Especially Me!

Studies indicate that up to 62% of girls are insecure about themselves. As many as seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way. The Junior League of Long Beach is pleased to announce our upcoming Especially Me! event dedicated to addressing these very issues.

Our 2015 event was a HUGE success, with rave reviews from the fifth grade girls in attendance, and there was a waiting list for additional girls who wanted to attend. Especially Me! is designed to teach girls the skills they need to be happy and confident, to make good decisions, to be assertive, to express themselves, and to have a strong sense of self. The goal of the course is to instill the idea in each girl that she is unique and special and that she can take control of her own life. Topics covered include self-esteem, body awareness, puberty, nutrition, positive body image, mass media misrepresentations, decision-making, assertiveness, and goal setting.

The Junior League of Long Beach is an organization of women volunteers dedicated to issues that affect the children of our community. We have organized seven Especially Me! courses during the last four school years, and the positive feedback from the girls and the participating schools indicates that there is a strong need for programs such as this.

 Maria, an Especially Me! participant said, “I think this class is great. I have very low self-esteem. I’ve always thought I was ugly. I’ve always thought I was fat and never ‘perfect.’ It was never easy, especially when my mom and dad said I had bad skin and I was ugly. That always brought me down. I can start building my self esteem again.”

 Trained Junior League members facilitate the sessions, which are taught in an interactive format. The girls attend the course by themselves, as we have found they are sometimes more comfortable discussing sensitive issues outside the presence of their parents or guardians. In addition, we are happy to answer questions or provide additional information regarding the content of the classes at any time.

 This year, Especially Me! will take place on January 30, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Washington Middle School, 1450 Cedar Ave., Long Beach. Enclosed you will find a flyer and consent form.

 In order for the girls to be registered for the course, please email or mail dated and signed parent permission slips, the child’s name and school to the contact below by January 15th. You are welcome to scan the permission slips/releases and email them back to us instead. We will accept girls on a first come, first served basis until all of our 100 spaces are full. Once the consent form has been received, you will receive a confirmation letter that will include more information on drop off, pick up, and other logistics.

 If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at community@jllb.org or contact us by phone at 562-989-6400.

A Lesson in Anti-Bullying: Demonstrated by our Favorite Bully- Biff Tannen

#BullyingPreventionMonth ended last week, but we educate ourselves on anti-bullying tactics every month of the year. Learn how bullying differs from harassment and many other important legal issues surrounding bullying in the state of California. Stand up against bullying every day, not just during the month of October.

It’s probably safe to say that everyone has been bullied at one time or another in their life.  Whether it was in elementary school, high school or at your place of work, someone has pushed you around, berated you, stole your lunch money, made fun of you or called you names. Nationally, more than 13 million American children will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people experience.  Well, as this October is Anti-Bullying Month and the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future, the moon and stars have aligned perfectly and provided us with an opportunity to revisit Biff’s Bad Bullying Behavior.

Everyone remembers the movie Back to the Future, right?  (How could you not??)

Quick synopsis- In attempt to evade the evil Libyan rebels seeking return of their plutonium from eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, who used the plutonium to power the flux capacitor in his time-traveling DeLorean instead of building them a bomb.

Marty McFly jumps into the Delorean and upon reaching a speed of 88 mph (in the Puente Hills mall parking lot), 1.21 jigawatts of power sends Marty and the car back in time to November 5, 1955- the date parents’ first met.  Marty then meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest.  In an ensuing caper of errors, Marty must repair the damage to history by causing his parents-to-be to fall in love, and with the help of Doc Brown and find a way to return to 1985.

