Why would a 9-year-old child take her own life? What would lead this beautiful being to such a tragic end? Were there signs that the adults could have been on the lookout for? Last week a loving mother walked in to find her baby, Maddie Whittsitt, a fourth-grader from Birmingham, Alabama unresponsive. Ms. Williams attempted CPR and called 911 but tragically the child died three days later in St. Vincent’s East Hospital.
She had recently been the target of bullying.
We must stop the cruelty! How? As a peace consultant and educator, I have worked for many years to give children tools to become more resilient. Recently I asked one of my former friend mediator students, now sixteen, to join me on Dave Congalton Hometown Radio to look at the long-term effects of early intervention. Mikayla Thompson was the same age as this poor child when she volunteered her recesses to stop bullying on our campus. For two years of elementary school, she worked with a core group of students to promote peace on campus. Using scripts I wrote, non-violence techniques, and assertiveness training these kids helped to make our school a better place.
But I still didn’t know if the prevention and intervention we attempted had long term-term results.
On Monday, November 19th I picked Mikayla up for the ride to the KVEC Studio. What she shared then and during the next two hours blew me away. Not only has she stood up to bullies for these past six years but she also has comforted victims, helped her siblings work out conflicts, and gone on to volunteer for the Make a Wish foundation. She was a resilient child. I was so proud I just about cried.
During the interview she was poised, thoughtful, and kind as she shared some of her stories. Not only had early intervention made a difference in her life, but Mikayla was paying it forward and helping other teens to cope. For the entire interview, click on the following link:
Tips for parents and educators:
- Be on the lookout for changes in behavior. If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or reluctant to attend school, they might be experiencing bullying.
- Ask specific questions about how he/she is interacting with others.
- Be vigilant with social media. Cyber-bullying is on the rise.
- Role-play ways to deal with bullying as in the Peace Card.
- Seek help. My website, Artania.net has scores of free lessons and ideas.