Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

This past week I have been watching the Thomas Jefferson documentary on PBS.  When they talked about the Declaration of Independence and how Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the three men elected to be the committee to write the document, Ben Franklin didn’t want to write it because he didn’t like people editing his work.  John Adams said “too many people don’t like me.”  This left Jefferson to write the entire document.

In the Declaration of Independence it talks about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It made me think of schools that have aggressive students bullying other students, in essence taking away the way they want to live their life at school, the freedom to feel safe, and their fears that take away any chance of happiness while at school.

I think that like our nation’s forefathers administrators, teachers, parents and students need to come together to draw up their own Declaration of Independence from aggressive, bullying behavior. Including a set of strategies, policy reinforcement and procedures that remind all students that aggressive bully behavior is no longer tolerated.  Letting it be known that a team of students, parents and staff are committed to making sure every student will have Life, Liberty and Happiness.

“Efforts to create a safe and supportive school for all students will be optimized when the school functions as an aligned system where all members, programmatic components and policy and procedures are coordinated, guided by the same underlying principles, and working toward the same goals.”   Bully Free Schools: Circle of Support Resource Guide for Trainers

Have selected students read this document weekly on the announcements, at assemblies, in the lunch room and parent night events.

Like Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson you are the chosen one to speak up for those who are afraid to say STOP IT.  But instead of making excuses like Franklin and Adams, be committed to work as a team to draw up a school declaration that students, staff and parents will be proud of they will abide by.


Copyright Richard Paul 2013


Parent Involvement (The Target)

In my last article I shared how over the past three decades there have been several changes to help put an end to bullying in the schools.   According to forty nine states now have anti-bullying laws in place and many schools have policies in place with “zero tolerance” but for many targets of a bully this is not a enough.

If you are a parent of a target of a bully you too must not leave it up to the school to solve the problem, because in most cases they won’t.  You need to get involved.  Dan Olweus says that “you should contact the child’s teacher as soon as possible. The goal should be to achieve cooperation with the school about the problem. “

As I mentioned in many other articles you need to keep your personal baggage at home and stay focused on what is happening to your child. Be specific and make sure you follow up with the teacher, principal or social worker regularly.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”

The more you follow up, get involve and keep a watchful eye, the quicker you will see it pay off.

Here is a letter from a parent that attended my teacher/parent night “Stop the Bullying” presentation. Her son Colt was targeted by a bully. When she found out she contacted the principal and they took some action but Colt was still being bullied. She remembered what I shared in my program  to keep contacting the school until there is an end to the aggressive behavior.

Here is what she did:

“I contacted the school counselor and asked that she please get involved. I know that she met with Colt and he felt better after the meeting. I also contacted the teacher again explaining the manipulation this boy was using and how that can be confusing to Colt.  The boy claims to be a friend yet treats Colton horrible.  She was surprised to hear, because this young man is shy. After she heard the behind the scene details she also met with the bully and warned him. She talked to Colton and explained that it was a poisonous friendship. Soon after that the bully picked another victim and Colt stood up to him, and reported to the teacher. She then came down hard on him and met with the parents. They have not had any trouble since then.  This is a perfect example of why the adults NEED to  be involved  in giving the kids the tools they need to solve these issues that arise when there is lack of supervision at home and school.”

Thanks for all you do,



This is a perfect example of how parental involvement can put an end to your child’s bullying issues, if handled correctly will pay it forward the message to other children like Colton to inspire them to report when other students are being bullied too.


1)      Find out the facts from your child and write them down

2)      Stay focused and share those facts with the teacher or principal

3)      Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up

4)      Keep a record

5)      Don’t stop till you put an end to it


Bullying Parent Involvement

Over the last three decades school districts, parents and students have been speaking up against bullying behavior.  Dan Olweus first published his Book Bullying At School in 1993, he describes what we know about bullying and what we can do about it.

Now in 2013, according to forty nine states now anti-bullying laws into place mandating schools district to implement some kind of bully prevention policies and or strategies.