While helping his to-be father, George McFly, try to woo his to be mother in 1955, Marty inadvertently witnesses several occasions of George being verbally and physically abused by the school bully, Biff Tannen.  The most memorable of which is:

This scene, despite Crispin Glover’s adorably dorky demeanor, makes everyone cringe and sink down in their seats.  And if you’re like me, it makes you want to jump up and give Biff a swift kick to the boys (if you know what I mean.)  However, what is sad is that George takes the knocking on his head, slap and verbal abuse from Biff with a smile and even joins in the laughter when Biff’s friend makes fun of Marty’s “life preserver” jacket.  So, would Biff face any repercussions for his bullying behavior in 2015?

Well, what is bullying anyway?

“Bullying” is defined as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following: (A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property;  (B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health;  (C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance;  (D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900.

Bullying is different from harassment because the “bully” is not usually just one person with a grudge but is often a group of schoolmates, or people who were once thought of as friends.  Bullying in the modern era is not just a message written on the men’s room wall “for a good time call…”, or name-calling in the schoolyard.  Bullying, in the age of social media, is often fairly anonymous and because of the anonymity, typically more vicious and more likely to reach a wider audience, thereby, creating more bullies.

In November 1955, when George and Biff were in high school, bullying existed (obviously), but not much was done by the parents or the schools to deter this kind of behavior.  In fact, if you were being bullied, you were likely to be told to turn the other cheek or “man up” and defend yourself (enter the Karate Kid). 

However, in the wake of several high-profile suicides among students who were chronically bullied, and after two students, who said they were constantly bullied, attacked and opened fire on their fellow students at Columbine High School in 1999, various states started passing laws to stop bullying behavior among students.  In the aftermath of the school shooting and in reaction to a local bullying-related suicide in the state, Georgia became the first state to pass bullying legislation and California followed shortly thereafter.  In 2011, California passed the Safe Place to Learn Act located in the California Education Code §234(b) which provides that all students have a right to attend school without discrimination, harassment, violence, intimidation, and bullying and applies to students either at school, at a school function or in transit to or from school.  Since then, there have been numerous amendments, revisions and new laws added to the books in California aimed at preventing bullying.

Now, how do these bullying laws affect Biff at all?  Well, the answer is, they don’t…(wait for it)…yet.  The scene shown above was off campus and while Biff is most definitely committing battery- willful force or violence used against another person, but the likelihood that George is going to go to the police and file a police report is slim to none and slim just left the bar.

Since Biff is basically a giant meathead, we assume that his bullying knows no bounds and would occur on campus and off.  In those instances where he is bullying anyone on campus, or in transit to and from campus, the above-mentioned legislation would most definitely get Biff suspended, and eventually, expelled.  Moreover, the “Under the Sea” dance is a school function, which would also fall under the above legislation.  In addition to the many criminal charges Biff racks up while attempting to rape Lorraine in the car at the dance, Biff also continues his bullying of George and in doing so, almost breaks his arm. 

While no one ever saw what happened, except Marty and Lorraine, schools today would have every inch of that parking lot under video surveillance, thus, enabling them to catch Biff in the act of yet more bullying.  (With the amount of bullying by Biff just shown during the three days of this movie, I don’t see Biff even graduating from Hill Valley High School.)

Just to throw insult on injury- what does almost every human being on earth have in 2015?  A cell phone!  If this scenario were to occur today, we all know that Biff, his friends and all of those patrons at the diner would all have their cell phones out taking pictures and videoing George getting bullied by Biff.  (Any video would also likely catch that Biff is having George do his work for him, which would lead to other disciplinary issues at school, but one issue at a time.)  None of these people videoing the scene would bother to defend George, but all of these videos would wind up on Facebook, You Tube and other social media, leading to George getting ridiculed by even more people at school the next day.  Moreover, why waste time bullying someone face to face, when you can do it all day on your cell phone or computer.  We all know Biff would be mercilessly bullying George on any social media forum possible (as long as he knows how to work modern technology).

