It might begin with something as simple as an insult. “You’re fat.” “You can’t do anything.” “You are ugly.”
“Nobody likes you.”
The abuse might worsen; getting ganged up on, being hit, being beaten up.
It might get even worse; midnight texts that denigrate, insult, terrify. Emails that do the same. In a world of instant and constant communication, the end of the school day is no relief.
It all might sound like no big deal. After all, “kids will be kids,” right? They will grow out of it, right?
They’re just words, right?
But the price of bullying is higher than most people can imagine.
Every 30 minutes in this country, a child commits suicide because they have been bullied past the point of tolerance.
It’s an insane statistic, and one that at least one local woman, teacher and speech therapist Dee DiGioia, is determined not to add to.
“I was just on the phone with a woman (out of the area) whose child had committed suicide,” she told the
MT Wednesday at the beginning of her interview, explaining why she was running late.
DiGioia, a Mono County Office of Education speech therapist who works in the school district and knows first hand how bullying once made her own life miserable, is hoping to make a difference with her program in Mammoth schools that instructs kids, the bullied, the bullier and bystanders what to do to stop the cycle.
“I had a little girl come to me recently, just absolutely shaking,” she said. “She was truly fearful because the kids had ganged up on her and she didn’t know what to do.”
“I never want any of the students to feel unsupported. No one should feel alone in this,” she said.
Adults are not left out either.
“We cannot put all the responsibility on the kids,” she said. “The adults have to intervene effectively. We cannot have tolerance for bullying of any kind.”
She will host her first assembly at the elementary school Friday with a group of students trained during an after-school anti-bullying program.
The assembly will be presented at two different times: Friday at 12:45 p.m. for the younger children and 1:45 p.m. for the older students at the school.
Called “Caring and Courageous Kids: Program for Peaceful Intervention of Bullying,” her efforts have the blessing of the district superintendent and Mammoth Elementary School Principal Roseanne Lampriello.
“When kids learn that the power of standing up to bullying takes away the power of the bully, they also learn that they have the power to break the cycle of bullying and can help make a big problem much smaller,” DiGioia said. “That takes caring and courage. As the speech-language therapist at my elementary school, I became aware that some of my students were experiencing bullying at school. I knew that I needed to do something to help them.”
Bullying is a way to gain social status, she said. The hardest thing to teach the kids being bullied is that they never deserve being bullied, no matter what they might look like, dress like, act like or do. The most important thing to teach bystanders is empathy and that they have an important role in breaking the cycle by finding courage to stand up and say something or do something (including asking an adult for help).
DiGioia will use songs and a play to illustrate the impacts of bullying Friday at the assembly in an effort to teach kids — and adults — how to prevent or intervene when bullying occurs. DiGioia will be introducing the “Peace Promise” (pledge) and a song she wrote called “Peace for You and Me.”
She is also facilitating a regular, after-school class at the elementary school called Peace Project for Children who want to be involved in helping prevent bullying.
She hopes to eventually see something similar, but age-relevant, expanded to the rest of the district’s schools.
If you are interested in learning more about bullying or DiGioia’s program, visit http://www.CaringandCourageousKids.com  or www.facebook.com/CaringandCourageousKids .