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Seeing bullies in a new light 0

By Shawn Jeffords, The Standard

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ST. CATHARINES - 

A trio of Brock University researchers are challenging the stereotypical view of the bully.

The idea that bullies are socially awkward loners is just wrong, says associate professor Tony Volk, of the child and youth studies department. Bullies are actually shrewd social movers, who use their influence to accumulate power and respect among their peers.

“The captain of the football team, the head cheerleader, they have great social skills and they use those social skills in a negative way to get what they want,” he said.

The research was published in the most recent edition of the journal Aggressive Behaviour.

Volk co-wrote the study with Brock colleagues Andrew Dane and Zopito Marini and Westfield State University professor Joseph Camilleri. He said bullies need to be given other options that affirm their self-worth, so they don’t resort to bullying to feel good about themselves.

“We have to make it too costly for bullies to do this and give them better alternatives,” he said.

“They’re clever. They figure out, ‘I want to be popular or get what I want from these kids, bullying is too costly, there is a better alternative, I’m going to chose that.’”

But that doesn’t mean educators and youth workers should give up the fight against bullying. Approximately 95% of bullying takes place away from the watchful eye of teachers, so students need to be taught to look down on the bad behaviour, he said.

“If you can make the peers stop supporting bullying, that raises the cost of being a bully because no one wants to hang around you.”

Meanwhile, at Monsignor Clancy Catholic Elementary School in Thorold, students fought back against bullying Wednesday. Scores of children dressed in pink shirts for National Pink Shirt Day.

Clad in a pink pyjamas, pink socks and a pink bathrobe, Tyler Paone wanted to send a message.

The Grade 8 student looked at his outfit and laughed, saying this is his way of showing support for students who have been bullied.

“It says that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you wear, people are the same,” he said.

The anti-bullying awareness day was inspired by a Nova Scotia boy who wore pink to school, was bullied, and then his classmates rallied to his defence by wearing pink the next day.

Paone said he has been bullied and wants other kids to know that behaviour isn’t right. He hopes Pink Shirt Day lets others at the school know they are supported.

“I still see kids getting bullied … I hope everyone in the school stops bullying.”

Nadia LaSelva, a child and youth worker at the school, organized the event. She wants it to empower students.

“We want kids to understand they can be different,” she said. “You have the power to stop bullying.”

sjeffords@stcatharinesstandard.ca

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