Abandoning our bullying ways: Say something, do something

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Spring Edition of Family Business Quarterly

17-year-old Michael Berry took his life in 2008 in response to relentless cyberbullying. SB231 is Michael’s bill to create a bully crisis hotline to help people curb the hostility our children are expressing in their cyber powered communities.

This spring, the march to “Say something and do something” about the bully culture creating a very hostile environment for children has taken another giant leap forward.

SB231, which provides for a state-run bullying crisis hotline, passed the Senate Education Committee on May 1 and was passed by the Senate on May 29 and is headed to the Assembly.

SB231 is the result of relentless lobbying by Lisa Berry, founder of B.R.A.V.E. Society peer abuse prevention non-profit in Carmichael, California. Berry is a mother who lost her teenage son four years ago to cyberbullying in his school community that, according to Berry, completely dismantled his life around a rumor that he was gay; her son was completely isolated as the cyber-powered rumors invaded every nook and cranny of his adolescent life convincing him that there was no hope.

Her son Michael shot himself in the boys’ bathroom at school, after repeated attempts to secure help from school administration went unheeded.

According to Berry this hotline is needed because the bullying, intensified by cyber communications, makes it very difficult for young men especially, to get help because pride is such a factor at this tender age. “Our 17-year-old son was too embarrassed to ask for help at home. He tried as best he could to resolve it at school, through school administration,” Berry said. And the texting and social network apps made it possible to conceal so much devastation to their son’s life; the digital footprints of a school community who had completely abandoned one of their own were left to tell the horrific, agonizing tale after Michael’s tragic death.

Lisa Ford Berry, Michael Berry’s mom, is the “Mother Voice” for peer abuse prevention, and has relentlessly lobbied for legislation (SB231) to help parents and educators improve the hostile social environment our children navigate in their cyber-powered communities.

“What I do, I do for other people’s children,” Berry said. “The most disturbing thing was that after Michael’s death, no one cared. He had begged for help, pleaded to be left alone, and there was no end to it and we, his parents, were never notified by the school that he was desperately trying to switch classes to get some relief.”

Berry also added that her son did not fit the typical profile for a “bullied” kid. He was a great student and was socially well grounded.  “It had never occurred to me that the mobile phone could do so much damage to my child,” Berry said. “We are so careful to take precautions for child safety, and this one thing was happening right under our noses. It is very easy to be mean, anonymous and sociopathic with texting and social media. A person can break as their life is being dismantled through [cyber-powered] rumors and constant harassment.”

Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, authored the SB231. (See video at the end of the article).

“The intent of this legislation is to get people immediate help for a bullying crisis, which can be accessed through voice, texting or email,” Correa said. “All children will be eligible for help. This support is not just for public school students.”

According to Correa, the hot line will be staffed with counseling professionals who can offer guidance to deal with an immediate bullying situation and also provide advocacy support to engage school officials and parents. Parents, students and teachers will be supported by this hot line.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Why is this hotline necessary?

The hotline is a much needed tool because our family culture in this day and age is not preparing children to be resilient and civil.

Rather, we are preparing children to be consumers.

We have not been socializing children properly for the responsibility of the power of one-to-many communications. This power requires the strength of resisting the temptation to let it all hang out, or to express your insecurity by dominating someone weaker, or piling on to the harassment in order to be in the crowd, and not stand out to be the next target.

Cyberbullying is an abuse of power and creates psychological and social circumstances that can feel un-survivable; cyberbullying is one of the unintended consequences of equipping children with mobile communications simply as a way to keep them tethered to mom and dad.

Proceed to next article:Your child is a learning executive, don’t let your blind spots get in the way

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Spring Edition of Family Business Quarterly



Joanna Jullien “Parental authority cannot be taken. It can only be lost when we surrender it.” Photo by: Christi Benz

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.



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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.