Westside Activist May Pon-Barry passes

Local San Francisco realtor John Barry was very sad to tell the Westside Observer that his wife of 45 years died after a long battle with cancer.

“It hurts me to have to share this news,” Barry said. He referred to their time together as a 45-year adventure of “Gaudeamus Igitur” (a life of rejoicing in accomplishments large and small). Barry continued adding, “May died at sunrise on Sunday, Mother’s Day. She was at home, looking out the bedroom window at the Golden Gate Bridge.”

A memorial was held on Thursday afternoon May 23, 2019 at the Foresthill Clubhouse for May Pon Barry.For decades The Barry-Pon family have contributed continuously to local SF causes and projects.

Because of that tremendous effort, Barry said. “The City turned to the local trash companies, then called Sunset Scavenger or Golden Gate Disposal, to reform, and over time evolve into what is now called Recology.”

Staunch members of SHARP – The Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People – and other San Francisco neighborhood groups, John and May Barry helped many people and organizations in various ways, but especially here “out in the Avenues, whether it was near Golden Gate Park or way out to Ocean Beach.” May and John were always committed to making the local districts a good and stable place to live, and that included families.

“May was actually quite extraordinary, said Barry. She was a private person with a public purpose. She was always organizing community events and projects; such as establishing the SF recycling centers network, under the auspices of REA, Richmond Environment Action, at University of San Francisco,” he added.

Recollecting further, Barry said, “In 1970, when she was 23 years old - along with a few others, May rallied for the cause. REA operated on the USF campus until 1996, when the university needed to reclaim its generously-donated Anza and Collins parking lot to build teacher housing.”

Barry noted. “REA was inspired by the first Earth Day, and was to get San Francisco to have a comprehensive, citywide recycling system. That was back in the days more than 40 years ago when, if you called City Hall and asked a clerk ‘where’s the nearest Recycling Center?’ The answer was, ‘honest to God! What’s a Recycling Center?”

“REA got a network of 12 Community-based, neighborhood Recycle Centers up and running, and caused SF to cancel its plans to spend $500,000,000 on a mammoth garbage incinerator.”

Because of that tremendous effort, Barry said. “The City turned to the local trash companies, then called Sunset Scavenger or Golden Gate Disposal, to reform, and over time evolve into what is now called Recology. The current city-wide system of ‘source separated’ and a three-cart bin system is what REA finally proposed to Supervisor Angela Alioto and city officials to create the SF Environment Commission.”

Despite the ongoing struggle with a stage 4 cancer condition, May continued to work. She was an Enrolled Tax Agent, and a highly skilled tax specialist that many CPA’s would turn to for help. May’s tenure at M-Butterfield, Brown & Associates earned her respect, admiration, and influence in the business community near and far.

She served as principal and president of M-Butterfield, as well as holding other leadership positions with various organizations and associations. May served eight years on the Board of Directors of the SF chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). During that time she also served as NAWBO chapter president. Through NAWBO (and other groups) she was able to participate in charitable outreach efforts, as well as promote educational and career opportunities for women.

May Pon Barry, an alumni of Galileo High School, is survived by husband John Barry, daughters Louise Pon-Barry (with son-in-law Derek), Heather Pon Barry (with son-in-law Brendan), granddaughter Sierra Madison Cienfuegos, and a grandson Thomas Chua Pon-O’Connor.

Jonathan Farrell contributed this report.

JUNE 2019

25 Years Later:

Alioto's Landmark Anti-smoking Laws

Former Board President Angela Alioto Shares Lasting Memories

It was 1991, and for the first time in a long time, Angela Alioto turned to her legislative aide and said "go get me a smoke." She had just lost the legislation to ban indoor smoking and, after being smoke-free for 11 years, that day's setback only fueled her flame.

She thought of ways to stop the tobacco industry from permeating their injustices onto San Francisco's youth. Tobacco advertisements and vending machines were near schools, ballparks, corner stores, and other establishments where children frequented. She knew that preventing illness due to tobacco meant more than just a ban on smoking inside the workplace.

"Childhood is when you addict them," Alioto says of the tobacco industry. "You wouldn't believe how they intentionally hooked third-year and fourth-year high school students and minority communities."

