A Gay Dad Proposes a Plan Against Bullying: The Rainbow Berets
By: Rob Watson
There have been times of war when conventional forces were not enough. Situations were too complicated and too tenuous in a fragile balance. It was in these moments, that a special force was sent in to perform functions that emphasized cultural, and training skills in working with foreign environments, hostage rescue, combat search and rescue (CSAR), security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian de-mining, counter-proliferation, and psychological operations. This force was the Green Berets.
In February of 1979 violence in New York Subways was at a point of anarchy. Curtis Sliwa founded an organization called The Guardian Angels, made up completely of volunteers. They were unarmed and patrolled in a group to stop crimes in the subways. They trained themselves to make citizens arrests for violent crimes. Today, they patrol as well as conduct education programs and workshops for schools and businesses These protectors are identified by red jackets, white t shirts and …. Red Berets.
We now have a situation where the assistance of a set of protectors is desperately needed. We are just a little over a month into the new school year, and we already have over a dozen deaths in schools due to bullying. Last week, the word “faggot” was twittered over 217, 000 times (according to nohomophobes website, 2.5 million times since July).
Last September, two 13-year olds , Trae Schumaker and Cade Poulos, ended their lives. Both suicides were the response to bullying.
In the case of Cade, school officials rushed to state that bullying was not involved and local media went so far as to suggest that Batman was the culprit. Family and friends have stated bluntly, however, the cause was bullying.
I ache for the families and friends of these boys. I also ache for the families and friends of the children in the coming weeks who will do the same thing that these boys did. And they will if we do not prevent it from happening. I look at my sons and imagine the horror if something like this happened to us. The idea hurts me so deeply, I cannot even express it. It hurts me so much that I am willing to take an idea and throw it out into the world.
We cannot look to school administrators to solve this. Administrations appear to be addressing bullying as a matter of clerical record, and not seeking to identify individuals in pain, or to focus on environments that inspire it. They may never be able to in fact.
All of us who care must understand what is happening. In the book “Hold On to Your Kids”, Gordon Neufeld PhD and Gabor Mate, MD describe the relationship between a parent and their young child, “The attachment brain assigns the child to a dependent mode while the adult takes a dominant role.”
Once the child grows towards adolescence and is in a peer driven environment, those attachments transfer. Neufeld and Mate write, “When the subjects are children and children, the outcome can become disastrous. Some children seek dominance without assuming any responsibility for those who submit to them, while other children become submissive to those who cannot nurture them… Children (or adults) become bullies when striving for dominance is not coupled with the instinctual sense of responsibility for those lower on the pecking order. The needs of others are demeaned rather than served, vulnerability is not safeguarded but exploited, weakness evokes mocking instead of helping and in place of concern, handicaps trigger ridicule.” When this dysfunctional dependence situation is placed in a world that supports homophobia, misogyny and values around athletic prowess and trendiness, the bully is now armed and dangerous.
We need to realize that there has to be another level of defense beyond the school administrations which clearly can’t or won’t do enough. We need to affect the young person’s pathology where the victims are looking to peers for validation, where the peers are not equipped to provide it, and bullies feel empowered by exploiting it.
So. Here is my proposal. I am calling for the formation of the “Rainbow Berets”, concerned peer groups to stand up to the issues that inspire bullying. Groups that are visible in their schools to be safe confidants of those being bullied, and to help educate those whose actions are bullying. These groups would advocate for peers to seek to nurture each other and change the paradigm.
My son, Jesse, seeks out older kids who he sees as “cool”. “Cool” often translates as aloof, “bad ass”, untouchable. The mantra for the Rainbow Beret has to be “Cruel does NOT equal Cool.”
Cruel does NOT equal Cool.
If you are reading this, care about the bullying issue and are a parent, a teacher, a school administrator or a school student, then this is your moment for action. I am asking you to take this up and make this a reality, otherwise your caring will turn to sorrow as yet another child kills him or herself in your community. I am begging you to get active. Here is how:
1. Like the Rainbow Beret Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rainbow-Berets.
2. Post your brief bio, and tell the world why you care. Then share that post with all others in your school or community who you think will join your efforts. Encourage them to also like the Face book page and to state their intent to join in the comment section of your post.
3. Meet with your group, get educated on bullying, and identify a “uniform” that will identify you as peer helpers. Rainbow berets are just suggestions. You can literally make and don them, or come up with another kind of badge.
4. Meet with your school administrators and get their permission, as well as let them know of your intent.
5. With their help, promote the existence of your group around your school. Find ways that people can approach you confidentially and let you know their feelings and problems.
Under NO circumstances should your group retaliate or commit any aggression towards identified bullies. At most, you would approach an alleged bully and inform them that their actions are causing harm. Do this as a team, not an individual. Find out the motivation behind the bullying action and try to help. Often the “bully” is also a victim themselves in another situation.
6. If the alleged bully is unwavering and boastful over their aggressions, do not threaten or coerce them. DO report the situation however. One of the biggest issues bullied kids have is being in a “he said/he said” situation that administrations can’t take action on. If your team can unearth the truth and report it, your witness to admissions of intent will give the administration something they can work with.
7. Help match those feeling bullied with nurturing people. Ultimately, they need to feel self-empowered, but in the meantime, they need peers who will help build up their self esteem, not tear it down.
8. Post your experiences on the Rainbow Beret Facebook page. Post helpful materials and resources. Post about what worked and positive resolutions. This will inspire other Rainbow Berets in other schools, other cities, other states and even…other countries.
9. Appreciate yourself as a hero. If you do this, if you take action, you will see people around you feel better about themselves. Other Rainbow Berets in your group will realize the benefits of finding out what they can accomplish through caring about others, and those who have been bullied will find ways to cope. What you need to know is that without your efforts, some of these people would have taken tragic actions, and though you will not know this for sure, you actually saved lives.
Will this work? That is really up to you. This will work if the people who care take action. It will not work if well intentioned people allow apathy or fear to disable them.
So… please step up, and at the very least, share this. Sometimes with the help of a friend, we can change our whole perspective of the world we live in. And that is the point.
As a parent myself, I am going to walk the talk. I am taking this plan to the principal of my son’s school and will ask him to present it to the Parent’s Association. I hope you do something similar. Please.
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