Fighting the Good Fight: Battle against this age-old epidemic with knowledge of the basics of bullying

By Karen Haywood Queen/Coastal Virginia Magazine February 2013

Every day in ninth grade, Portia, Samantha, Linda and Sarah teased me, shoved me, kicked me, pinched me and hit me during the 45-minute bus ride to and from school. That was year four of six years of bullying.

Bullying isn’t new. School children in 17th century France dueled, brawled, mutinied and beat teachers. In British public schools from 1775 to 1836, mutinies, strikes and violence were so frequent that schoolmasters occasionally sought assistance from the military, according to a 1998 paper from the Reason Foundation. Of course, in those times, StopBullying.gov didn’t exist. There was no Bullying Prevention Awareness Month (October). Cyber bullying didn’t exist. School shootings weren’t part of the national culture.

Sixteen percent of school children say they have been bullied, according to a Clemson University study. Children at risk for being bullied are those who are underweight, overweight, wear glasses, wear different clothing, are new, perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves. They are depressed, anxious, have low self-esteem, are less popular and are seen as annoying, according to StopBullying.gov. But even tough-looking NFL football players are bullied.

I was skinny, smart, uncoordinated, short, flat-chested, had an ugly smile, wore glasses and dressed funny. I lacked social skills and had few friends. I was bullied from sixth grade through 11th grade.

Signs of Bullying
According to StopBullying.gov, bullying includes: teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, threatening to cause harm, leaving someone out, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public, hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing, taking/breaking someone’s things or making mean or rude hand gestures.

Every time I walked past his house, Bill hit me with a Frisbee. Gary spit on me. At school, Charlotte and the other kids hit me and took my candy, gum and lunch money. In math class one day, Ellen mentioned gym class, showers and then said in a loud, clear voice, “I heard you were bald…beneath.”

Signs that a child is being bullied include: unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed possessions, frequent headaches or stomachaches, changes in eating habits, difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares, declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school, sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations, feelings of helplessness and decreased self-esteem, as well as self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming oneself or talking about suicide.

Cyber bullying adds another dimension. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 33 percent of teens have experienced cyber bullying. Ninety percent of teens who say they have witnessed online cruelty say they sometimes ignored the mean behavior, the study says. Twenty-one percent admit to also joining in the harassment.

When Kids Handle Bullying
Childhood has a code of silence, so I never told an adult. I gave candy and gum to other kids and invited them to ride my pony and jump on our trampoline. I hoped they’d like me in return. They didn’t.

Statistics from the 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement show that an adult was notified in only about a third of bullying cases. Kids don’t tell adults because they fear being labeled weak or a tattletale; they want to handle it on their own to feel in control again.

Today, I still smile—with the white teeth I was meant to have—when I remember my big revenge. I changed my answers on a test that Charlotte was copying, resulting in an F for her while I got an A. When Samantha asked if my pony minded if someone sat behind his saddle, I told her no, then pretended to be surprised when my pony bucked her off. Unfortunately for me, the bullying continued.

Sadly today, some bullied kids take drastic action. The shooters in 12 of 15 school shootings in the 1990s had been bullied, according to StopBullying.gov. Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University. A study in Britain found that at least half the suicides among young people are related to bullying.

Nationwide and in Coastal Virginia, teenagers have committed suicide after being bullied. The family of a Caroline County girl who committed suicide in October said she was bullied. A Gloucester girl killed herself in September after bullies hit her, stuffed her into trashcans and forced her into lockers, her family said. Families of a York County boy and a Williamsburg area boy, each of whom committed suicide in 2010, blamed bullying.

Of course, those statistics don’t mean that every school shooter or every suicide can be blamed on bullying. Nor do they mean that every bullied child will evolve into a school shooter or suicide victim.

No one defended me as Portia and her pals bullied me on the long bus ride. One day, when I stood to get off the bus, Sarah hit me for the third time. This time, I shoved her back and the bus driver slammed on the brakes. Caught off balance, Sarah fell. “We’re going to [get you good] tomorrow,” the girls yelled as I got off the bus two stops early.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 160,000 children stay home from school each day because of fear of being bullied.

The next day, I called my mom and told her I felt sick. She came and got me from school. The day after, on the bus ride home, Portia came back to my seat, followed by Linda and Samantha, in case they were needed. Portia didn’t need any help to break my nose, blacken my eye and break my glasses. I had to go to the hospital.

My parents went to school. The administration did nothing. “It’s a neighborhood problem,” the principal said.

