HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's the last day of the year for thousands of public school students, but two girls didn't get to say their goodbyes.
The Aliamanu Intermediate students were suspended Tuesday for fighting - and one of the mothers says this is a "teachable moment" for all parents on how to prevent schoolyard scrapping.
13 year old Shania Kelley was once friends with the girl she's fighting. Recently, things changed. Shania claims she was bullied and challenged to a fight. Shania recalls, "I go, 'You know if my mom finds out about this, she's not going to be happy', and she goes, 'Oh, so what? You're going to tell your mommy?' and her group that she was hanging out with was laughing at me."
It's easy to write this off as "kids will be kids", but bullying and fighting take their toll - oftentimes, leading to self-esteem issues, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide.
Shania's mother, Aisha Frye, gave well-intentioned advice. "I told her don't, don't fight. Turn your back, ignore them always, and be humble. I always say that to her."
But now, child experts are proposing a different tact. "What we're finding more and more is that, it's not okay just to walk away, anymore. Sometimes, it's actually important to be a little bit more pro-active," advises Dr. Roshni Koli, a child psychiatrist at Kapiolani Women and Children's Medical Center.
Dr. Koli suggests using the "Ha, Ha, So" technique. Ask for "help" from parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. "Assert" yourself by telling the bully you don't like the mean-spiritedness. Try "humor" and making a joke about the situation. "Avoid" the mean kids, if possible. "Self" talk - give yourself words of encouragement and a pep talk, and "own" it. "So, if someone says something like, 'Hey, you're wearing this really ugly shirt today'. It's okay for a kid to say, 'You know what? I know it's ugly. My mom made me wear it.'"
The fight happened at a park in the Salt Lake area, and what's just as disturbing is that others stood around recording it on cell phones and posting it to the internet. "I'm surprised nobody ever stopped us," says Shania.
The parents of both girls had an amicable meeting Thursday and worked things out. Shania's mom says the video is hard to watch but a lesson for every parent and child.
Doctor Koli notes some warning signs for victims of bullying: frequent headaches and stomachaches, avoiding school, a decline in grades, loss of friends, isolation, depression, and injuries. And, she says, bullies can also exhibit a few of those same behaviors.