But we can’t leave it all up to the schools; the parents need to get involved too. If it has been brought to your attention that your child is being aggressive toward another student you need to make it clear to the child that you do not tolerate such behavior and that they will be disciplined. Don’t just assume because you told them once it will put an end to it.  Keep your eyes and ears open; if they are doing something right praise them, if they are not remind them of your expectation.

“The parents must make it clear to their child that they take the bullying seriously, and that they will not tolerate any such behavior in the future.” Dan Olweus

1)      If you hear your child is being aggressive toward others take action

2)      Be specific

3)      Create an easy discipline chart that hangs on the refrigerator

4)      Never give a warning- Follow through

5)      Remind them daily that you love them.

For information about our Parent Night Programs visit our web site:

Copyright Richard Paul 2013

Adults Can Be Bullies Too

Many years ago after finishing my self-esteem/self-image assembly program at a middle school, I was pushing my equipment cart down the hall toward the door where my car was parked. On opposite side was a hall monitor screaming to a young man. He was shouting, “Your nothing! A loser! Do you hear me? You’re a looser!” I left my equipment by the door and walked over toward them but when the hall monitor saw that I had witnessed what he said, he quickly motioned to the student to come with him to his office. As they were walking away I commented, “Didn’t you listen to anything I shared today?” But the hall monitor just slammed the door in my face. When I reported it to the principal his answer was, “See what I have to deal with every day!”

At many of the conferences I have spoken to, teachers and counselors have shared similar stories of teachers, parents and administrative staff crossing the line when it comes to disciplining a student.


For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness”    Ralph Waldo Emerson

To paraphrase for every minute you are angry toward a child you chip away their self-worth.

There is a right way and a wrong way of disciplining a student. Screaming at and/or degrading a child is not only wrong but it may also leave a negative impression that can spread like germs.
“Just as positive actions are like seeds, rude gestures and remarks are like germs- you may not see the impact they have on you for a while, but they are there silently infecting you and everyone around you.” Power of Nice, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Rovin Kovel


Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics is Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction.
If we want to reduce bullying and violence in schools adults must be the example of good behavior. As one of the parents at my Stop the Bullying session at the Michigan PTA Convention shared, “parents need to be a little more patient and monitor what their saying to their children. They need to remember they are the person their child looks up to, and the only opinion they value the most.”
If we are telling our child they are stupid or worthless the equal and opposite reaction will be lower self-image and lack of confidence creating either a violent or depressed disposition.



The right way to discipline:
1) Make sure the child understands the consequences for their actions
2) Focus on what they did and why it was wrong
3) Make sure the discipline fits the behavior
4) Never let them off with just a warning, follow through
5) Remind them that you love them unconditionally

Copyright Richard Paul 2013

Nobody Did Anything!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a bully prevention conference for elementary and middle school students.  After my program a young man walked up to me and explained how he had been bullied and was able to put an end to it. I asked if he reported the bullying and he said, “I reported it several times to the teacher and the principal and nobody did anything. The kid kept on hitting me, pushing me down and taking my backpack every day.” I asked the young man how he put an end to the bullying and he said, “I punched him and he never teased and pushed me again.”

Using violence to put an end to a bullying situation is not only wrong but will not put an end to the bullying in the school.  Many counselors and social workers agree that if a student listen’s to their parents and “hit’s them back,” two things can happen.

1)      The aggressor moves on to another child

2)      The once target of the bully starts to be aggressive toward weaker students.

We have been told by many that violence only breeds more violence.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Martin Luther King Jr., December 11, 1964

If we want our students to refrain from solving their bullying situation with violent behavior, then we all must make a commitment to step up to the plate to help and protect them.

My Twitter, Facebook and Linked In groups are loaded with people who are sharing outstanding information on how to help children peacefully stand up to the bully. There is also information on what they should do to report it.  But as Nancy Buyle one of my bully prevention mentors and a trainer for Bully-Free Schools once said to me, “you can’t ask these kids to speak up if there is nothing in place to protect them.”