Former mayor Willie Brown, who was then speaker of the Assembly, had sat down in a Sacramento restaurant with some tobacco industry honchos. There they drafted a section of the Willie L. Brown-Bill Lockyer Civil Liability Reform Act of 1987 on a napkin, which became the 1987 "Napkin Law," prohibiting Californians from suing the tobacco industry.”

Alioto was determined to stop the tobacco industry from preying. But as she wrote her legislation for the City to sue the tobacco industry, she found that the industry and an influential political figure were clouding her vision.

Former mayor Willie Brown, who was then speaker of the Assembly, had sat down in a Sacramento restaurant with some tobacco industry honchos. There they drafted a section of the Willie L. Brown-Bill Lockyer Civil Liability Reform Act of 1987 on a napkin, which became the 1987 "Napkin Law," prohibiting Californians from suing the tobacco industry.

The Napkin Section states that anyone who uses a product that is "known to be unsafe by the ordinary consumer" is forbidden by law to sue on the grounds of product liability. California law forbids any consumer from suing the industry for selling an unsafe product.

As Board supervisor, Alioto worked her way from the inside out, starting with a ban on cigarette machines near schools, eventually banning them in bars. She passed ordinances to eliminate tobacco advertising and commercials near schools, basketball courts, libraries or educational institutions where children frequented.

She and her team went after Joe Camel and the eye-level ad campaigns targeted at children. Studies showed that by age six, nearly as many children could name Joe Camel, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company cartoon creation in the 1980s, in association with cigarettes as they could name Mickey Mouse in association with Disney.

She also passed legislation banning self-service cigarette displays. Of all the passed initiatives, Alioto calls the 1993 verdict to ban indoor smoking "the big one."

However, her victory came at a cost and she says some friends turned their backs on her.

"People would be outside their offices smoking and I'd have to cross the street because if I walked in front of them they would call me names and throw things. They were livid with me."

Restaurant owners feared a loss in revenue with the indoor-smoking ban, but statistics proved otherwise. Restaurant sales improved by 22 percent after the ban because people who avoided smoke were now dining out.

Now, nearly 25 years after her victory over the tobacco industry in San Francisco, there's a newly proposed cigarette ban that could go up in smoke: a proposition to halt sales of menthol and flavored tobacco.

Funded almost entirely by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Let's Be Real San Francisco is a committee that includes the Arab American Grocers Association, a number of vaping outlets and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. CBS Local reports that the committee collected $600,000 in cash contributions and $85,170 in non-monetary contributions this year as of July 31, according to filings with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Let's Be Real San Francisco submitted just under 20,000 verified signatures, qualifying for a measure on the ballot that would repeal the ban on flavored tobacco products, an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, according to the city's Department of Elections.

"I'm against all cigarettes, but you can't ban the product," says Alioto. "You can decrease its demand, which is what we did to the point where these turkeys are adding strawberry and cherry [flavors] to their cigarettes."

Alioto has advice for the Board of Supervisors as they prepare to butt-out Big Tobacco. "Prove that it's their way to hook kids by making them think it's kinder and gentler than a Camel or Marlboro. Make it as malicious as it truly is. Why did they do these flavors? The statistics are teenagers. You're not going to get a 55 year old addicted, but if you get them addicted young, they'll smoke until they're 55."

She adds that the amount of new cigarettes on the market stunned her.

"The flavoring is a reaction to our ban," she adds. "It's a way to make [smoking] look fun, almost like it's candy, to get [kids] addicted. It's an uphill deal, but you know that's what it is."

Tony Taylor is a local reporter.

September 2017

8th Annual Celebration

December 2015

Business Corner

Sold on PlayhavenSF

A very new and promising indoor children play space and learning center is now available to parents seeking a fun and educational experience for their kids, aptly called playhavensf. It recently opened its doors for the first time early in October in the Forest Hill area and is a great alternative for parents here in the City.