My parents filed charges, and Portia was convicted of assault in juvenile court. Some of the silent bystanders were upset because they had to miss a church inner tubing trip to testify. Although the conviction went on Portia’s juvenile record, the judge didn’t even sentence her to probation.

Parents of the boy who committed suicide in York County filed a wrongful death lawsuit against school administrators, but a judge dismissed the suit.

The suicides and school shootings are indisputable facts. But the bullying is usually reported as “alleged bullying” even when no perpetrators are named. Often the adults in bullied children’s lives try to minimize what happened by calling it “teasing.” School administrators and law enforcement often don’t want to admit bullying. The sheriff’s department in Caroline County rebutted the family’s claims of bullying. In some cases, administrators say there was no record of bullying. In other cases, children and parents complained, but the bullying continued.

Local Schools Address Bullying
Coastal Virginia schools are addressing bullying. The schools’ codes of conduct ban bullying. Some area schools, including many in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton, have joined the national anti-bullying campaign, Rachel’s Challenge, named after Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine school shooting. Kids are encouraged to stop bullying by being more than bystanders.

After my court date, the bullying at school lessened but continued until Cheryl and Lisa (their real names) told Portia and her pals to leave me alone. Cheryl and Lisa did what administrators and even the court couldn’t do—stopped the bullying at school.

I decided to spend more time in church activities where I thought I’d be safe. My first night at our teen girls’ mission group, Sarah was there. “Do you like it when they pick on you on the bus?” she asked, smiling sweetly. I never went back.

I continued to go to Sunday night youth group, and then the bullying began there, too. Eileen and Mary, daughters of church leaders, spent the entire two hours kicking my chair off the risers in the choir loft. The adults never saw; and again, I never told. But after Christmas my junior year of high school, I never went back. It took a while before I felt safe in any church. I know many people who were bullied in church who never returned.

Breaking The Cycle
I finally broke the cycle when I went away to a large university, made new friends and refused to be a victim. I found new jobs—twice—when I was being bullied at work.

Others aren’t so lucky. A study in Norway showed that one-third of students who said they were bullied, 41 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys, exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A University of Virginia study found that schools with high levels of bullying had dropout rates 29 percent higher than the state average, while schools with low bullying levels had dropout rates 28 percent lower than the state average.

When my son was seven and called a classmate “chubby,” I made him apologize and write a letter listing things he liked about this boy. I did not think my son was a bully, but I was taking no chances.

Signs children are bullying others, according to StopBullying.gov, include having frequent physical or verbal fights, having friends who bully others, acting increasingly aggressive, getting sent to detention frequently or having unexplained extra money or new belongings.

Both of my children endured short rounds of being excluded. I helped both of them learn the social skills I wish I’d had. Now they are popular leaders and peacekeepers, and I’m proud.

I saw one of my bullies, Sarah, a few years ago. Even though she is well known in the city where we grew up, I know I am happier and stronger. I have achieved many dreams and goals. I’m a nationally published writer, play in a jazz band, teach piano, I’ve competed in three half marathons. I volunteer as a leader with my church youth group, and when I see kids being left out, I intervene swiftly. [When I saw Sarah] I smiled, said a brief hello and walked on by, head held high.

What Parents Can Do
• Talk to your kids. Let them know that if they are being bullied, it’s OK to tell.
• Don’t blame the victim, but do work with your kids on social skills so they can confront their attackers. Role-play how to act in tough situations.
• Advocate strongly for your child. Demand action and a written record when you report bullying. Encourage administrators to take strong action against verbal and physical bullying.
• Stop the cycle. Consider taking your child out of a school where he is being bullied; do the work to boost social skills and let him make a fresh start in a new school. If you have to, close down your child’s social media and take his cell phone to eliminate cyber bullying and lessen the chance that bullying will follow your child to a new school.
• If you suspect your child may be a bully, let him know the pain the victims feel.
• Visit the following websites: http://www.StopBullying.gov, http://www.Bullying.us

Never Be Late Again

By Karen Haywood Queen/Better Homes and Gardens June 2007

No one ever plans to be late, but something always seems to come up. Last-minute chores keep us from stepping out the door. Or we don’t do chores at all and can’t find the car keys because the house is such a mess. Or maybe we just like living on the edge and secretly enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from pushing to make a deadline. Even though we don’t actually make it.

More than 20 percent of us admit to being chronically late (there are no statistics on how many of the rest are lying). Most of those people, if pressed, would be inclined to blame their lateness on circumstance.

Diana DeLonzor says that’s bull. DeLonzor, herself a recovered late person and author of Never Be Late Again, says tardiness is actually a trait of one of many personality types. She identified the types while researching her book and studying people’s lateness habits.