Dr. William Damon (1995)  Director of Brown University Center for Study of Human Development, points out that we serve young people best when we use small negative consequences so student’s attention is fixed on their actions and what is wrong with those actions rather than primarily on the consequences themselves. Most of all, expectation should be consistent so that young people cannot expect to get away with aggressive behavior. (Taken from Schools where Everyone Belongs, Stan Davis)

Here are something’s your school can do to help children reporting bullying behavior:

Every day during the morning announcements students should be reminded why certain actions are wrong and what is expected of them.

There should never be just a warning, the child that is aggressive to another, must know the consequences and most importantly understand why his actions were wrong.

I know principals are busy and teachers over extended but for the safety of a child who is a target of bullying behavior you must commit to following and enforcing the rules when deemed necessary.

Parents you too need to take an active role but please leave the personal baggage at home and focus on the safety of your child.

Parents also need to step up to the plate if they see something wrong, they too need to get involved and follow through.

Parents you need to get on or create your own school Duck Sense Bully Prevention advisory council to monitor all weekly and monthly reports from students and check how they were handled.

Together as parents, teachers, social workers, counselors and bully prevention specialists we must be willing to get involved to help and protect these kids and stop them from thinking that “nobody did anything.


Copyright Richard Paul 2013

Safe Place

Yesterday I was cleaning out my mom’s old desk in the basement of her home.  She died two years ago this May and dad who is now ninety-five is ready to move into an assisted living apartment.

When I opened the desk door inside was a pile of things mom collected.  Old pictures of family, our first dog Ringo, my brother’s band and a picture of my mom and dad hugging and laughing.  She also had a bunch of old Christmas and greeting cards from twenty years back and her Aunt Gertie’s old work photo from 1947.  At first I thought to myself, “Mom why did you keep all this stuff?”  Then I realized that this was her space, her safe place to go to get away from all five kids pulling her in five directions, a safe place to run to when my dad was complaining about all of his aches and pains, a safe place to relax and be herself.

We all need our space, a safe place where we can run away from people who are not treating us with respect.  When I first started speaking on bully prevention, a sixth grader once told me that she was being bullied on the bus every day.  When I asked her what she is doing to put an end to the bullying she replied, “Every day I run up to my room, my safe place where he can’t call me names and then I pray for him.”


Just like at home our schools also need to be a safe place for students. As one middle school teacher told me, most of his students come from broken homes or have a parent or parents who are bullies or dealing with their own demons. The students need to know that at school they’re safe and there are people willing to listen and support them.


“We know from lots of research that if students are afraid, they’re not coming to school and they’re not engaged when they’re there. We’re continuing to lose minutes of instruction and it’s going to negatively impact academic engagement.” Jeff Sprague, Ph.D.,Professor of Special Education University of Oregon, Co-Director of the University, of Oregon Institute on Violence and Destructive Behaviour


Some of the things we can do to promote a safe school and a safe place for our students:

A staff that is respectful to students

Students who learn and understand what it means to be respectful to staff

Well defined school discipline policy

Promotion of parental involvement

A teacher to student mentoring program

A student to student mentoring program

Law enforcement involvement when necessary

Mental Health Professional involvement

Monthly social activities that promote student interaction and personal pride


Ed Virant Coordinator for Drug Free Schools, Omaha Public Schools says: “A safe school climate is one that builds on the strengths and assets of each student.”

Barbara Clayton, Peer Intervention Program, Chicago says: “A save school is where we teach and modelling pro-social behaviour”


In October most of the schools in America celebrate Safe Schools Week where they have programs on bullying and school violence prevention.  I believe in addition to this information they should add a reminder to the students that their school is their second home, with a family of students and staff willing to listen and support them.  Remind them that their school is a place where they can relax and be themselves.