… at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.”

play haven interiorPlayhavensf was created by San Francisco resident Sheryl Tecson, a preschool teacher with 12 years experience and a mother of two daughters of her own. Playhavensf is also co-owned and operated by her husband, Daniel, who tells me that he handles more of the marketing stuff for the business. They told us at the Westside Observer that they have dreamed of opening a children’s learning center to create a gathering place for families where children’s open-ended play is valued. They will provide a variety of children’s enrichment classes, and even a separate workspace and lounge for the parents to relax and enjoy some free time together. Since opening their doors they have been constantly retooling to meet the needs of families. Their continual efforts and hard work have not gone unnoticed by the families, who have responded with an outpouring of appreciation and support which encourages them even further. Their dedication is repaid when families tend to linger around together with happy smiles well beyond closing time.play haven interior

In order for all of this to become reality, they realized that they needed an environment that inspires youthful imagination, along with extended playtime to give the kids a carefree childhood experience. So when they were searching for a good location and found this secluded area in the Forest Hill neighborhood, they felt it was a perfect fit for fulfilling this dream. Once they saw the play area in the back of the site, Daniel mentioned to Sheryl that it resembles a “haven” hidden within this concrete jungle of a city. Hence, the moniker ‘Playhavensf’ was born.

Their website, playhavensf.com, gives you some more details and general information about their location and services, as well as descriptions of the physical activities, staff, academics, and even a daily schedule. They have an art studio, sensory activities, imaginative games, dramatic play areas, and even a rock-climbing wall. playhavensf will also have a fully-equipped kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, toaster oven, tea and coffee.

And, of course, there are always the costs to think about. Playhavensf has daily rates of $12.00 and unlimited monthly memberships for $79.00. Compare that with other learning centers like Kumon, which charges something over $100.00 for a monthly membership. Aside from all the activities they provide for the family, playhavensf will also have free WIFI throughout the center, and even has a private party room which can accommodate up to 35 people for special occasions. In another area of the learning center, they will also feature an outdoor patio for the kids and parents to cool off from all the creative adrenaline and mental gymnastics.

play haven schoolSo for parents who are interested, Playhavensf is centrally located at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.

Playhavensf owners, Sheryl & Daniel Tecson, have embarked on a very idealistic approach that seems to resonate with their many clients. They seem to be very genuine with their passion and they are certainly motivated for all the right reasons. They have spent a considerable amount of personal time and resources to build a nice foundation to start a dream from scratch and I am really excited to see them succeed with playhavensf in the near future.

Henry Wong is a freelance reporter and a father living on the Westside.

November 2015

Swingout or Breakaway—the Lindy is Back!

lindy dancers in Golden Gate Park
Photos: Nenita Quijano

As a lifelong San Franciscan I am very fond of the many different things to do around just about any corner in this lively city, whether it’s eating, sightseeing, shopping or just people watching.

Living just a block from the Golden Gate Park, it had become a routine for me and my two daughters to ride our bikes every Saturday morning along JFK Boulevard. Sundays were usually reserved for Penny’s swim classes and Chloe’s soccer games. But recently the schedules changed and our bike routine switched to Sunday mornings instead. As it turned out, this change was ideal for us since many of the streets are closed in the park to traffic on Sundays, allowing people to go everywhere safely, walking, talking and enjoying all the sights.

…in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head…”

On one particular beautiful Sunday riding through the park we suddenly hear the sound of laughter and music drifting among the trees. The sound blends together with the carefree setting so naturally that it draws us closer to investigate. Just down the road heading west from the entrance to the Academy of Sciences we see a group of about 80 people twirling, swinging and bouncing to the rhythm of the music playing from the nearby loud speakers. Many of the dancers are holding hands with their feet tapping and arms swinging in tune with one another, while others were content to dance with no one in particular. The scene is complete with spectators, watching and commenting among a growing crowd of visitors and local residents. Lindy in the Park

I pull up closer to watch with both my girls and we are amazed at the excitement and apparent joy of the dancers as they skipped along with the beat. The dancers were a mix of young and the not so young. Although some dancers were obviously more skilled than others, they were all definitely having a great time, and to my untrained eyes somehow able to coexist in a choreographed type of confusion. I have seen many different things in San Francisco, but this was the first time I had witnessed Lindy in the Park.More Lindy in the Park

According to their website, Lindy in the Park (LitP) was started in August of 1996 by Chad Kubo and Ken Watanabe, and is the longest running swing dance venue in San Francisco having recently celebrated their 19th year running on April 27, 2015. They are a group of volunteers that host free outdoor swing dance every Sunday 11:00am-2:00pm, and even have free beginner lessons that start at 12 pm-12:30 pm taught by LitP member Hep Jen. The schedule seems to be the only rule, and the only exception to that rule is rain or inclement weather. LitP is inspired by an amazingly energetic dance called Lindy Hop, an American dance that originated in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and was heavily influenced by the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy Hop is sometimes referred to as a street dance, referring to its improvisational and social nature.

