that steps need to be taken to make improvements in order to progress rather than regress at St. John Neumann School.  I know I won’t win any awards for my article.  That my son – a 10-year-old – also wanted me to share his views about what he experienced at the school reflects the tone and atmosphere that is present at the school. 

While we have had many wonderful and memorable experiences at the school, as well as having met, interacted with, and befriended many people – including some truly great teachers – it is a serious concern when a school does not live up to it’s mission and standards.  When “teaching the Gospel values” of God and Jesus in the Catholic tradition is merely spoken but not actually practiced by many school representatives, there is definitely something that must change for the better. 

So, at $7,000 per student in tuition only, St. John Neumann lost a total of 18 students from the second and third grades in the past two years.  I think that’s a total of $126,000 if I did my math correctly, right?  That’s alot of money to be losing.  In business, it is always said that it is much easier to retain those people who are already part of an institution rather than recruit new ones.  However, in sharing my perspectives about this to both school administrators and school system administrators, there has been an apathy and lack of concern about it.  For me, personally, as a Catholic and having desired for my child to have a Catholic education, this is a serious concern. 

Thus, the reasons that I have described herein, I believe, are those that have caused the increasing exodus from and diminished size of St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Isn’t it time for a positive change?  My aim in sharing this information is not to be critical, however it is to be honest and urge for positive change and improvements to occur at the school.  St. John Neumann is surely an excellent school at which students receive an outstanding education.  And again, while we have had many wonderful, exciting, and happy memories at the school, there are also a number of issues that deserve both serious attention and improvement. 

It is definitely disappointing when a school of one’s own faith does not meet minimal expectations regarding the value and treatment of children.  Children should not be perceived, nor treated as bad what with issuing so many unnecessary and harsh punishments; it is the perspectives and training of the adults that need drastic improvement.  Maybe if more people put their heads together, praying and working hard in doing what is in the best interests of children, that will occur.

“Completed Suicide Risk Highest Within First Six Months After Incomplete Suicide” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Child mental health is becoming an area of ever-increasing concern and research, including within the area of child sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and bullying that lead to suicide.  Recently, within the past two months, I had opportunities to visit a large metropolitan hospital in Atlanta at which mental health care is provided on an inpatient and outpatient basis for people of all ages.  I primarily made observations in the children’s mental health unit in which children from ages 4-12 were hospitalized as inpatients.

Since making my observations, I have done much research in the area of medicine and counseling related to depression, anxiety, suicidality, and bullying that ultimately ends in the suicide of the victim.  I have also consulted with many professionals in these areas, including pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and licensed professional counselors.  Further, I have communicated with school teachers, school administrators, school mental health professionals, school system administrators, and religious about these issues.  This blog article will share some of what I discovered related to these critically important issues in mental health care.

At the hospital in Atlanta at which I made my observations regarding inpatient child mental healthcare, the most significant part about it that was very noticeable was that most of the children were boys.  On one particular day, there were 16 children housed in the unit, and 12 of them were boys, with the majority of the boys being African-American.  Of the girls present, the majority of them were Caucasian.  It was also my understanding that the majority of the boys were hospitalized due to suicidality (and/or other mental health concerns related to it, such as depression, anxiety, and/or sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect).

To me as an untrained observer, I found this to be very significant because my personal expectation was to observe there to be a greater number of girls than boys present in the unit.  Because there were significantly fewer girls than boys present in the unit over a period of several days, it became important to me to understand the reasons for it.  I got to thinking about several possibilities to explain this reality.

Perhaps girls are more open about their feelings and experiences, and/or a depressed or otherwise upset mood in girls may be more visible to others.  Perhaps boys are keeping their feelings too much to themselves due to the societal and cultural expectations for them to “be a man,” and thus, not to show their feelings.  Possibly, adults were unable to recognize signs of suicidality or depression in boys compared to girls.