Copyright Richard Paul 2013



We Just Receive this good news from the No Name Calling People

We are happy to announce that we have completed the judging process for the 2013 Creative Expression Contest for No Name-Calling Week. The competition was tough this year with submissions from all over the country. After much debate, we are excited to announce that Larchmont Charter Elementary School is the winner!
The judges loved the way Larchmont creatively connected social justice leaders throughout history to the No Name-Calling Week mission. Civil rights heroes featured in the mural faced bullying and were consistently called names, but they responded with nonviolence, setting an example for every student. Larchmont’s “mosaic mural aims to represent visually that each and every student plays a part in achieving a school culture of nonviolence and peace where there is no place for bullying or name calling.” Larchmont has made a clear commitment to ending name-calling and bullying. We will reward this effort with a No Name-Calling Week prize pack.

Teacher’s Want More Bully Prevention Training!

I attended a Safe School Training program and received a book entitled The New Bullying.  It was published by Michigan State University. It is a book that discussed how social media, social exclusion, laws and suicide changed bullying.  In the sixth chapter they discuss how teachers wish for more training when it comes to bullying in the school.

There are forty-nine states that have anti-bullying laws in place and many school districts are scrambling to find curriculum that they can implement to teach the students what bullying is and how to prevent it.  The problem is that most teachers feel that they lack the training when it comes to understanding the meaning of bullying behavior and how to deal with it.

“I think that Pennsylvania’s anti-bullying laws in schools are somewhat effective, although I wish it was more straightforward and gave the consequences of certain actions so each school is on the same page.” Said Lauren Sady, a first, second and third grade teacher in the Philadelphia School District. She said complicated definitions of bullying can be a problem.”  (The New Bullying 2012)

At my teacher-in-service programs most teachers share that their school has a “zero-tolerance policy” but when confronted with a bully situation they really don’t understand in depth as to what zero tolerance means.

Most schools instruct teachers to send the student to the office and let the administration deal with the bullying behavior. They then send the student home on suspension and never follow up or brief the teacher on what the next steps will be.

If schools want a real zero tolerance policy they need to instruct teachers what it means.  They need to explain to them the consequences for a student’s aggressive behavior and what is expected of the teacher when it comes to any follow-up policies.

At my teacher training programs I have had several teachers say that they can’t clearly define the difference between goofing around and bully behavior or as one teacher asked me “what is the difference between conflict and bullying?  In my curriculum and in my training sessions I spend a lot of time on this topic.  They need to understand the differences so that they‘re able to implement the right disciplinary action.

“Improving student behavior and academic performance generally requires changing school climate and school culture.”  University Community Partnerships@Michigan State University 2004

Teach the teachers bully prevention they will teach the students and in time there will be a change in student behavior and a safer school climate for all.

Note: Richard Paul offers teacher training visit our web site

Copyright Richard Paul 2013

Secret Mentoring Program

I recently attended a Bully-Schools workshop and had the opportunity to sit with a group of middle school teachers, counselors and social workers. We were discussing acknowledging positive behavior. Nancy Buyle our awesome facilitator shared the importance of making students feel wanted and accepted. When Nancy broke us up into groups to share some of the things schools should be doing to help our students take pride in their accomplishments and good deeds, my group members explained how their school has a secret mentoring program. They all shared with me how it works. Each staff member has a group of kids they high five, make positive comments, cheer on and let them know that someone cares about them daily. Some even attend their mentees extracurricular activities. The general consensus from my group was that their schools bullying incidents have reduced more than seventy-five percent since starting this secret mentor program. Many of the student who were struggling academically are doing much better, they’re happier and feel safer when on the bus and at school.

“Feeling safe- socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically- is a fundamental human need. Feeling safe in school promotes student learning and healthy development. (Devinde and Chohen 2007)

There are many reasons why a student will be aggressive toward another student. Their home life is filled with anger and disrespect. They may have a deceased parent. Their parents might be in the middle of a nasty divorce. The parents are too busy to be there for their child. Because of this many children are screaming out for attention. If they get more attention with negative aggressive behavior they are more likely to keep up. Negative attention is better than no attention.

