September 26, 2016

Business, Education, Opinion, Trends




“Now, I’ve always known that there were bullies in the world. We’ve seen a lot of it in politics lately as well as in daily life. You see it where people who may be stronger, or bigger, or better with verbiage than other folks… show off. To me, that’s what bullying is, showing off. It’s saying, I’m better than you, I can take you down. Not just physically, but emotionally.”
Whoopi Goldberg, Is It Just Me?: Or is it nuts out there?



Shant’a Miller-Synaker, CEO Parents Against Bullying of Virginia. Photo Courtesy: P.A.B.

If you take a moment to pause in your daily life and listen to the noises of the world we live in, it doesn’t take long to acknowledge that we, as a society, have become less civil and considerate towards our fellow-man or woman.  Maybe its the growing influence and meanness of reality programs or the constant state of rage many of us incur on the highways, or just being caught up into our own little mobile existence.  The one true thing is, that the world we navigate, is angrier and more toxic than ever before.  Bullying and our growing uncivil society is changing the very soul of the American experience and our children will be the clear losers if nothing changes.

In 2001, US President George W Bush stated in his inauguration speech  that:  ‘A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.’  He also stated: “Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.”  Fast forward to the politics of 2016 and the shift in tone and intent has become viciously meaner with Donald Trump’s new style of politics.  When Trump utters quotes like;  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.  Or, when he says: Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” It sets a tone of divisiveness.

Dan Olweus, of the National School Safety Center says, “American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims.”  And, the National Education Association says it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.  In addition, 1 million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyber-bullying on FACEBOOK during the past year.  It is alarming to know that every seven minutes a child is bullied.  The intervention rates of Adults is 4%, peer intervention is 11% while 85% take no action to intervene at all. Biracial and multiracial youth are more likely to be victimized than youth who identify with a single race.  Bullied students tend to grow up more socially anxious, with less self-esteem and require more mental health services throughout life.  Suicide remains the leading causes of death of children under 14.

In addition, Cyber bullying affects both adults and youth.  It can affect the famous and the not so famous.  Attacks appear to be commonplace as youth and  Celebrities like Leslie Jones, Sandra Bullock, Chris Rock, Christine Bale, Jessica Alba, Taylor Swift and Olympian Gabby Douglas and others talk about how they endured bullying, and openly shared their experiences about the impact of bullying in their lives in the hope of bringing awareness to this critical and growing problem.

Youth have identified some of the problems they are facing online:

  • 32% of online teens say they have been targets of a range of annoying or potentially menacing online activities. 15% of teens overall say someone has forwarded or posted a private message they’ve written, 13% say someone has spread a rumor about them online, 13% say someone has sent them a threatening or aggressive message, and 6% say someone has posted embarrassing pictures of them online.
  • 38% of online girls report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys. In particular, 41% of older girls (15-17) report being bullied—more than any other age or gender group.
  • 39% of social network users have been cyber bullied in some way, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks.
  • 20% of teens (12-17) say “people are mostly unkind” on online social networks. Younger teenage girls (12-13) are considerably more likely to say this. One in three (33%) younger teen girls who use social media say that people their age are “mostly unkind” to one another on social network sites.
  • 15% of teens on social networks have experienced someone being mean or cruel to them on a social network site. There are no statistically significant differences by age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, or any other demographic characteristic.
  • 13% of teens who use social media (12-17) say they have had an experience on a social network that made them feel nervous about going to school the next day. This is more common among younger teens (20%) than older teens (11%).
  • 88% of social media-using teens say they have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site. 12% of these say they witness this kind of behavior “frequently.” (Source:  National School Safety Center / PEW Research Center).

Newport News One City Marathon. Photo Courtesy: City of Newport News

It’s sobering facts like these and her own experiences that led Shant’a Miller-Synaker, to found Parents Against Bullying of Virginia.   In her own words Miller-Synaker stated,  “It was in 2012 that my twin daughters were bullied on the public school bus by an older peer.  That’s how my family was introduced to the issue of bullying and the horrible problem that plagued our children on a daily basis.  

My daughter’s physical attack caused a  controlled medical issue to reoccur, which in turn affected her health, self-esteem and academics.  I wanted to use my experience to bring awareness that bullying is real and it can happen to anyone.  I also wanted parents to know that there are practical solutions to address this issue and ways to make laws and statues responsive to the concern of parents everywhere.” 


Shant’a Miller-Synaker unveils the No Bullying Zone signage. Photo Courtesy: Parents Against Bullying

The City of Newport News selected Parents Against Bullying as one of three nonprofits to benefit from the 2017 One City Marathon. The third annual marathon benefits organizations that provide youth development services to the citizens of Newport News.  Alternatives, Inc., the Center for Child and Family Services were also selected.  “Each of these organizations works to help our youth identify and manage emotions, form healthy relationships, make positive choices, and develop the skills needed to become productive citizens for the 21st century,” said Mayor McKinley Price.

Miller-Synaker’s next event to enhance awareness is her 4th annual 1000 Stop the Bullying March slated for October 9th, 2016.  Her advocacy has been recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama, and has received support from political, private and public interests. Among those supporters are the following:  Pepsi, City of Newport News, One City marathon, Commonwealth Attorney  Howard Gwynn City of Newport News and outreach program, Attorney General Office  outreach program, Coko Clemons  (SWV), Jessica Larche Washington and Sean Washington, Hampton Roads Show Channel 10, Sky 4, PBS Virginia Currents,
Diversi.Teez, Show off Tees and Sports, Authentic DNA Apparel, Full of Faith LLC, Experience Life Church, Newport News Public schools, Newport News police department, Hampton Police Department, Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center, City of Newport News Mayor McKinley Price initiative to end Bullying, VAdio Show, Virginia HipHop, United Way of Peninsula, Couture Cakes by Nika, Peninsula Town Center, Famous Radio, Rich Reese Management, Phoebus High School, City of Hampton Youth Violence Prevention department, Channel 13 and Channel 3

With the efforts of parents and organizations like Parents Against Bullying, there is still hope that civility in the public sphere can once again be the norm.


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