Podcast: How to Help Teens STOMP Out Bullying
How bullying crashed the Love Our Children USASM website
Back in 1999, Ross Ellis founded Love Our Children USASM, an organization and website created to prevent child abuse and fight all forms of violence against children. The organization went on to become a national nonprofit leader and go-to prevention resource, offering effective parenting solutions to behaviors that keep kids from reaching their full potential.
As the organization grew, Ross became more aware of bullying and cyberbullying because so many concerned adults were asking Love Our Children USASM how they could better understand and eliminate bullying behavior in their schools and communities. That led Ross to research behavior that she herself had endured firsthand when she was a kid. “I had been bullied as a child,” she says, so she knows how the torment feels.
So in an effort to respond to the persistent requests—and to prevent more pain for children and families, one fateful day in 2003 Ross began including information about bullying and cyberbullying on the Love Our Children USASM website.
The response to the bullying content was so overwhelming that a few days later incoming traffic temporarily crashed the site.
STOMP Out Bullying™ is born
Two years later, Ross and her team were struck by how much of the Love Our Children USASM website had become devoted to content about bullying, and so she decided to found the STOMP Out Bullying™ organization and website, which celebrates its 11th birthday this October.
According to the organization, STOMP Out Bullying™ focuses on reducing and preventing bullying, cyberbullying, and other digital abuse; educating against homophobia, racism, and hatred; and deterring violence in schools, online, and in communities across the country. Through online assistance, school visits, social media campaigns, public awareness, and peer mentoring programs, STOMP Out Bullying™ teaches effective solutions on how to respond to all forms of bullying and provides help for children and teens in need and at risk of suicide.
When asked about the main focus of STOMP Out Bullying™, Ross is a bit more philosophical: “Well, you know, the whole thing is [about] being kind. We wanted to teach kids and their peers and the schools that it’s so important to get rid of the homophobia, the racism, the hatred. What's going on in this country today is mind-boggling! We want to educate kids on being kind to one another, being kind online.”
Blue Shirt Day® - World Day of Bullying Prevention™
Back in 2008, in order to raise awareness and create solidarity among those committed to stopping bullying behavior, STOMP Out Bullying™ created Blue Shirt Day®, a World Day of Bullying Prevention™.
“On the first Monday of every October, we ask everyone to go blue, in solidarity, and make that the day that bullying prevention is heard around the world,” explains Ross. “So whether people buy our limited-edition blue shirt or wear their own, we want them to go blue, because it's really the voice of the kids. If they take this day—and they do, they really look forward to it—if they take this day and show everyone, ‘This is for me. This is for us. We don't want this anymore,’ and a lot of kids don't, you know. It's sending a message to everyone, and it's been so popular that it's gone global.”
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
According to a dedicated page on their website, “Every October, schools and organizations across the country join STOMP Out Bullying™ in observing National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal [is to] encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.”
Each week of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month has a particular focus, so schools and their students can structure activities to have more impact and meaning. “We decided to break it down into weeks so schools wouldn't be bombarded with everything, because it is a whole month, and we want them to really be aware that it's important to focus on this. I mean, granted, they have to focus on their education, but it's important to focus on [bullying] during the month of October so the kids really have the activities, they understand them, they have the education about it, and they're aware,” explains Ross.
Ross goes on to give a brief description of each week: “So for instance the first week, Monday October 3rd is Blue Shirt Day® World Day of Bullying Prevention™. The week of October 10th, we want kids to make friends with someone you don't know at school. I mean, imagine that you don't know someone or there's someone new at school who has come in, doesn't know a soul, and feels very isolated. How wonderful if someone, a kid from the school, would say, ‘Hey, come on and have lunch with us,’ or ‘Join us at recess,’ or you know, be a leader. Take action and don't leave anyone isolated.”
The week of October 17 is Stand Up for Others week. Ross says, “If you see someone being bullied, don't just stand there and do nothing, because then you're part of the problem. But if you're an upstander, and you're a leader, and you help the victim to get away from the bully, and even if you feel safe enough to say to the bully, ‘Stop, don't do this,’ you're being part of the solution, you know? So that's so important.”
During the last week (October 24), “students can participate by creating anti-bullying videos and sharing them on our site, creating positive messages with Post-Its and putting them on kids' lockers, [and] creating acts of kindness. That's just so critical. Imagine if every kid did one act of kindness, and paid it forward. I think that would be amazing,” concludes Ross.
Listen to the interview to learn more about the great work going on at STOMP Out Bullying™, including how to be a Teen Ambassador, how to get a STOMP Out Bullying™ Student Participation Toolkit, and why joining the NO MATTER™ campaign shows others that it doesn't matter who they are, what they look like, or what their sexual orientation is—just that they are supported and respected.
Ross Ellis is a national expert in violence against children, bullying and cyberbullying prevention, and school and Internet safety. She has over two decades of experience as a child advocate in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors. In 1999, after a successful career in public relations, she founded Love Our Children USASM, a prevention organization fighting all forms of violence and neglect against children.
In 2005, Ross created STOMP Out Bullying™, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of bullying and cyberbullying for kids and teens. Under Ms. Ellis’ leadership, STOMP Out Bullying™ has helped over 5 million students resolve bullying situations. In 2011, STOMP Out Bullying™ established a HelpChat Line for youths who have been bullied or cyberbullied and are at risk for self-harm. To date, the free and confidential HelpChat Line has assisted over 55,000 students and helped to save many lives.
Ross is a national speaker in these areas and has appeared on ABC Nightline, Inside Edition, MSNBC, CNN Headline News, Fox News, Huffington Post Live, and many other television and radio shows. She has been featured in the Ladies Home Journal, Seventeen Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and numerous other publications.
In 2015, Ross and STOMP Out Bullying™ received the award for “Outstanding Organization” at National Philanthropy Day. In 2013, she received the Longines Town & Country “Women Who Make a Difference for Children” Award. In 2010 she was named as an Architect of Change and pictured on the program cover of the Architects of Change Conference, chaired by the former First Lady of California Maria Shriver. She is named in Marquis Who's Who of American Women. Ross is also an award-winning real estate broker and has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Brokers’ Weekly, and the New York Post. Ms. Ellis resides in Manhattan.