Bullying Has No Boundaries

By Saad Qureshi, Act to Change Board Member

Pakistan: Akeel

Growing up in Pakistan, I attended an all-boys Catholic school. There, corporal punishment was encouraged. When one of us wasn’t listening or paying attention, my teacher would come around and tell us to hold out our knuckles which he would then slam with a thick ruler. I, of course, was the subject of this punishment several times over the years. 

I was the smallest and youngest kid in my first-grade class. Every day my mom would pack my tiny red lunchbox, which had multiple sections. I would have a sandwich in the large section and my favorite snacks in the little sections. 

Every day when I pulled out my lunch, a boy named Akeel would hover over me and demand that I give him my lunch, or else I would get hit. He also said he would hit me if I told anyone. Sometimes he would eat my lunch and throw out what he didn’t want. Sometimes I would get hit anyway. This went on for months, but it reached a breaking point when Akeel pushed me down on the ground one day, resulting in stitches on my forehead — scars I have to this today.

Flint, Michigan: “Uncle Osama” and David

When I was 10, my family immigrated to the United States. Though I was sad to leave my extended family and friends, I was glad to leave that awful school in Pakistan. 

My uncle at the time was working at General Motors, so the natural place for my family to move to was Flint, Michigan. My family moved into a small house and I attended public school. I have a lot of great memories, but some not-so-nice ones that carry with me to this day.

I was in the sixth grade when the September 11th attacks happened. My least favorite class was gym, where I would wander aimlessly pretending to do some physical activity. That day, I was playing with a basketball when an eighth-grader came over to me and asked why my uncle had attacked his country. I was very confused. He clarified, “Tell your Uncle Osama we’re gonna find him and kill him,” as he snatched the ball out of my hand. I did nothing. I didn’t know his name, just that he was older, bigger and taller than me. 

High school was a blur. My school was fairly diverse, from race and ethnicity to class and socioeconomic status. I came from a low-income household and started my first job at 14 at my family’s gas station. The little money I would make, I saved for college. 

Embarrassed to use my free/reduced lunch card in front of my friends, I would spend a lot of my lunchtime in the library.

A boy named David and his friends would also hang out there. 

One day, I walked in wearing my favorite red and white sweatshirt and jeans. “What the f*** are you wearing?” asked David laughing. “Do you shop at the Goodwill?” (In all honesty, I did buy that sweatshirt at the Goodwill, but how could he tell?) I saw that David was wearing a blue hoodie with an Abercrombie & Fitch logo inscribed on the front. I stopped wearing my red and white hoodie after that day. I stopped hanging out in the library during lunch. I would instead sit with my friends in a distant hallway and eat Combos, pretending I was too cool for real lunch. 

Connecticut: “The Gay Test”

I stayed home for college. My parents told me it would be the cheapest option. I graduated with high honors and made my way to Connecticut to teach. Suddenly, I was not only dealing with lesson plans and grading but everyday student problems. The thing that I was having a hard time defining suddenly became a part of my everyday life. My kids were constantly calling each other names and shouting out threats. I also became a target of this name-calling. My own students began laughing at the way I dressed and walked and talked. I recall a particular moment in advisory period when my students did a “test” to see if I was gay. One student asked me to look at my nails. When I followed through, I began being laughed at. “Mr. you have to face them towards you, if you hold out your hand, that means you’re gay.” You see, bullying does not have an age limit. Eventually, I stopped wearing bowties and bright colors. I’ve even worked to correct my “gay walk” and not look at my nails a certain way.  

Bullying does not have geographical boundaries or age limits. The repeated experiences followed me through my youth in Pakistan to Michigan, and to Connecticut as an educator. 

I thought to myself, I couldn’t do it. There were so many days that I just wanted to give up. I wish I had told someone. I wish I had reached out. I’m glad I kept pushing through. I made my way out. I now work for an organization that welcomes every part of my identity. I live in a city where I don’t have to think twice about the way I dress or walk. I surround myself with friends that are supportive. I block people on social media that leave rude comments on my photos. I do yoga to relax my mind and body. I encourage others as well to avoid spaces that make you feel unsafe and avoid people that make you feel unwelcome. If you’re being bullied or witnessing someone else being bullied, please tell someone. We can only break the cycle of bullying by calling it out and reporting it.   


We’re Looking for a Los Angeles Based Intern!

Led by actor and activist Maulik Pancholy, Act To Change is a national nonprofit dedicated to fighting bullying in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Act To Change’s vision is simple: We envision a world where all youth, including within the AAPI community, have the opportunity to grow up feeling proud and supported in the development of their identity and sharing of their stories. 

Act To Change is seeking a highly motivated, self-sufficient intern to support the planning of Los Angeles-based youth event in October. The start date is immediate. Most work will be done remotely. 