Further, it may be possible that adults did not view boys’ depression or suicidality to be as serious as that of girls until a crisis point was reached.  Culturally, it is also significant that most of the children housed in the unit were African-American boys.  Specifically related to cultural or ethnic differences, I do not yet have particular potential explanations for this.  Additionally, perhaps there are other general explanations and reasons that I have not thought of for there being significantly more boys in the unit than girls.

As I stated previously, since the time of my observations of the children’s mental health unit in the metro Atlanta hospital, I have researched several issues relating to child mental health, and I have consulted with many professionals in the field.  In a study completed by Cynthia R. Pfeffer (2001, p. 1057), she stated that during prospective follow-up into adulthood of children at risk for suicide showed that a “history of sexual abuse (RR: 5.71, 95%; CI: 1.9-16.7) imparted the greatest risk” for it.  Reading this was saddening and disheartening for me because it appears that most suicide attempters and commiters have internalized their pain and suffering, are taking it out on themselves, and appear not to be able to successfully cope.  They were hurt, have lost hope and trust, and are now hurting themselves, possibly in efforts to make the painful memories disappear.  For them, suicide seems to be the only answer for removing and escaping the emotional pain.

In a study by Stanley, Brown, Brent, Wells, Poling, Curry, Kennard, Wagner, Cwik, Klomek, Goldstein, Vitiello, Barnett, Daniel, and Hughes (2009, p. 1005), the researchers reported that individuals who attempted incomplete suicide are at the greatest risk for repeat attempts and/or actually committing suicide within the first six months following the incomplete attempt (as this study particularly relates to adolescents, aged 13-19 years old).  This is extremely important to understand because those who are untrained in this area do not understand the seriousness or severity of it, or are, perhaps, in denial that the situation is serious or severe.  Regarding children, I believe this particularly applies to those in education, including teachers, administrators, and other staff because they are not equipped with the knowledge and understanding about the manner in which to best support students who have been suicidal.

And sometimes, those adults in education who are bullies toward children truly have absolutely no understanding or compassion toward students who made an incomplete attempt at suicide because they simply do not seem to care.  In fact, those type of adults may even do more damage to the child through their insensitivity and failure to understand the situation by being even more punitive or retaliatory toward the student because the issue is one with which they, themselves, are unable to successfully cope.  It remains easier for such adult bullies of students in education to bully, blame, and revictimize the student victim.

Also unhelpful are the student peer bullies with whom the suicide attempt survivor must cope.  Student peer bullies of the victim seem to bully the survivor even more because they are aware of the emotional vulnerability of the survivor, and they capitalize on that because it makes them feel good.  Therefore, in a school environment in which bullying goes unchecked, unresolved, and not corrected, suicide attempt survivors are at an even greater risk for a future successful suicide attempt because they experience bullying from adults and peers.

Additionally, O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock (2012, p. 15) reported in their study that “psychotherapy did not reduce the risk for suicide attempts in adolescents in contrast to adults.”  They (O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock, 2012, p. 11) further reported that “psychotherapy did not reduce suicide attempts in adolescents at 6 to 18 months” into a suicide prevention treatment program.  They (O’Connor, Gaynes, Burda, Soh, and Whitlock, 2012, p. 11) also stated that “psychotherapy had no beneficial effect on suicide ideation beyond usual care” in adolescents.  These findings are shocking, disturbing, and disheartening, particularly when there may be the extant societal belief that counseling and psychotheraphy benefit individuals with emotional disturbances and/or self-destructive ideations.  If psychotherapy is not beneficial to adolescents who have attempted suicide and/or who have suicidal ideation, what benefit is psychotherapy to children who have had similar experiences and/or beliefs?

A professional friend of mine who is a psychiatrist provided me with an article written by a women who is a sexual abuse survivor, and who was hospitalized on three occasions throughout her life due to depression and suicidality related to her traumatic experiences.  The article, “How ‘Person-Centered’ Care Helped Guide me Toward Recovery from Mental Illness,” by Ashley R. Clayton (2013), was extremely helpful to me in better-understanding what is going through someone’s mind when they are hospitalized for a mental health crisis.  The article was further assistive to me because, as a graduate student in counseling who is working on my second master’s degree, it was important for me to perceive and understand the great value of Person-Centered Therapy in counseling suicide and sexual abuse survivors.