Do you match one of the personality types here? It may be good news if you do, because DeLonzor and others also have some strategies to help each type begin arriving on time.

The Producer
Possibly the most common late personality type there is, a producer doesn’t see herself as late, but as someone who produces. “They tend to get an ego boost from how much they can get done in a day,” DeLonzor says. But tardiness becomes a problem when a producer believes she can get a lot done in a little time, such as showering, dressing, applying makeup, washing dishes, and starting a load of laundry, all in the half hour set aside for getting ready in the morning.

Telltale Signs: You write to-do lists during your coffee break. You feel the need to squeeze as much activity as humanly possible into each moment of each day.

Getting back on track: For at least a week, time everything you do– from the drive to work to that one last cleanup in the morning. “You’ll start to see that what you thought you could do in 20 minutes actually takes 40,” says DeLonzor. “You’ll get a realistic idea of time.”

Plan to be early and have something to do. “Take along the thank-you notes you’re always meaning to get done,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out. “Organize your planner. Call a client or two. Or you could always carry along that novel you want to read.” Learn to say no to last-minute demands that will make you late. Practice exit strategies, such as, “I would love to help you out as soon as I return around 3 p.m.” to use when you’re on the way out the door. “Don’t let interruptions in,” Morgenstern says. “Don’t answer the phone. Don’t check your e-mail.”

The Deadliner
Deadline-oriented people thrive on the race. They need a crisis to get motivated and react at the last minute– which leads to being late.

Telltale Signs: You go to the ATM only after you’ve run out of money, have coasted to the gas station on fumes more than once, and are no stranger to late fees at the library.

Getting Back on Track: Start retraining yourself. Choose two or three activities you will do ahead of time each day, DeLonzor says. Fill up the gas tank when it’s still half full and stop by the ATM when you still have $20 left. Instead of getting an adrenaline surge from the constant rush of your life, start a contest with yourself to see if you can be 10 minutes early three times a week. Reward yourself– a massage, a dinner out– when you achieve a goal, DeLonzor says. Find another source for adrenaline, says Alyce Cornyn-Selby, speaker and author of “What’s Your Sabotage?” “There are other ways to find action in your life,” she says. One of her client’s procrastination habits drove his office crazy. Then he took up skydiving and found that he didn’t need to get a rush from racing to meet office deadlines. Your thrill issues may not be as extreme, but that should make finding substitutes easier.

The Absent-Minded Professor
Sometimes clichés are true. Absent-minded professors are smart, but easily distracted.
Telltale Signs: You misplaced the piece of paper with that important appointment information. Oh, and the car keys, checkbook, and purse. You may jump from activity to activity, like that thing you were doing before you picked up this magazine.

Getting Back on Track: Like the Producer, you can benefit from taking a week to time your tasks. Prioritize each item on your to-do list and assign it a realistic time frame. If you’re tempted to start a task at the last minute, refer to your list and see if you have enough time. Organize your time and space. Buy a planner and record your appointments and activities. At night, plan out your schedule for the next day. Set out what you’ll need the night before in a designated spot, DeLonzor says.
Use tools to stay on task. Keep a clock in every room– even a waterproof clock in the shower. Set a timer for 30-minute intervals and when it goes off, ask yourself whether you’re accomplishing what you set out to do, DeLonzor says.

The Rationalizer
Rationalizers are frequently late for work, appointments, and social engagements yet don’t feel it’s a problem because it’s not their fault. At least, that’s what they think.

Telltale Signs: You may be late but you always have a ready excuse and a good story to tell: There was a wreck on the interstate, a sick pet, a last-minute phone call. You feel other people are too uptight about punctuality.

“Rationalizers hate being called on their lateness,” DeLonzor says. “That’s why they tend to make up excuses.”

Getting Back on Track: Instead of making excuses, practice saying “I’m sorry,” DeLonzor says. Focus on other people. As you get ready to leave, envision the person on the other end and how the encounter will go if you come flying in the door making excuses. Make a deal. Tell friends and family that if you’re late, you’ll buy the drinks or dessert– or to go on without you, DeLonzor says.

Finally, if you’re always late and you have a choice, ask yourself: Is it something you want to do in the first place? The answer may be no, but it’s better to be honest about it than to let yourself and others down by being late.

Silver Spring transfers grid expertise to cities

By Karen Haywood Queen

Published Oct. 5, 2015/Smart Grid Today

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Many start with smart streetlights, build onto network

With two-way communication, cost savings and improved reliability, smart LED street lighting systems are helping create smart cities – using technology similar to what is being used to build the smart grid, Sean Tippett, director of smart cities at Silver Spring Networks, told us last week in an exclusive interview.

