Nine-year old Hawaii girl who gained fame for standing up to bully is ready to address the problem nationally
MAUI, Hawaii – Nine-year-old Eileen Parkman refused to back down to the bullies at her former school, and it cost her a great deal of pain and suffering.
But Parkman refuses to let the negative experience dissuade her. She’s busy dreaming up ways to take a stand against bullies throughout the nation.
Earlier this year, Parkman, then a student at Kamali’i Elementary School in Hawaii, overheard a group of 5th-grade boys abusing an autistic child, who was lying in the fetal position.
Having been at the school for only a few months, Eileen was shocked at what she was witnessing and confronted the bullies, politely asking them to stop.
“This group of boys was beating up this boy with autism and I knew it was wrong so I told them to stop it,” Eileen says.
“Eileen just decided enough was enough and stepped up to do the right thing,” her father, Sean Parkman, tells EAGnews.
Unfortunately the bullies reacted by making Eileen their new target.
The group of boys began to swear at her and “say mean things,” according to Sean Parkman. He also said they pushed her to the ground and “roughed her up.”
As the weeks progressed, Eileen continued to be bullied by other students and abused by school administrators, according to her father.
Sean Parkman says the principal confronted Eileen in front of her peers and accused her of lying about the entire incident. He also said administrators threatened to report him to Child Protective Services if he withdrew his daughter from the school.
Eventually Parkman was able to remove Eileen from the elementary school for her own safety.
But the damage had already been done. Eileen continues to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms on a daily basis, according to her father.
She also continues to have constant night terrors about the bullying episodes. Her father claims that anytime she sees a group of boys together, she will turn and walk in the opposite direction.
After all of the negativity she’s endured, it was refreshing when someone finally took notice of her good deed.
The Maui Autism Center presented her with a medal for bravery. The founder of the center, Howard Greenberg, called her a “hero” and commended her for standing up against the bullies.
An activist is born
After everything that’s happened, one might expect Eileen to take the summer to rest and recuperate. But one recent morning she approached her father about a dream she had.
She told her father, “Daddy there should be a team put together so no more children have to go through what I went through if they are bullied.”
That provided the inspiration for a nationwide anti-bullying campaign.
Eileen’s dream is to establish ‘So That Children May Thrive’ (STCMT) rapid response teams in communities throughout the nation.
The proposed teams would consist of various professionals such as teachers, police officers, psychologists, special education teachers, behavioral specialists, principals, child protective service agents and doctors.
The plan would be to dispatch each of these teams to schools in their respective districts.
The teams would react to all events involving bullying, suicides, cyber bullying, fights and any threats that would affect students or teachers. The hope is that within 24 hours of an incident occurring, a meeting would take place with the team, the students involved, the parents and the principal of the school.
Parkman claims that this 24-hour period is crucial to keep situations from getting out of hand.
“This is important because of what happened to my daughter. Her experience was spread over many months and the situation steadily got worse,” he says.
The team would also be responsible for educating and informing others on the proper ways to handle bullying situations, through programs and school assemblies.
Eileen hopes to get the program started by making speaking appearances and sharing her story.
The concept Parkman wants students to grasp is that, “if they see someone being bullied they should help that person or go and get help to stop it and have the faculty that will step up to the plate and do something about it.”
In Eileen’s situation, Parkman claims that “school officials decided it would be best for [the school] if this event never happened, so they continue to try and cover it up to this day.”
He believes that the teachers and the administrators at Eileen’s former school have “lost their way” when it comes to dealing with bullies.
“From my perspective they did not care about the safety or welfare of my daughter,” says Parkman.
“We need to be our brother’s keeper and do what Eileen did,” he says. “Children and adults need to stand up to bullies everywhere.
“We need to change our group mentality and stand up and defend each other.”
The root of the problem
What shocked Parkman was that bullying occurs so frequently in elementary schools and how it negatively impacts very young students.
“Right now I think it is important to acknowledge that we have a serious problem and for the media to show the public that bullying is a real problem in our public schools. Until we acknowledge there is a problem and shine a light on that problem we will not be able to fix it,” says Parkman.
The hope is that the rapid response team would be able to resolve the root issues behind bullying at a young age and prevent it from spreading into middle and high school.
Parkman believes that bullies are crying out for help. Ideally a STCMT rapid response team would be there to help them learn better coping skills and improve their behavior.
According to Parkman, much of the responsibility for bullying can be traced back to tough home situations. Many times, he believes, bullies are a product of violence in the home that they then bring to school.
“I think there are many kids who are not getting the love and care they require from home that come to school angry and unloved. I also feel the schools do not know how to deal with the problem, so often they try to cover it up, which only makes the situation worse,” says Parkman.
Eileen and her father firmly believe they can make a difference through her program. They believe that the sooner this program can be implemented in schools around the nation, the more likely bullying related tragedies can be avoided.
A plan of the future
So far, Eileen’s plan has gained the support from several congressmen, various city council members, the mayor of Maui, and the Maui Police Department.
Yet, Eileen has aspirations for much higher support.
With help from her father, Eileen has written a letter addressed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They both hope President Obama and his wife will voice support behind Eileen’s dream for a STCMT team in every school district.
In the letter, Eileen laid out her proposal for her “dream team” and urged the President to help them save children from abuse and bullying.
“The children need your help Mr. President, this is our future and it is time to make a change,” Eileen wrote.
The two have been working with several groups to take their idea to the next level. Fundraisers are being planned and corporate sponsors are being lined up.
The Parkmans would also like to secure a government grant to fund their program.
Sean Parkman says that he has been contacted by people all over the world who want to lend their assistance to the fight against bullying.
Eileen is committed to standing up against bullying and making a change for the better. The “So That Children May Thrive” team is her way of turning her negative experience into something positive for children across the nation.
By Trevor TenBrink at EAGnews.org