Because so much hope and trust has been lost in survivors of sexual abuse and suicide, it is obviously critically important for others, including mental health professionals, to be as sensitive and supportive as possible of them.  The author shared that she experienced the greatest improvement through the person-centered approach and caring relationship that a particular nurse developed with her.  This is something important for me to remember and put into practice in my own counseling of trauma survivors.

Further regarding children’s mental health in relation to surviving trauma and suicide attempts, as well as those areas in relation to children’s school attendance, I spoke with two pediatricians regarding the issues.  Both pediatricians took the issues seriously, however, they did not desire to take responsibility for children who were suicidal because they stated they were not trained or highly-experienced in those areas.  Both pediatricians also desired for parents to work with the expectations of schools, even though such expectations, stresses, and pressures may be too overwhelming for some children.  Regarding the experience of child sexual abuse, both pediatricians believed that counseling was needed for child survivors, however they both believed that medication to manage the child survivors’ moods were necessary as long as they believed the child was “functioning.”

For me, the perspectives of both pediatricians – both of whom are Caucasian women with many years of experience in pediatrics – were discouraging in many areas.  First, both doctors appeared to be very quick in the desire to refer suicidal patients to other medical professionals.  While that has advantages and disadvantages, it places those at risk in the position of believing that their doctors are unable to properly care for or understand them.  Both also believed that child survivors of sexual abuse need not be medicated if they were “functioning.”  I believe that it is one thing to survive, and quite another thing to thrive.  Merely “functioning” is not fully living or thriving, to me.  And also, both pediatricians appeared to also be too quick to go along with schools’ expectations for students, including maintaining the same academic and/or disciplinary standards for students who are trauma survivors.  As an individual who is an experienced teacher, I know that students have different learning styles; placing everyone in the same category is detrimental to those who have suffered trauma.

Both a psychologist and a licensed professional counselor (LPC) with whom I consulted about difficult, damaging, challenging, and/or overly stressful and overwhelming school experiences of child trauma survivors both believed that people in education are or may be unable and/or unwilling to change in a manner that is more supportive, understanding, and compassionate toward them.  The psychologist believed there is not likely any school that would be able to meet the needs of a child who is a trauma survivor.  And, both the psychologist and the LPC believed that schools are part of the problem in not successfully supporting and understanding trauma survivors and their needs.  Those who are in education – perhaps including school counselors and school psychologists – may be unequipped in schools at being able to fully or successfully support children who are trauma survivors; this can and does have devastating effects on such children.

Of all those in the medical and mental health fields, I believe those who are most fully trained and equipped to successfully both treat and understand trauma survivors – in particular, those who have experienced sexual trauma, depression, anxiety, and suicide attempts – are psychiatrists.  Psychiatrists are in the best position to provide urgent and necessary medical and mental health care to suicide attempters, including hospitalization, evaluations, medical care, and medications.

I assume that the psychiatrists are those who most often see patients who are suicide attempters; and they see them at their lowest points, emotionally.  Therefore, psychiatrists who truly have what is best for their patients in mind seem to help suicide attempters and trauma survivors become stabilized and recover as quickly as possible.  Psychiatrists are in a wonderful position with their patients to be supportive, understanding, and compassionate; and to inform and educate society, in general, about the medical issues and needs experienced by suicide attempters and other trauma survivors.

In communicating with several people who are education professionals regarding survivors of sexual trauma, suicide attempts, and bullying (both by peers and adults in school), I have largely encountered  biases against the survivors, as well as an incredible absence of sensitivity toward them.  Such refusals of understanding, sensitivity, and compassion toward survivors by the majority of education professionals with whom I communicated can possibly be attributed to a lack of or refusal toward being educated and informed about the needs of the survivors.  Such outright insensitivity by the education professionals – the majority of those who were insensitive toward survivors were administrators – could also be attributed to a denial about the seriousness or severity, or fear due to stigmas or the unknown, regarding the issues related to survivors.