Since it came on the scene in 2002, Redwood City, Calif-based Silver Spring became a leader in critical infrastructure networking – starting with utilities, he said. Silver Spring helped Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) network 5 million devices over 70,000 square miles, he added.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working with our utility customers, helping them securely network their assets. “In doing so, we’ve provided a large amount of value in grid reliability, improved service, better information for customers and better information for utilities,” Tippett said. “We’re starting to see a new customer set emerge over the past couple of years that can benefit from the same technology: cities.”

QUOTABLE: There are a lot of similarities between smart grid and smart city. Both have the need for secure, scalable, multi-application networks. For utilities, critical infrastructure means their smart metering or other smart equipment on the electric distribution grid. For cities, critical infrastructure means their street lighting systems, intelligent traffic systems, smart water networks, smart parking, weather and air quality sensors, EV chargers and more. – Sean Tippett, director of smart cities at Silver Spring Networks, in an exclusive interview

“The common thread is, we network large-scale outdoor devices. We’re able to take all the things we’ve learned from employing smart grid with our utility customers and port them over to cities,” he added.

For cities, streetlights are the first step in becoming smarter, Tippett said. There’s a strong business case for making the move: Over the past two or three years, LEDs have become longer lasting, more energy efficient and less expensive, he noted. “It’s the merging of two technologies,” Tippett said. “LED technology has really started to come down in price. We’re also seeing the full maturation of this utility-scale networking technology for cities.”

LEDs alone yield significant savings, but smart networking yields even more savings, he added. A city switching from legacy high-pressure sodium lights to LED and controls can get its investment back in six to eight years, depending on its costs, a Silver Spring case study found.

Adding two-way communication/networking helps cities save even more because they get to know immediately when a light is out or shining during the day – and so they can avoid sending out patrols to look for malfunctioning lights or waiting for citizens to report problems. Networked LED lights can eliminate up to 90% of truck rolls and cut repair and maintenance costs through more accurate crew dispatching, the case study found.

As Silver Spring began to work with cities, especially small ones such as Fitchburg and Randolph in Massachusetts, it realized some cities looking for a smart city network were not looking to expand their IT departments to support the new technology, Tippett said.

“Utilities typically have robust IT departments, used to owning their equipment and hosting it in their data center. “With some cities, you can see that they don’t have the ability, budget or the desire to build out IT to support the network. That understanding drove us to offer networking as a service,” with all the in-field networking infrastructure and back-office data services to support streetlight networks and other networked applications, he added. A city has only to manage the application by logging in with secure credentials to a mapped system to see if there are any malfunctioning lights.

Florida Power & Light (FPL) is working with Silver Spring on “the largest networked street lights project in the world – more than 500,000 lights,” FPL CEO Eric Silagy said today in prepared remarks. “Establishing a smart street light network will continue the advancement of our smart grid and deliver benefits to our customers, including more reliable and efficient service.”

Silver Spring quoted Silagy as it told the press about an upgrade to its street light and smart city control and management platform, now called “Streetlight Vision 6.” The software has over 100 new features, the firm said, adding that over 500 cities use Silver Spring’s street light-control software.

In addition to the towns in Massachusetts, Silver Spring is working with Bristol, England; Chicago; Copenhagen; Glasgow, and Paris on their smart cities programs, Tippett told us last week.

Streetlights earn savings

The benefits of networked streetlights extend beyond troubleshooting repairs, according to the case study to which Tippett pointed us. Cities with networked streetlights can easily dim the lights and alter the timing to save money. At a smart cities conference in Washington, DC, last month, Tippett discussed case studies from Bristol, Chicago, Copenhagen, Miami and Paris.

After networked streetlights, cities can add more applications such as networked, intelligent traffic systems and environmental sensors to measure CO2 and noise, he said at the event. Copenhagen was one of the first cities to adopt smart street light technology and added more applications over the years, Tippett said.

“They’ve been very proactive about trying to gather all the stakeholders and try to find different ways they could use the system,” he told us.

Boost safety for cyclists

In Copenhagen, where 40% of all trips taken are by bicycle, traffic sensors can work with networked lighting so streetlights brighten when a bike approaches an intersection, Tippett said.

“The bicyclist is able to transition through the intersection in a much safer manner than before.” “That’s especially important in Copenhagen, where bike traffic is expected to grow to 60% of all trips in four years,” he added.

