Bullying on the Main Line: Local Experts Reveal the Threat Level

Bullying at school has taken on more sinister dimensions—even on the Main Line. Hence, the surge in anti-bullying education.

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It’s something parents have come to expect when their kids hit middle school—but not kindergarten. When 5-year-old Julia first started at a private all-girls school on the Main Line, she was excited about attending. Soon, though, she was making excuses to stay home, becoming so upset on the morning drive that she’d become physically ill.

Her parents were at a loss. After alerting her teacher and the school, they learned that Julia was being relentlessly teased and excluded from playtime by her fellow kindergarteners. A female classmate was the ring leader, admitting that she was being mean because Julia, an Asian American, “looked different.”

Psychiatrist Taliba M. Foster has treated Julia and others the same age at her private practice in Ardmore. Early on, bullying tactics include everything from name calling to hiding toys. Kids also begin ostracizing others by excluding them from birthday parties and sleepovers. “It’s devastating to a child not to get an invitation when you know the rest of the kids are invited,” says Foster.

Fortunately for Julia, her teacher and school administrators took an active role in the situation, incorporating discussions about people’s differences into lessons and making sure Julia was included in play. Her anxiety lessened, and going to school became a positive experience again.

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