When I was in fifth grade there was a very smart kid who was aggressive and threatening to almost everyone in the class. He would go in our desks and throw things on the floor. He stole hats, gloves and scarves and would tease, push and shove. We used to say he was crazy and should be put in jail but in 1968 there weren’t many things in place to help this student or the rest of us feel safe in school. Later I learned that he had come from a very bad home life. Both parents were alcoholics and drug addicts. He never received any attention for anything he did. I often wonder if there was some kind of secret mentoring program in place if this student would have changed his behavior.

Paula Dirkes in her awesome book Mentor Me! Writes: “An important school-based mentoring study (Curtis 1999) sheds some light on the “ripple effect” of mentoring- not only in school but in the child’s self-confidence level. Positive attitudes about school and personal self-confidence both improved a whopping sixty–four percent amongst mentored children.”
In every school there are students like the one in my fifth grade class crying out for help. So why not get teachers, staff, parents and even students on board to create a secret mentoring program to remind kids and teens that someone cares about them and that they have a right to be proud of themselves.

If you would learn more about mentoring contact

Together we can change the world one duck at a time!”
Copyright Richard Paul 2013

Spend Quality Time- Richard Paul

A couple weeks ago my wife and I took my teenage daughter to California Pizza for dinner. When we sat down both my wife and I were staring at our Iphones, we were reading, texting on Facebook and Twitter. My daughter on the other hand was trying to share with us what she had done at school that day. When she didn’t get our attention she pulled out her phone and took a picture of my wife and I starring at our phones. She posted it on her Facebook page and in the caption below she wrote something about quality time with mom and dad.
In the Boy Scouts of America Linked In group there was a discussion on how disrespectful the boys can be at Cub Scout pack meetings and leadership event. Some were expressing their opinions and sharing tips for the group. One of the members shared his concerns regarding parents attending the camps with their boys. He complained about their failing to participate with the group. He talked about parents sleeping late, sleeping in the car instead of the tent and even going out to get a pizza so they don’t have to eat what the boys cooked for dinner.
We as parents sometime criticize our schools for seeing are children as numbers and not as human beings. But if we ourselves are not respecting our children by failing to give them our undivided attention when they are talking to us for example then we are no different. If we want our children to be respectful and listen to us, then we need to do the same. If we want our children to know that we care and love them no matter what, then we need to shut off the cellphone, leave the Ipad at home spend some quality time with them.
In the Bully-Free Schools Circle of Support Resource Guide for Trainers, Dee Lindenberger writes that “The experience of caring relationships, characterized by emotional warmth and positive involvement in the child’s life, is essential to develop the capacity for healthy attachment, empathy-social/emotional competence. “
As part of my training to teachers and staff I explain why it is important to connect with your students. I ask them to remember a teacher that mentored or connected with them, a teacher that went the extra mile. Most attendees quickly raise their hand and share the story about the teacher that changed their lives. When I speak to parents I also ask if one of their parents listened and connected to them. Most of the parents in the group fail to raise their hands. Do we want our children to think the same about us? Don’t get me wrong, there have been many stories at the parenting workshops I have facilitated where parents have shared great things about their mom or dad. How they inspired them to do the right thing and always spent quality time with them. Parent that promoted positive self-esteem.
In the book Stick Up For Yourself the authors share, “Positive self-esteem is the single most important psychological skill we can develop in order to thrive in society.”
By spending quality time with our children we are letting them know that we are proud of them for who they are. By spending quality time we are helping promote and support their self-esteem and self-worth. We are helping them build an inner foundation that is based on love, respect and resilience.
Fred Rogers in an interview said that “children need to know they have a home.” I agree. They need to know that that home is also if a place where they can cry, laugh and create memorable moments. A place where quality time is spend.
Copyright Richard Paul 2013