Luckily, thanks to the love of the internet and the cell phone, Biff Tannen and all of those lookie-loos sharing the video could be punished as well.  Recently, Assembly Member Christina Garcia proposed AB 881, which becomes a law on January 1, 2015 and centers on protecting children from cyber bullying and reaches beyond the schoolyard to stop bullying wherever it occurs.  Previous legislation was written before the explosive growth of electronic devices and instant communication, so AB 881 clarified that an “electronic act” means the creation OR transmission of any communication. This means kids who participate in cyberbullying can now be suspended for cyberbullying even if they were not the one who originated the document.  (This bill was supported by the Junior League Long Beach, among others.)

Based on the current laws of California, and those effective in January 2016, Biff Tannen would be suspended…a lot, and most likely, expelled, for his bullying behavior.

Lessons learned here:  Justice is sweet.  High School sucks.  Don’t be a bully, because you could end up in a pile of …

-Megan Hitchcock

[ This post originally appeared on The Legal Geeks blog.]

Upcoming Free Bullying Prevention Event for 5-8th Graders in Long Beach, CA — Saturday, October 17!

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The Junior League of Long Beach is hosting the first FREE Confidence & Me: A Toolkit for Empowering to-be Teens! of the year on Saturday October 17, 2015 from 9:30am to 2:00pm at Lindbergh Middle School in Long Beach, California.  This workshop will be part of the month long community discussion on Bullying.  All 5th-8th graders and their caregivers are encouraged to attend!

The workshop will include a screening of the documentary film Bully (2011).  Following the movie will be lunch and an empowering activity led by Power of One Self Defense of Long Beach.  During the afternoon, the adults and students will be separated into different groups to learn more about bullying and how to empower students to stand-up and change the culture of bullying in our community.

RSVP is required and the event attendance will be capped.  Please contact community@jllb.org or click “Confidence & Me” for more information!

The Junior League of Long Beach is building upon the success of Especially Me! and expanding to working with community partners in Long Beach to combat bullying through character development and life skills programs for 5th-8th graders and their caregivers that encourage relationship building and respect for self and others.

Confidence & Me FREE half-day workshops are held around Long Beach four times a year and include activities around:

  • Self-esteem
  • Anti-bullying (including cyber bullying)
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication Skills Training
  • Conflict Management Strategies
  • Decision Making/Goal Setting
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices

If you are interested in hosting a Confidence & Me for your school or organization, or would like more information, please contact community@jllb.org or vist “Confidence & Me.”

Please click the following link for the Confidence & Me Flyer with RSVP Info. We ask you to please share this with anyone you know who would benefit in participating and/or attending.

How To Prevent Cyberbullying

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There are many things that are common, shared experiences among teens. Prom, a first kiss and, unfortunately now for many, cyberbullying. We all know someone who has been sent a mean text from a jealous ex-friend or been the victim of a cruel meme. I’m 32 years old and even I have had a friend who was cyberbullied via a meme, well her child was. Someone made a meme of her TWO YEAR OLD CHILD! A person from her hometown decided to pull a picture of her son off of her Facebook and poke fun at the expense of this little boy by creating a mean meme. A mean meme, of a two-year-old child… I just don’t get why the person did it.

Cyberbullying follows us, into the privacy of our home, where we can’t escape or prevent others from seeing it and joining in. This year nationally, more than 13 million American children will be bullied. 1 in 6 parents know their child has been bullied over social media and in over half of these cases their child was a repeat victim. The reason this is such a big deal is because overall, the suicide rate among teens has climbed in the past few years. According to http://www.nydailynews.com, the rate has climbed “from 6.3% in 2009 to 7.8% in 2011… According to the survey about 20% of high-schoolers said they’d been bullied while at school, and 16% said they’d been ‘cyberbullied’ through email, chat, instant messaging, social media or texting. As more and more forms of communication spring up, there’s opportunity for bullying to occur, which could eventually lead to an increased rate of attempted suicides, neuropsychologist Dr. Hector Adames told MSNBC.”