The music is very catchy and in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head, so lost in the camaraderie and excitement that I almost forgot to get the girls home in time for lunch. In a city with so much to discover it was a delight to come across Lindy in the Park, which evokes a different time and era, yet is obviously still very relevant to many that appreciate it today. Since that Sunday we always try to find time during our bike rides to stop by Lindy in the Park to take in the spectacle of inspiration that seems to materialize from out of nowhere to capture our attention and imagination.

And for those that can’t get enough, there is even Lindy on Thursday nights at the 920 Special; Tuesdays at Swing Central (with a live band); Friday Swing & Lindy Hop Classes at UCSF Millberry Center with Hep Jen; and with LitP co-founder Chad Kubo on Saturdays at the Doghouse.

Henry Wong is a life-long San Franciscan living on the Westside.

June 2015

After 30 Years Leading CCSF Journalism Department, ‘Not Over Yet’ for Juan GonzalesJuan Gonzales

Journalists, local newspaper publishers, instructors and students gathered on March 20 at Randy’s Place in the Ingleside to honor Juan Gonzales for his 30 years as a faculty and chair of City College of San Francisco’s Department of Journalism.

The mix of former and current students and colleagues attested to his dedication as they mingled, shot pool and enjoyed spaghetti and drinks in the cozy neighborhood bar.

“What Juan does, it’s not an institution, it’s a community,” said Ingleside-Excelsior Light publisher, journalist and U.C. Berkeley graduate student Alexander Mullaney, who credits Juan for directing him toward the field as a freshman.

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of City College itself and its bi-monthly, student-run paper, The Guardsman, to which Gonzales serves as advisor.

One of the oldest community college newspapers in the country, the publication’s mix of local and college-wide news coverage regularly wins top honors—along with the department’s magazine, Etc.—at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges state convention.

For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly.”

“Juan emphasized the importance of learning by doing, holding us to a high standard but also encouraging our independence,” said former student Jennifer Balderama-McDonald, today a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor who once served as book editor for The New York Times.Guests at Juan's reception

“Because I had an interest in editing, Juan pushed me in that direction, and his crucial nudge set me on a path that led from an internship with the Dow Jones News Fund to, seven years later, a job at The New York Times.”

A community focus has always been part of Gonzales’ work at the journalism department.

El Tecolote, the Mission-based bilingual newspaper Gonzales founded in 1970, will celebrate its 45th year this August, and many of his students gain experience through it or other San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association publications.

“For 31 years, we got some of our best interns and reporters from City College,” said former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor-in-chief Tim Redmond of his days at the now-departed weekly. Today, Redmond runs online newspaper 48 hills—which has also published student articles—and guest lectures at the school in an investigative reporting class.

Dan Verel, another former City College journalism student and now a health writer at MedCity News, agreed that the department’s high standards set him up for success after transferring to San Francisco State University in his mid-twenties.

“We were far ahead of other students,” Verel said. “I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but he was kind of a savior.”

Today, Verel said his old friends from the department are all working in the field, a journey that began with Gonzales and fellow instructors Jon Rochmis and Tom Graham.

A longtime advocate for San Francisco’s Latino community, Gonzales is a board member of the non-profit Accion Latina that provides educational and cultural services. He’s received a “Heroes of Excellence” award from KGO-TV and a “Distinguished Service Award” from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Gonzales has no plans to retire, and said he would continue to work as long as he felt he was “helping folks move on and achieve their goals.”

“It’s been a fun ride,” Gonzales told the crowd after being presented a Certificate of Honor from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “It’s not over yet.”

April 2015

SF Girl Scouts Lead Thousands In
“Mismatched Sock”San Francisco Brownie Troop

Anti-Bullying March At West Portal And Miraloma Schools

A half dozen Girl Scouts in San Francisco rallied 2,495 supporters to close out National Bullying Prevention Month on the right foot.

Members of Brownie Troop 61907, who meet in West Portal and attend school there, as well as in the Inner Sunset, Mission, and Miraloma Park neighborhoods, localized the national Million Misfit Sock March for the second year in a row. The annual march is a demonstration against bullying and a celebration of differences, symbolized by participants wearing mismatched socks.

