His powerful video has been viewed more than 46,000 times.
"I'm going to kill you tomorrow." Those were the words spoken to 13-year-old Patrick Kohlmann by a fellow classmate at Udall Road Middle School in West Islip, NY. For the past year Patrick had been kicked, taunted, and shoved repeatedly by the other boys. The day after the threat, Patrick's mom alerted school officials and cited 12 other reports of attack, including a school dance where Patrick was dragged across the floor, and an incident where a group of boys pushed him down a flight of stairs. That same afternoon, Patrick's head was struck with a rock, causing a concussion.
As a result of the school ignoring their pleas to help, Patrick's parents, Beth and Harry Kohlmann, filed a notice of claim against the West Islip school district, and Patrick created a video chronicling his story. After school officials wouldn't allow him to show it at a PTA meeting, claiming it was too "graphic," Patrick posted it on YouTube instead. Now, his powerful video has been viewed by more than 46,000 people to date. To see the video for yourself, click here.
Since posting the video on YouTube, Patrick says he's received overwhelming support from his classmates, and his mother is working with the state legislature about an anti-bullying legislation. And Patrick is giving out blue bracelets at school that say "STAND UP to bullying!"
Momlogic asked Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA, the national nonprofit leader on child violence prevention, for tips on protecting your kids.
Kindness starts at home: "The reality is, any kid can become a bully or be victimized themselves, so it's crucial to take preventative measures now," says Ellis. Bullying is a learned behavior. So when kids see you criticize others ("Can you believe what Jill was wearing?"), they mimic your actions out in the world. What's more, insecurity usually triggers a bully's behavior. So raising confident and empathetic children will have a two-fold effect: Not only will your kids have positive self-esteem, but they'll be more likely to stand up for other kids who are being harassed.
Develop a buddy system: "It's a fact that bullies rarely strike groups--they just don't have the guts," says Ellis. "If your child is being harassed, make sure he or she walks around school with a friend, or is within earshot of a teacher." If someone does start up with your kid, have them look the bully in the eye and say, "I don't like your teasing. Stop it right now." Then they should walk away and report the incident. If the bully pushes, teach your kid not to hit back. "Bullies want a reaction, so if the victim reciprocates, the problem will worsen," says Ross.
Take action: "As tempting as it is to sit down with the troublemaker's parents, don't," says Ellis. "Most parents are defensive toward criticism of their child or are in denial there's even a problem." A better idea: Go to the school directly, and record every incident of harassment. Then ask your school to develop an anti-bullying program and form a watchdog group with other parents. "The sad truth is most prevention lies with parents, because most schools just don't take bullying seriously enough."
Is your child being bullied? Click here for The Bullying Prevention School of Rights.