So what are we going to do about it? Before now, bullying online had minimal risk. If you could prove you didn’t create the content then you wouldn’t get in trouble, only the person who generates the content would get punished, but any of the hundreds or more people that could re-tweet, or resend the content would get off scotch free, creating virtually no risk for these quiet bullies that are perpetuating the abuse. Now that has changed!

Thanks to Assemblymember Christina Garcia, who proposed bill AB 881(a bill that Junior League Long Beach supported), beginning Jan 1, 2016 anyone who transmits (re-tweets, re-posts, re-sends) the content CAN ALSO BE SUSPENDED!!! This will hopefully get those, otherwise well behaved, kids from jumping on the bandwagon and contributing to something that could encourage a peer’s suicide.

A lot of people that take part in online bullying don’t realize how much they are really damaging their victim. We need to think twice before making a mean comment or re-posting harmful posts and be conscious when we are online. We need to be aware of our actions and how they can affect those around us. I wish this bill wasn’t necessary, that we would all post only the positive and kind. It takes a lot more energy to hate someone then it does to ignore them. Think of how you would feel if someone said those things to you and try to be sympathetic towards others. Then we could really see some positive change in this world!

-Sara G

Flood the World with Kindness

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School can be so tough. I know I had the hardest time navigating middle school, and to be honest, up through college. It’s hard to stay true to yourself when you have so many outside forces coming your way. There are so many changes going on during these years. You are trying to figure out what you stand for, who you are, what matters to you, who you want to be in the world (not to mention all of the changes happening to you physically!). That takes a lot of energy and can be so stressful. Add in the others in your class and at school who are looking for the same, the dynamics of people wanting to fit in and look cool, and people acting out their insecurities and projecting them onto others. You can see what a mess it can all be. Looking back it’s much easier to see it clearly — but it doesn’t minimize the potential there is for hurt feelings, alienation, loneliness and betrayal through the journey. If I can impart any wisdom from my experience, it is to spread kindness whenever and however you can. No one ever got hurt from kindness. When you are kind, you never have to explain your actions. You will never look back in regret for being kind to others. Period. As the quote above says “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Please try as hard as you can not to get caught in the fray (or fight) and spread an understanding, positive approach. Be that change you wish to see in the world.

I was shown a really cool clip recently on a new comedy out, called The Duff. I can’t say whether it’s a flop or great movie, but at least it gets people talking… The Duff is a movie about an ugly acronym and inner beauty and explores how teenagers use social media to make peers feel like they’re not good enough. Leading up to the launch of the movie, the stars of the film partnered with a program called “Mean Stinks” and put on an assembly about cyber-bullying, which was watched by more than 40,000 students (a cool fact was that this was filmed at Los Al High, a local school to Long Beach, CA). Click on the following link for a short video about The Duff stars and their partnership with Mean Stinks – Today Show Video on The Duff and Mean Stinks. Also, see below for a teaser of what Mean Stinks is about. You can visit www.meanstinks.com or find them on Facebook for more information — www.facebook.com/meanstinks. I hope you check it out for some inspiration!

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Let’s step up together to flood the world with kindness!

-Alex W.

Don’t Just Love Yourself, Like Yourself Too!

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So we’re going to try something new today.  Today is going to be an interactive blog post, if it’s even possible for a blog post to be interactive.  But we’re going to try it anyway.  We’re going to play a game.  Go to the kitchen and get a timer, something to write with, and a piece of paper. …..

No really, do that, I’ll wait…

I promise, this blog post isn’t going anywhere, that’s the amazing thing about the internet, it’s patient.

Ok, now that you have your materials.  Set the timer for FIVE minutes.  Spend the next five minutes making a list of all the things you like about yourself.  Try to be specific.  Don’t just say you are beautiful, but instead list out the things that make you beautiful.  Do you like your eyes? Your nose? Your hair? Think about what you’re good at doing.  What do you like about yourself that makes you good at those things?  Are you caring?  Good at sharing?

