North, Central fans asked to wear purple to condemn bullying
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com January 10, 2013 3:20PM
Put on purple, please
Fans attending Friday’s 7:30 p.m. boys’ basketball game at Naperville Central High School are being asked to wear purple, no matter whom they’re rooting for, in a display of solidarity against the problem of harassment and bullying.
The official color of the nationwide anti-bullying effort, purple is also the color of bandanas that will be given at the door to all who attend the game wearing the hue.
Updated: February 12, 2013 6:10AM
Whether they’re delivered vocally or through a key pad, the things that are said between young people often take on a life of their own. Sometimes they affect both those at whom the words are aimed and those who send them out, and sometimes to a drastic degree.
So it is that purple will be the signature hue when the crosstown rivalry between Naperville North and Naperville Central high schools comes to Central’s basketball court Friday night. Fans have been asked to bypass their accustomed red-white and navy-orange color schemes and wear something purple instead. It’s not only the official color of the anti-harassment movement; it’s also what you would get if you stirred some of Central’s red with North’s blue.
Students at the two high schools know fully well that mean-spirited barbs sometimes can have unintended consequences.
“We want to make sure that every kid feels safe coming to school,” said Lisa Xagas, a dean at Central, where a new anti-harassment initiative, Be the Three, was launched this year. “It’s really about standing up for what’s right, and when someone’s hurting, helping them out.”
Bullying and harassment aren’t new phenomena, but they have picked up speed in the era of social media. Usually less a problem of fighting than a manifestation of power out of balance, harassment situations sometimes develop at school, Xagas said, but they are also quite common on Twitter, Facebook and other digital communication streams. And most often they’re not blatant insults or other incendiary comments, Xagas said, but exclusion and damaging rumors.
Occasionally, however, harassment culminates in disaster.
“We have seen kind of the extreme end of the spectrum, where kids have taken their life due to the fact that they have been bullied,” said Katie Anderson, community liaison at Linden Oaks at Edward.
More frequently, the adolescents treated at the Naperville behavioral health center are struggling with emotional disorders that are aggravated by cruel online exchanges, known as cyber bullying or electronic aggression.
“I think it is a factor in both anxiety and depression,” Anderson said.
Part of the problem inherent in electronic communication is that nuance and subtlety don’t often come through on a monitor screen or smart phone.
“Some kids look at it as just a text that didn’t mean anything: ‘I was just kidding around, I didn’t mean it,’” Anderson said, adding that others may resort to harassing a peer as a way of channeling their anger.
They often, ironically, are fighting the same emotional battles as the kids they’re picking on. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is reported in nearly one in five of those who often bully others. Eight percent of them have considered suicide.
Kids who are harassed run an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and problems adjusting in school, the CDC reports. And young people who bully others are more likely to become involved in substance abuse and develop academic problems, and to engage in violence in later years.
“Compared to youth who only bully, or who are only victims, bully-victims suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems,” the federal agency reports on its website.
Anderson sees promise in the growing awareness of the issue, and the community’s willingness to join the fight.
“I think schools are going to great lengths to make it clear that they don’t think it’s OK,” she said.
According to Xagas, they are — and they don’t. The anti-harassment project began last year, and included consultation with students in the advanced marketing class at Central. It was they who came up with the Be the Three model, after researching the subject.
“We’re trying to teach kids three main things,” Xagas said. “The first is to be a supporter: how can you help the person who’s struggling? The next is be a reporter. We have an anonymous Tip203 system, so students can report things online anonymously. And we have be a distractor. That means diminish the audience in any situation.”
That pillar is based on the idea that paying attention to bad behavior perpetuates it.
“If there’s a fight on Facebook or Twitter, remove it,” Xagas said. “And if there’s a fight in the cafeteria, move it.
“We’re trying to give kids ideas about how they can live those three tenets.”
The endeavor has been well-received so far, she said. And when the “purple out” concept came up among Central students involved in the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation, it instantly was deemed a good fit. They conveyed the idea to the JKB foundation group at North.
“They jumped on it immediately. They were really excited about it,” Xagas said.
BMO Harris also was contacted, and the bank agreed to furnish the purple bandanas that will be handed out at the door to everyone who comes to Friday’s game wearing purple.
Xagas said the response to the purple plan has been positive so far. Students are playing a more active role, she said, in warding off harassment and addressing its effects than they have in the past. Many have accessed a new system that enables them to anonymously report problems they’ve seen among their peers.
“We launched Tip203 last year, and I think we only had 28 tips for the entire year. And already, since we started Be the Three, I think we’ve had 51 tips since the start of the year,” Xagas said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean there is more harassment going on, she said, just that it’s being reported more often. And that is a good sign overall, suggesting teens are sharing their awareness of what’s going on around them, and doing something about it when they sense something is amiss.
“Some (tips) have been about bullying and harassment,” Xagas said. “But some are just about someone being worried about a friend, like, ‘I think someone I know has an eating disorder.’”