Application deadline: August 28, 2019

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate logistics for a youth event in October in Los Angeles
  • Draft written and visual materials to publicize the event
  • Make calls and draft emails to partners
  • Attend and support the October event (date TBD)
  • Draft and post social media, blog posts, and newsletters
  • Administrative support

Qualifications:

  • Current undergraduate or graduate student
  • Los Angeles area based
  • Professional and resourceful
  • Detail-oriented
  • Can adhere to deadlines

Time commitment: 10-15 hours/week

Compensation*: A stipend of $100/week will be provided.

Apply here by August 28, 2019. 

*The Board reserves the right to reduce or withhold stipend if work is not delivered. 

The Negative Impacts of Bullying on Sleep

Written by Kristina Miladinovic, Sleepline.com

What’s the probability of a class bully to be sleep-deprived and too tired to make good decisions? As scientists tell us, it’s very high. Sleep problems can appear before bullying and they aggravate if more bullying takes place. Both bullies and victims suffer from irregular or insufficient sleep. Learning about good sleep habits and how to instill them helps bullies become less aggressive. On the other hand, victims are more likely to cope with stress better after a good night’s sleep.

Bullying and sleep – the connection

Those who bully typically have untidy sleep schedules. Our sleep has to be long enough, of good quality, and a part of a routine. This means going to bed and getting up at approximately the same time. If the last criterion is not met, the other two can hardly be. 

Poor sleep makes us less sensitive to others and more sensitive to things that happen to us – we deal with stress poorly. This is how bullies become more aggressive and victims become and remain victims.

That’s right, children can become victims if they look tired and “weak” to bullies, which makes them an easy target.

What sleep problems do young people involved in bullying have?

Every child who is involved in bullying experiences sleep problems. This includes bullies, victims, and bully-victims (those who bully and are bullied by other children or adults). These are the most common sleep problems:

  • Insomnia (they can’t fall asleep or remain asleep throughout the night)
  • Bedtime fears (they are afraid of the dark or wake up and are afraid to go back to sleep)
  • Short sleep time (children from 6 to 13 need about 9-11 hours of sleep, and teens aged 14 to 17 need between 8-10 hours). If you are unsure your child is getting enough sleep, seek professional advice.
  • Restless legs syndrome (this disease “doesn’t allow” a child to rest or relax (especially at night) because if he or she attempts to rest, there will be uncomfortable sensations in their legs, urging them to move. This disease makes falling asleep very difficult)
  • Parasomnias (abnormalities like sleepwalking, night terrors, bedwetting, and teeth grinding)
  • Non-restorative sleep (poor quality sleep that does not offer a feeling of freshness and restfulness after sleep)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (fatigue, poor concentration, lack of energy and motivation)
  • Sleep-disordered breathing (especially obstructive sleep apnea whose symptoms are snoring and a short stop in breathing which causes waking up. It’s a common problem among bullies and children with ADHD)

Chronic sleep problems are likely to cause anxiety, depression, and lead to poor memory and attention. All of these may severely affect a child – a student who enjoyed learning and going to school may become distant from social activities, with poorer grades and worse sports achievements. 

Poor sleep may cause bullying

When there is more bullying, there are more sleep problems for both bullies and victims. The percentage of children who never experience bullying and have sleep problems is about 25%. However, about 50% of children who cause or experience bullying more than three times a month have sleep problems, and it doesn’t matter if they are a bully or a victim.

So here we need to stop and think – is the act of bullying what causes bullies to sleep poorly after they come home, or is poor sleep making them more aggressive? 

Some studies say that poor sleep can be a trigger of bullying. Someone may have genetic or other predispositions towards aggressiveness but still manage to behave properly when well-rested. This may not be the case after several nights of insufficient sleep. When we are sleep-deprived, we can’t control our emotions well. This means a lack of proper self-conduct for an aggressive person. 

Staying up late often results in non-restorative and insufficient sleep. This is one of the behavioral problems that cause poor sleep – others include external factors such as an abusive family or unacceptable sleeping conditions, like a room that’s too bright, loud or hot. Various health factors or long-lasting untreated sleep disturbances like sleep-disordered breathing can be a cause.

Sleep problems impair the way our brain processes and responds to emotions and stress.

Being introduced to behavioral therapy helps bullies learn how to properly behave during the day and at night, prior to bedtime. This therapy points out all the bad practices and offers healthy choices as a solution. Once good and healthy sleep is established, bullies become less aggressive and more sociable.
Some of the ways to sleep better if you are a bully or being bullied include avoiding social media, TV, computers and other electronic devices in the evening, keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule (even on weekends and holidays), and sleeping in a cool and dark environment.