In time for National Bullying Awareness Month, Jennifer Livingston, WKBT-TV news anchor in La Crosse, Wis., received an email from a viewer that criticized her weight and credibility as an appropriate public figure.
Livingston responded to her bully during an on-air special on WKBT-TV to stand up for herself and to take a stance on bullying.
“You know nothing about me but what you see on the outside, and I am much more than a number on a scale,” Livingston said.
Receiving worldwide feedback from the special she hosted, Livingston was featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Livingston’s special also received over 10 million hits on YouTube.
On the special, Livingston spoke out to those affected by bullying.
“To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies,” Livingston said.
She turned her focus to National Bullying Awareness Month and spoke of changes that need to happen. Livingston repeated multiple times throughout the special that the Internet and schools are outlets for bullying.
However, Livingston brought the fault back to the parents, saying that bullying is a learned habit.
“We need to teach our kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example,” Livingston said.
Erin Hall is pursuing her master’s degree in elementary education at Drake University and saw Livingston’s special.
“I think Jennifer handled herself and the situation appropriately and tastefully on camera,” Hall said. “She seems to be an intelligent woman and I hope that she didn’t let that cruel email get to her too much. She definitely did the right thing about talking about it.”
While Livingston stood up for herself, she also turned the focus to the changes that need to be made in our schools.
Kelly Friske, a 2012 Drake alumna, is a middle-school teacher in Colorado. Friske has noticed bullying in her classroom.
“Unfortunately, many of my students don’t understand when they have gone past joking to actually hurting someone’s feelings,” Friske said.
Friske’s school has an anti-bullying policy that punishes bullies by detentions or suspensions, as well as campaign posters around the school for National Bullying Awareness month. Although Friske sees bullying at a middle-school level, she believes bullying goes past the pre-teen years.
“I think that bullying continues into college and beyond. I think it can sometimes even escalate in college because unlike before you often can not separate yourself from the bully by going home from school, especially if you are living with or close to them,” Friske said.
Katie McCullough, sophomore studying biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, also believes that there is bullying in college. However, she thinks it is often overlooked.
“The school itself focuses more on Greek hazing than actual bullying. Drake pressures fraternities and sororities to take online seminars to prevent hazing, but I haven’t seen anti-bullying promotions outside of the Greek system,” McCullough said.
McCullough is a member of the Greek social sorority, Delta Gamma.
While Drake may not openly campaign against anti-bullying, the university does have a bullying policy in its student handbook.
According to the handbook, “We abhor acts of oppression, be they denial of freedom of expression; discrimination in its various forms of sexism or racism, or intolerance of religion, age, sexual orientation, or political beliefs; or harassment of any member of the University community.”
If bullying occurs to student at Drake, discipline can be given.
“Drake University will take such disciplinary action and respond with such sanctions as are deemed appropriate,” according to the handbook.
It is unclear as to what those actions are.
The other anti-bullying effort Drake provides is an online class for education majors. Susen Schirmer, an adjunct instructor and education counselor, teaches the three-credit hour online anti-bullying class.
“The online class is an effort to help educators understand what bullying is and is not as well as what they can do to help stop this epidemic that is hurting our kids,” Schirmer said.
The class was a bronze award winner at the United States Distance Learning Association’s annual conference in St. Louis, Mo., in April.
Schirmer agrees bullying continues into college years and longer.
“The long-term effects of bullying in some circumstances can be likened to PTSD. Of course, bullying behaviors often carry over into adulthood, just watch a bit of television and you see countless examples,” Schirmer said.
Schrimer believes bullying is growing problem as well.
“Current estimates in Iowa estimate that 85 percent of students K (to) 12 have experienced bullying and that number continues to climb. The Internet certainly impacts this as it can send a message much quicker and to a broader audience 24/7,” Schrimer said.
For more information about National Bullying Awareness Month, visit www.pacer.org/bullying.