PSA: Stopping Bullying and Isolation Before They Start

Social Isolation

So, I was going to share a post about the lawsuit against Penguin’s Author Solutions subsidiary, but an article my daughter wrote about an organization that she’s been involved with for the past few years just came out, and with it a video that both she and my wife Maura helped to create (heck, I played sound engineer on the voiceovers!).

Beyond Differences is a student-run organization that seeks to change the culture of America’s schools one school at a time, eliminating social isolation that leads to bullying and worse. So today’s post is a public service announcement instead.

I’ll let Julia take it from here:

Beyond Differences Event Highlights Fight Against Social Isolation

by Julia Kudler, 9th grader at Branson

Social isolation is a growing problem in schools all over the country.  For the past two years, I’ve been a member of a teen-driven group called Beyond Differences that addresses this issue head on, working through assemblies, retreats, and ongoing education to change the culture in middle schools and high schools one school at a time.  Last Saturday a standing-room crowd of nearly four hundred packed the Mill Valley Community Center as Beyond Differences held its fourth annual event to raise awareness and to help Bay Area families understand how they can help fight this social epidemic.

Action was the theme for this year’s event, which included a family barbecue lunch and a presentation by forty-one students from a dozen different Marin schools. We shared our own stories, and presented different scenarios to illustrate how to be more inclusive and address social isolation and stop bullying before it starts.  As teen leaders, we explained Beyond Difference’s exciting new initiative, No One Eats Alone, a program that through a variety of activities encourages kids to connect at lunch and engage with people they may not know. Hall Middle School, Kent Middle School, Davison Middle School and Brandies Hillel Day School ran the first No One Eats Alone pilot programs this year.

We were very lucky to have KTVU-TV’s anchorman Dave Clark as the master of ceremonies. Welcoming all of us, he spoke about how strongly he believes in what we in Beyond Differences are doing. “I am such a big believer in what these kids are doing,” Clark said. “Experts agree that social isolation is the precursor to problems ranging from teen suicide to dropping out to poor performance in school to impaired health, but Beyond Differences is the only organization talking about it.” Marin County Superintendent of School Mary Burke and educator Keith Fleming also spoke passionately about both what Beyond Differences has accomplished, and what remains to be done.

We also screened the world premier of “Be the One,” an incredible new short film by Jordan Raabe, a young Los Angeles filmmaker who grew up in Marin. “Be the One” shows different examples of how kids feel at school, sporting events and even in the library, when they are not included.  The film, which involved members of our Teen Board, brought tears to many in the audience.  We hope to see it as a lead-in to family film events in the Bay Area this summer.

For more information about Beyond Differences and our upcoming programs, visit


I’ll share my thoughts on independent publishers vs. publishing service providers vs. vanity presses tomorrow!

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