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Bullying is Topic of Santa Monica Lecture

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jorge Casuso

February 13, 2013 – Fighting bullying in school is no easy task, since bullies are highly popular not only among students but also among teachers, according to the groundbreaking research conducted by UCLA Psychology Professor Jaana Juvonen.

Juvonen will share her findings at a lecture and audience discussion about the power of bullying and the plight of the victim next Tuesday at the Santa Monica Main Library.

"Bullying is not a problem of specific individuals,” Juvonen said during a lecture at the UCLA Faculty Center last year. “Bullying is a collective problem. We need to address the social dynamics.

“Bullies can stop being bullies, and victims can stop being victims," Juvonen said. "What we’ve learned is that these are temporary social roles, not permanent personality characteristics."

Juvonen’s research involved asking some 2,000 sixth graders from diverse backgrounds, as well as their teachers, to anonymously identify the bullies and victims. They also asked them to separately identify the most popular and least popular kids.

The research found that "bullies are, by far, the coolest kids," Juvonen said. "And the victims, in turn, are very uncool."

Tuesday’s lecture, titled the Power of Bullying, is tied to Santa Monica Reads, the city’s eleventh annual community reading program, which encourages residents to read and discuss the same novel. 

This year’s featured book -- the critically-acclaimed novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio -- “touches on the theme of bullying and advocates kindness and compassion in our treatment of others,” library officials said.

Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy born with a facial deformity that required so many surgeries he was home schooled until he entered the fifth grade and has to cope with his classmates’ reactions.

"I won't describe what I look like,” August narrates in the book. “Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.”

The novel tackles head on how adults often view the issue of bullying, the author said.

“Deep down inside, we’re so grateful that it’s not our kid who’s being picked on we look the other way when it’s someone else’s kid,” Palacio said in an interview posted on her website.

“But parents have to resist that way of thinking,” she added. “They need to remind their kids to be kind and do right exactly because it’s the hardest thing to do at that age.”

For more information on Santa Monica Reads 2013, visit: http://smpl.org/Wonder2013.aspx.

Juvonen’s lecture and audience discussion will be held Tuesday, February 19 at 7 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.

This program is presented free to the public and is open to all ages. Seating is limited and on a first arrival basis.

The Santa Monica Public Library is wheelchair accessible. For special disabled services, call Library Administration at (310) 458-8606 at least one week prior to event. The Main Library is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Ride your bike. Bicycle parking racks are available at the library.

For more information on Santa Monica Public Library programs, visit smpl.org or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.


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