Inspired by this movement, these third grade girls decided to make their troop slogan “It’s OK to be different.”

Inspired by this movement, these third grade girls decided to make their troop slogan “It’s OK to be different.”

Troop Leader Mimi Jiggens says she’s proud of how well the girls mobilized the October 24 demonstrations at West Portal and Miraloma elementary schools.

“One of the girls said to me, ‘a friend told me they don’t like to wear mismatched socks so I said that that was okay, too, since they were being different in their own way,’” Jiggens recalled.

While millions participated in the virtual march worldwide, West Portal Elementary School’s entire student body physically marched together thanks to the troop’s efforts. In addition, two of the Girl Scouts who attend Miraloma Elementary School composed a song about the march and performed it for students and parents at that school the day before.

December 2014

Sons in Retirement

Retirement, the Good Life, Right?

So many men, after working many decades, look forward to retirement away from the pressures and rigor of work. Often times they find it may not be what they had envisioned. When projects they planned to do are usually at an end six months later, they become bored and don’t know what to do next. Statistically, women live 3-5 years longer, in part because they are more sociable which helps them deal with any aggression or withdrawal. Developing friendships brings comfort that mitigates stress. Men don’t garner friendships as much as women, and spend too much time watching the game, maybe golfing, and frequenting the watering hole.

Enter SIR

The SIR organization was born with Damian Reynolds and his idea of organizing a group of retired male friends to meet monthly for lunch. Sons in Retirement (SIR) was incorporated in 1959 in San Mateo. Today SIR has 18,000 members in 150 branches covering Northern California. The basic rules are simple:

A luncheon club of retired men from gainful employment.

No dues, initiation fees.

The organization espouses no political party, religion or sect.

Eligible men will be invited to join after attending a lunch meeting.

Each branch will have a monthly lunch and a guest speaker

SIR is a non-profit corporation and is open to retired or semi-retired men regardless of race, age, color or religion.

We don’t raise money. We don’t have a political agenda. We don’t have a religious orientation. We don’t sell light bulbs or anything else. We don’t have dues as voluntary member contributions keep us going. We don’t have a problem with organizations that do these things; it’s just that we don’t. You’ve paid your dues to the working world - it’s time to enjoy life.

Local Branch 4

A local San Francisco/Peninsula branch meets at the Elks Lodge in South City the first Wednesday of the month and starts with a social hour at 11:00am and lunch at 12:00. Cost of lunch is $15 currently. Guest speakers present a variety of subjects. Additionally we schedule a monthly local tour. Past examples are the SS Jeremiah O’Brien Liberty Ship and Anchor Steam Beer tour. Additionally we offer monthly recurring activities like golf, bocce ball, bowling, pinochle, computer club and wine tasting. Other local branches engage in other activities you can join like amateur radio, tennis, fishing, etc. Additionally fellow SIR organizations sponsor cruises and other trips out of state. Branch 4 is very active with a membership of about 200 members.


Paul Rosenberg is a history buff that after joining found likeminded history enthusiasts and renewed old acquaintances. Ken Reed enjoyed running and now enjoys long walks, and golf. After he joined, he started a monthly Walk for Health on the streets of San Francisco.

Ken is also our recruitment chair and by way of this article welcomes you to call him to answer questions about SIR. For more information call Ken at 415 810-3832 or our Membership Chair and South City resident, Bill Gipe at 650 878-5746. Our web site is HERE

November 2012

The Bullying Epidemic—Why PARENTS Have to Take the Leadbullying violence

Every few months, it seems, there's another headline about the death of a child or teen as the result of bullying. That's terrifying, and it's also unacceptable. To some extent we expect to hear about economic woes, political strife, and natural disasters. We don't expect to hear about the premature (and preventable) deaths of our young people. And we shouldn't have to. According to Todd Patkin, it's past time for America to realize that bullying is "the" problem of our day, and for parents and educators to lead the revolution on stopping this dangerous behavior.

If you're skeptical, consider the following statistics from www.bullyingstatistics.org:

• Almost 30 percent of young people participate in bullying behaviors or are bullying victims.

• Every day, around 160,000 students do not attend school because they are afraid of being bullied.

• Young people who have been bullied are two to nine times likelier than their nonbullied peers to consider suicide.