In some situations of communicating with administrators, upper administrators, and school psychologists of schools and school systems related to student survivors of sexual trauma, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and bullying, I also encountered not only insensitivity and a lack of understanding toward the survivors, but also inconsistencies in their behaviors toward them.  In most school and/or school system administrative personnel and school psychologists with whom I communicated, I encountered adult bullying by them toward the child survivors that was sadistic.  In such education professionals, it appeared that their incredible harshness toward the survivors was something that they wanted to occur, regardless of the outcome or effects that may or may not have resulted in actual suicide.

In other situations in communicating with education professionals about such survivors, however, I encountered empathy, compassion, understanding, and sensitivity toward them.  Such supportive actions were those exhibited by other particular school system administrative personnel and/or educators and counselors.  Such desparities in the treatment of survivors by various school personnel reflects that education professionals must be on the same page in order to consistently understand and support, as well as be compassionate and sensitive toward survivors.  This appears to be direly and desperately needed in education in order that students who are trauma and suicide attempt survivors receive the greatest possible support and understanding in their educational environments.

Therefore, it was personally extremely shocking and disturbing to me in a life-changing manner that some of the very leaders of schools and school systems not only do not support said survivors, but are actually bullying and sadistic toward them.  In these situations, I believe it would take not less than a miracle to convince such individuals to even consider a different and more positive and understanding perspective toward said survivors.

In regard to particular religious leaders with whom I have communicated about issues related to survivors of child sexual abuse, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, and bullying, I have – thus far – experienced their compassion, kindness, and prayers toward survivors.  I have also learned, however, to carefully choose which religious to approach; not all religious are as understanding and supportive as others.  And, I am further aware that there are those religious who would take such information and use it against the victims and/or survivors in order to revictimize them.  Presently, however, that is not what I have experienced in my recent and present communications with particular religious about these issues related to survivors; and I am thankful for and relieved about that.

I believe that society has come a long way in supporting and understanding the experiences and needs of trauma survivors, including those who have experienced sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, trauma, bullying, and suicide attempts, however there is still much more progress to be made.  Those who best-recover from traumatic experiences are those who have positive, stable support in their lives.  Stressful and overwhelming situations are serious set-backs that only cause them to regress, and to continue not to hope or trust.

It is so critically important for sexual abuse survivors and suicide attempt survivors to have the consistent and unconditional support of those around them, including family members, community members, those who are in education, and others.  Without such support, compassion, and understanding – and, in fact, if the survivor experiences the opposite of those – he or she could make a future suicide attempt that is successful.  Such tragedies are avoidable and preventable if everyone practiced more patient, respect, appreciation, and compassion toward each other, particularly trauma survivors who have attempted suicide.

References

Clayton, A.R. (2013).  “How ‘Person-Centered’ care helped guide me toward recovery from mental illness.”  Health Affairs, 32 (3), pp. 622-626.

O’Connor, E., Gaynes, B.N., Burda, B.U., Soh, C., & Whitlock, E.P. (2012).  “Screening for and treatment of suicide risk relevant to primary care.”  Annals of Internal Medicine, pp. 1-22; pp. W-1 – W-5.

Pfeffer, C.R. (2001).  “Diagnosis of childhood and adolescent suicidal behavior: Unmet needs for suicide prevention.”  Society of Biological Psychiatry, 49, pp. 1055-1061.

Stanley, B., Brown, G., Brent, D.A., Wells, K., Poling, K., Curry, J., Kennard, B.D., Wagner, A., Cwik, M.F., Klomek, A.B., Goldstein, T., Vitiello, B., Barnett, S., Daniel, S., & Hughes, J. (2009).  “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for suicide prevention (CBT-SP): Treatment model feasibility, and acceptability.”  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48 (10), pp. 1005-1013.