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Pro fighter says don't bully

Tom Murphy, a mixed martial arts fighter turned public speaker, is mobbed by fans at Johnsburg Central after his anti-bullying talk Sept. 23.

Tom Murphy, a mixed martial arts fighter turned public speaker, is mobbed by fans at Johnsburg Central after his anti-bullying talk Sept. 23. Photo by John Grybos.

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Johnsburg Central student Dawson West tries on a silly costume to role-play as a hero in a bullying scenario.

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Students at Johnsburg Central get a turn at shaking hands and posing for photos with pro fighter turned public speaker Tom Murphy.

— It’s not hard to imagine that a mixed martial arts fighter would be an expert on bullying, but Tom Murphy isn’t an authority on the subject from a how-to viewpoint.

“I absolutely despise fighting,” said Murphy.

What he trains for is competition, like chess or hockey, not a battle waged for anger or meanness.

“Nothing breaks my heart like people actually fighting,” he said.

He’s the sort of expert that can rattle off figures and studies word history. He’s something of a bullying specialist.

The number he’s found in his research that matters the most, said Murphy, is how often kids are bullied in front of their peers, who stand by while the abuse happens.

Eighty-five percent of bullying happens with bystanders watching, said Murphy. That means most bullying can be mitigated or stopped if some of those bystanders are willing to step up and be heroes.

“There’s only one Superman and Batman,” said Murphy, but with careful action, anybody can be a hero to a bullying victim.

If someone who’s bullied doesn’t have friends, invite them to hang out with your group. It will give them confidence and social status.

If you see bullying happen in front of you, use your voice to make it known that it’s unacceptable behavior.

Whatever you do, said Murphy, don’t ignore it. One hundred thousand students around the country drop out of school every year because of bullying. The intervention of one other student could make the difference between a high school diploma or another dropout statistic.

Only a third of bullying is physical. Most bullying is verbal and social.

Remember when you’re online that what you type has permanence and resonance, it doesn’t simply disappear, said Murphy. Use care in your thoughts and actions.

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