Perhaps most concerning of all, a 2009 study indicated that every half hour, a child commits suicide because he or she has been bullied. And that trend is on the rise.

"To put it bluntly, what we're doing to combat bullying clearly isn't working," says Patkin, author of the new book Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95, www.findinghappinessthebook.com). "Suicides are still happening, and that's not even mentioning the thousands of kids whose lives are destroyed or diminished—but not ended—by bullying."

social bullying girlsYes, bullying is a big problem.

Patkin knows from personal experience just how devastating bullying can be. Being the target of several tormenters filled his high school years with much anxiety, and the effects of being bullied lasted into his adulthood.

"My tormenters verbally abused me, and they would also push me around and knock my books or drinks out of my hands," Patkin recalls. "They caused me to often dread coming to school or attending social functions. My confidence and self-esteem took a huge hit. And looking back, I believe that the negative self-image bullying cultivated lasted well into my adult years and contributed to the anxiety and depression from which I suffered."

Patkin isn't alone. In fact, research has shown that the fear, social anxiety, shame, low self-esteem, and anger that bullying causes can rear their heads throughout adulthood, often at crucial moments, causing individuals who were once bullied to stick with "easy," "safe," or "defensive" choices instead of those that might prove most beneficial. There are definitive links between childhood bullying and adult depression. Being bullied can also lead to anger management problems and aggression in adulthood.

"The importance of combating and preventing bullying should be obvious," Patkin states. "By preventing a young person from being bullied, we may be freeing him or her from a lifetime of feeling inadequate and being haunted by horrible memories. We may even be saving a life."

So, why isn't the current approach working?

Yes, bullying has gotten a lot of media attention, and as a result, schools and communities are providing more and more resources for bullied kids. They're encouraging victims to reach out for help, and they're also instituting zero-tolerance policies aimed at the bullies themselves. But too many victims are still slipping through the cracks. Why? According to Patkin, we're putting too much responsibility on the young people we're trying to protect.

"Schools put out a lot of rhetoric on dealing with and preventing bullying, but the problem is still rampant," he points out. "That's because our current approach revolves around requiring kids to tell on each other—and it's not as effective as we hoped. For several reasons, young people just aren't reporting the bullies."

First of all, kids who are being bullied often lack the self-esteem and confidence to stand up for themselves and let adults know what's happening. They also worry that turning a tormentor in will make them new targets, or intensify the former level of bullying.

"I certainly didn't ask teachers or my parents for any help when I was in high school because I was so ashamed of my weakness in dealing with my bullies," Patkin admits. "Also, I was afraid that if my teachers or parents stepped in, their interference would just make my tormenters focus their efforts on me more. I'd be even more on the outside because I'd ratted out my peers."

Patkin believes that many young people today feel just as powerless to speak up and "out" bullies—and he also points out that repercussions for them could be worse than those he might have faced due to cyberbullying. In other words, today's bullies aren't forced to stop once the school bell rings—their vicious and hurtful behavior can continue 24/7 thanks to social media sites, texting, and emails.

"How much longer are we going to let this problem go on?" Patkin asks. "Are we going to continue to allow more kids to become victims because, like I was, they're too scared to speak up? Not on my watch!"

Here's what our goal should be.

"We need to spark a culture-wide revolution to make bullying uncool—in fact, unacceptable!" Patkin insists. "There needs to be a palpable stigma attached to tormenting and belittling another person in this way."

Patkin compares the bullying problem to drunk driving. Once upon a time, getting behind the wheel after a few alcoholic beverages was fairly common and casual, and was not seen as "that big of a deal"—just as, until recently, bullying was seen as "a part of kids growing up."

Then an organization called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) took up the cause and dramatically changed the way in which Americans viewed drunk driving. Through publicity campaigns and a grassroots movement, MADD caused the public to view driving while intoxicated as something that is reprehensible, irresponsible, dangerous, and even criminal. MADD's efforts also helped to enact stronger penalties against drunk drivers.

"Similarly, bullies need to lose the 'cool' image that comes with being at the top of the social pecking order," Patkin says. "The public—adults and kids alike—needs to view bullying as something that brands you with a modern-day scarlet letter. Our current zero-tolerance policies are a good start, but we need to add another prong to our anti-bullying approach. In short, parents have to lead the way (along with other students) to say that we are no longer going to accept this behavior. It has to start in your house."