Whatever you do, don’t stop.  Keep writing for the entire five minutes.

READY……SET……GO……

How did you do?  It was hard wasn’t it?  Why is that?  Why is it so difficult to say nice things about ourselves?  As you’ve seen in the previous few blog posts, we’ve been very busy taking this message out into the community. We’ve learned, it’s not just hard for you and I to do this, but it’s hard for everyone at all ages.  Even adults have a hard time with this.  It’s hard because it’s a skill we don’t practice.  We get so used to taking the view of the world as the true view of ourselves that we forget to create our own view of who we are.  When we don’t have our own view, it is much more difficult to stand up against bullies.  If we aren’t self-assured, it is much more difficult to just walk away.  If we aren’t confident in ourselves, it’s even more difficult to stand up for our friends.  When we have to do a task that’s difficult or new and we don’t get it right on the first time, if we don’t have a positive view of who we are, it becomes much more difficult to keep going back and trying again.  Knowing all the good things about ourselves provides us a vast tank of positive self-esteem to help us fight against the negative thoughts and negative people the world throws at us.

Adults always say that we should have good self-esteem, but rarely does anyone teach us how to get good self-esteem.  It can be a learned skill.  Maybe you could only write down 8 things in that entire five minutes, that’s ok!  That’s 8 great things about you.  Keep practicing.  I bet as you go through the day today, you’ll think of more things that you should have said.  So try this exercise again tomorrow, and then the day after that, and the day after that too!  Once you can think of so many things that you can’t write it down fast enough, don’t stop playing the game, let the game grow!  Add a new rule, maybe you can’t say anything today that you said yesterday.  Use your imagination.  There is no limit.

We’d like to know how you did.  Leave a comment down below to let us know.  Was it hard?  Did you ask a friend to help you?

Let us give you the first one.  We think you are tough just because you tried this game.  It’s not easy to participate in an interactive blog, especially when it gets so personal so fast!

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(Above is a sample of a self-esteem flower we created at a recent community event. We cut out flower petals and challenged all girls and instructors to fill up the flower with things they like about themselves… what would your flower be filled with?)

-Jennifer S.

Self-Esteem & Long Beach

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My favorite Saturday of the year is coming up this weekend — Especially Me Super Saturday! This is a special day when I (along with about 25 other trained volunteers) get to teach a group of wonderful 5th grade ladies in Long Beach the skills they need to be happy and confident, to make good decisions, to be assertive, to express themselves, and to have a strong sense of self. The goal being to instill the idea in each young lady that she is unique and special. That she can take control of her life. How we do this? By providing tools to build and maintain self-esteem, providing correct information about the body, providing decision-making skills, and helping to set meaningful goals. I am counting down the days until I get to have my classroom of girls and we get to have open conversations about what we believe and are experiencing, and I get to share advice and input from my life growing up.

I think back to when I was in 5th grade and I wish I would have had a safe environment to discuss these thoughts, doubts and changes I was experiencing. What’s so cool, too, is that we are building this support system through The Confidence Post and through our community events, such as Especially Me! and Confidence & Me. Confidence & Me – A Toolkit for Empowering To-Be-Teens is our new self-esteem and bullying prevention programming in the Long Beach community put on by the Junior League of Long Beach. These self-esteem & bullying prevention events are kicking off this Spring and the events will focus on boys and girls in 5th through 8th grade (caregivers also are encouraged to participate) and are designed so attendees can participate throughout their middle school experience. Our hope is to develop ongoing relationships and interactions with students throughout their journey during these formative years, providing a toolkit of resources, knowledge and skills.

I encourage you and any others you know that could benefit from our in-person programs to get in touch with us, whether it’s through contacting us on this blog or emailing us at community@jllb.org. Whether you are experiencing this as a student, or if you have a loved one who is in 5-8th grade, please share this! It is so important that we take care of each other as a community and be each other’s support systems. There never can be too much support and knowledge!

-Alex W.