SALEM, Va.—Kids skip school for many reasons. Sometimes they forget to do their homework, or they don't like what they have to wear. The fear of bullying is one of the most upsetting reasons for truancy.
A self-defense instructor in Salem helps put those fears to rest by teaching kids to fight back against bullies without violence.
An encounter with a bully is just a training exercise for Taylor Lloyd. She's only in kindergarten, but Taylor says she's already had a brush with a REAL bully.
"They boss me around and say mean stuff to me,” Taylor said.
Tom Ramsey teaches self defense classes, and started a bully boot camp two years ago.
“When I found out that 160,000 children stay home from school every day, that's when it kind of like clicked, I've got to do something about this. This is ridiculous that they stay home from school because they're afraid of being bullied," Ramsey said.
As we become more aware of bullying, enrollment at the camp is growing. Ramsey says it's important to learn the difference between bullying and teasing. Bullying is intentionally trying to harm someone.
“Teasing on the other hand, like we grew up with, is really done in a more playful atmosphere, playful behavior between consenting or mutually agreed upon individuals where they're just more poking fun at one another,” Ramsey said.
Students learn that bullies tend to go after kids that they perceive as equal to or less than themselves. The trick is to use non-violent tactics to stop them.
“If a bully picks on someone and that person stands up to them, usually the bully will back away and back down,” Ramsey said.
Scenarios like these help teach kids non-violent conflict resolution skills. Campers are already coming away with tools they can use if they find themselves in a scary situation.
“Use your voice. Keep your hands like this. And if they get too close, say Stop!” Second grader Brady Clark said.
Just a few simple, yet strong techiques that can keep your child from becoming a victim.
Tom Ramsey says he's heard from several former campers who say that the techniques worked for them.
Bully Boot Camp is designed for children ages six through 12. The class costs $30 per student.
You can read more about the program Ramsey uses, Stop Bullies FAST, by clicking here.