What can parents do to change things?

"We as parents need to be more proactive in raising kids who are not bullies," Patkin says. "If young people see bullying as something to avoid at all costs—something that they don't want to participate in or allow to happen—we'll be directly attacking the problem instead of treating the symptoms. Over time, this attitude will spread and will hopefully become just as ingrained in the public psyche as our negative views on drunk driving. The best news is, getting started is pretty simple."

First, have the bullying talk. Talk to your kids about bullying, just as you would have the drug talk or the drunk driving talk. Most parents don't directly address this topic, perhaps because nobody ever thinks it's their kids. (Admit it; you've thought something along the lines of, My child would never make fun of someone just to be mean.) And as a result, many kids don't have a full understanding of how serious bullying and its effects can be. It's important to be specific in defining what bullying is (make sure your child knows that it can include physical abuse, verbal taunting, online harassment, or even passing on a hurtful message or rumor), and to explain just how damaging certain words and actions can be to others—even if your child didn't "mean" them or think they would have a lasting impact.

"You should also make a point to explain that when someone commits suicide because of bullying, many lives are ruined," Patkin suggests. "As a parent, you don't want a young person's death on your head, or on that of your child."

Patkin is also adamant that if your child is caught bullying, you must take it very, very seriously. If you caught your child lying or stealing, you'd come down hard, right? You definitely wouldn't brush off the behavior as "just a stage." You'd do whatever was necessary to nip it in the bud. Treat bullying the same way.

"I'm not here to tell you how to punish your child—consequences are your family's business," Patkin clarifies. "Just make sure that your child knows that bullying behaviors are not okay in your family. Talk to him about why he reacted the way he did, why it was wrong, and how he can better respond in the future." Note to Editor: See accompanying tipsheet for more strategies on how to squelch bullying.

"Ultimately, this is one social change that will happen because ordinary parents are purposeful in how they're raising their children," Patkin concludes. "In the past, bullies have been seen as 'cool'—they've even been glamorized in popular culture thanks to movies like Mean Girls. We have the power and responsibility to change this view, now that we fully understand the thousands of lives that bullying affects every day. And that change must start now."

Anti-Bullying 101: 14 Strategies to Squelch Bullying Tendencies in Your Children

One of the best ways to prevent bullying is to raise kids who don't participate in or tolerate the behavior. According to Todd Patkin, here are 14 things that parents can do in order to not raise bullies.

Have "the talk" about bullying. The truth is, nobody ever thinks their kid is a bully. It's always someone else's child who is calling other kids hurtful names, pushing them around on the playground, and sending nasty texts. But according to Patkin, even if you don't believe your children have even thought about crossing the line, talking to them about bullying is crucial. Have a specific discussion with them about what bullying behaviors look like, and make sure your kids know that these behaviors will not be tolerated in your family. (Think of it as having "the talk" about not using drugs, for example.)

Make sure your kids know that bullying is hurtful. Especially when they're younger, kids might not have the emotional maturity to make the connection between their words or actions and how they make another child feel. Explain to your children that bullying can have devastating effects on others (even if that wasn't the bully's intent) and on the perpetrators themselves.

Share statistics with your children. If you feel it's age appropriate, take a few minutes to research bullying statistics with your child. A quick internet search will reveal a large number of disturbing facts. For instance, according to www.bullyingstatistics.org,

• Almost 30 percent of young people participate in bullying behaviors or are bullying victims.

• Every day, around 160,000 students do not attend school because they are afraid of being bullied.

• Young people who have been bullied are two to nine times likelier than their nonbullied peers to consider suicide.

Seeing these statistics can prove to your child that bullying isn't just something that Mom and Dad are needlessly worried about—it's something that is happening at their schools and to their peers.

Teach your kids to intercede. Teaching your kids not to participate in bullying behaviors is a good start, but it's also important that they not allow their peers to be tormented. Encourage them to step in if they see another child being treated badly—if they are comfortable doing so. If not, make sure your child knows to talk to a teacher or other authority figure when another child is being tormented. Even an anonymous note on a desk can open an adult's eyes to a bad situation.