Implementing smart city communication infrastructure may seem daunting, but city leaders who are considering it “can establish a multi-application smart city network through a lighting system. You can do it within budget and you can do it with your existing IT department. Any city can be a smart city,” Tippett assured.

Changing regulatory model could offer big benefits

By Karen Haywood Queen

Published Sept. 17, 2015/Smart Grid Today

EXCLUSIVE Revamping the current US utility regulatory model to create a network of distribution system operators (DSOs) to control the grid would open the market for solar PV, energy storage, energy efficiency programs, EVs and DR, Michael Rutkowski, managing director within Navigant’s energy practice in the firm’s Chicago office, told us recently in an exclusive interview.

“Having the grid be essentially ‘plug and play’ for all these types of distributed energy resources would enable consumers to also be ‘prosumers’ – producers of energy,” he said. “Such a system would provide equal access to the grid, essentially serving as a gatekeeper to allow those new types of services to become more available. It would offer flexibility and more choices for consumers,” Rutkowski said.

But such a change also would pose challenges for pricing, cost recovery and reliability, he added. He emphasized that both he and his consulting firm remain neutral on the issue and weigh the pros and cons on a case-by-case basis since individual utilities could try to make the case for a DSO within their own service territories.

Former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who now represents clients in a number of emerging energy fields for Stoel Rives law firm including distributed solar PV, proposed such a model, we reported in March (SGT, March-7). Wellinghoff outlined a system on the retail side where state-regulated distribution utilities would continue to own the distribution grid but would transfer operations to independent DSOs akin to the ISO/RTOs on the transmission side.

If these DSOs wanted to be involved in another energy business, they could create a separate division, Rutkowski said. Consumers could choose among different billing and pricing structures and could better control their energy costs. Discussion of such a change is in the early stages, he added, but “there has definitely been a lot of discussion and debate on the topic.”

As pricing and financing costs for solar and other distributed energy drop and prices for energy in some regions rise, more scenarios are arising where such models might make sense, Rutkowski said. “The cost trajectories of a number of these distributed energy technologies are getting to the point that within a number of years, they’re projected to be at grid parity, at which point the economic conditions would exist for customers to capture savings over their current service,” he said.

Since energy prices vary widely from state to state, some areas will have more financial incentives to make changes. For example, residential power is 30¢/KWH in Hawaii compared with 9¢/KWH in Louisiana and Washington, according to July statistics from the US Energy Information Administration. “It’s a region-by-region story in terms of making it work,” Rutkowski said. “States with relatively high retail rates such as Hawaii and California (17¢/KWH) are at or near the tipping point where new technology produces savings for customers,” he said.

“On the other hand, in some regions we already have very low cost energy being delivered to consumers. For example, Idaho has very low electric rates (10¢/KWH for residential customers), and it could take a while before the business case can be made that DER (distributed energy resources) will provide net cost savings to consumers. But there are other benefits to distributed resources such as reliability of supply at home that some consumers might be willing to pay for.”

Proper design of the pricing structure will be important in any regulatory model, he added. “The one thing you hear about the most as it deals with net energy metering for solar PV is, ‘How do we ensure that the costs of the distributed grid are being fairly and appropriately attributed to the customers that incur those costs?’ ” Rutkowski said. “The tensions lie in the possibility that one customer class could be subsidizing another customer class. If those pricing structures are not designed appropriately, ironically, low-income customers could be subsidizing higher income consumers. “It gets very complex. That’s where the devil’s in the details – in the rate design.”

Under the current market design, this issue already came up in Australia, Hawaii, Nevada (SGT, Aug-3) and elsewhere as utilities and PUCs worked on how to fairly price the energy PV customers sell back to the grid (SGT, March-6). System reliability is another concern under a DSO model, he added. “If the market transition isn’t set up right, there could be a risk where electric grid reliability is hurt. “If the utility is in a position where it is not recovering its costs, then it may not be able to make investments to maintain reliability and maintain the system. Without that backbone of reliability, you could have longer and more frequent outages.”

Grid security is another issue that should be considered and included in any plan to set up DSOs, Rutkowski said. With more participants in the market, there is more risk for security incidents, he added.

Another question for consideration is whether utilities themselves could serve as those DSOs or whether the DSOs should be independent. On the pro-utility side, “some utilities would say, ‘We know our distribution grid and we’re in the best position to manage it. We know where investments are needed and where and how third parties can access it.’ “In performing that service [as a DSO], utilities should be able to recover costs,” Rutkowski said. But if utilities served as the DSO, the independence between owning and operating the grid would be lost, he added.

“It has to be a well-planned and well-orchestrated transition. Utilities need to be integrally involved in the process.”