Be involved every day. It's tempting to think that the best thing we can do for our children is to provide a good life for them, to include not only the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, but also a good school, weekly piano lessons, and an everybody-plays sports team to participate in. No, those things aren't at all bad, but they also can't take the place of what's truly the most important thing in a child's development: his parents. Patkin is adamant that no activity, program, or hobby can replace time with your kids. Being involved in their lives on a daily, nitty-gritty basis will allow them to stand the best chance when it comes to making all the right choices (not just avoiding bullying). Don't leave your children's development in the hands of others or up to chance.

Don't be afraid to discipline. Patkin isn't advocating "spare the rod; spoil the child"—but he is saying that kids need to be aware of boundaries from a young age. They need to know that if they violate the rules, there will be consequences. Period. It's important to squelch bullying behaviors the moment they appear instead of writing them off as a "stage" or "normal part of childhood." For instance, if you see your daughter being nasty or overly bossy to her younger brother, tell her that she needs to play more nicely. Pre-determine consequences that will be enacted if the behavior doesn't change and make sure your daughter knows about them. Then stick to your guns.

Explain the why. Making sure your children know the rules of good behavior—and the consequences when they step over the line—is a good first step. But if you want those behaviors to "stick" when you're not around (not to mention after your kids leave home), it's a good idea to make sure they understand why the rules are there in the first place. For example, explain why you don't make jokes about the way somebody looks—because it hurts feelings!

Be a good example. You can't hold your kids to one standard of behavior and then flout those rules yourself. Make sure that your own actions are friendly, compassionate, and courteous. Say "please" and "thank you" to wait staff, for example, and resist the urge to browbeat that snarky salesperson into shutting up and helping you more quickly. And if you do slip up, be sure to admit your mistake and point out to your kids how you could have reacted differently.

Encourage empathy. Look for teachable moments that you can use to help your child consider how others are feeling. Getting kids into the habit of considering others will cut down on the chances that they'll bully someone else. When your kids are young, look for children's books that illustrate how badly others feel when they are left out or teased and read them together. You can also use family movie night as a starting point—after all, very few films are free of harsh words, taunts, or nasty behavior (even if they're PG-rated). Press the pause button and ask your child how he thinks the character who is being treated badly feels. You can also do this as you go about your day (for example, if you see a customer treating a cashier rudely at the grocery store).

Help your children understand "different." Many children who are bullied are somehow "different"—from a different culture, a different socioeconomic group, handicapped, etc. As much as possible, expose your children to "different" people to promote understanding and friendship. For example, check out a library book about another culture's religious holidays and read it together. Sign your family up to participate in a walk for autism. The more your kids understand the world around them—and the more they learn that "different" doesn't mean "less than"—the less likely they'll be to target other groups.

Teach them to lead selflessly. It's an understatement to say that our society encourages kids to be leaders. Everything around them practically screams, "Be number one! Climb as high on the ladder as possible! Do everything you can to be successful!" It's important to teach kids to achieve those goals by earning the respect of others—not by hurting others. Explain to them that yes, you can reach the top of the pecking order by putting others down and intimidating them—but these tactics will ultimately cause you to be unpopular, despised, and alone. Talk about how people who work with others to achieve common goals are ultimately happier and more successful.

Talk about technology. Within the past generation, technology has made bullying much more prolific; after all, taunts no longer have to stop when the school bell rings. Plus, the relative anonymity of an online identity makes kids much bolder than they might be face-to-face. Have a frank discussion with your kids about what is and isn't appropriate for email, texting, social media, etc. Make sure they understand what's said online can be just as hurtful, and that it's much more public and permanent than what's said in the school hallways. Also, talk about the fact that even passing on a text that originated with someone else makes you guilty of bullying.

Encourage them to spend time with positive people. While no child wants to hear from her parents that she's hanging out with the wrong crowd, you can encourage her to spend time with people who approach life with positive attitudes and healthy perspectives. Also, pay attention yourself to who your child is hanging out with. If you identify a bad influence, don't be afraid to limit the time your child spends with him or her. Yes, as a parent you're the biggest influence on your child's development, but don't forget that her friends will also have a huge impact on her behaviors and beliefs.

Take every opportunity to build their confidence. Many bullies pick on others because they themselves have low self-esteem, and putting down others makes them feel more powerful. By helping your child be confident, happy, and fulfilled, you reduce the chances that he will be a bully.

For more, check out Todd Patkin's website, buy his book, Finding Happiness.