Monfredo: Bullying Conference … Best Ever! Students Are Answer For Change
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Myself. I am SOMEBODY and I can make a difference. I can make another feel
Loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to the path of hope and
aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hated through my
Community. Instead I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters.
I will be the change because I AM SOMEBODY.”
These are powerful pledge words written by students in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as they started a Chapter of “Stand for the Silent” late in 2010. The Chapter began after they heard the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son Ty, an eleven year old who took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully that had been harassing him for over two years.
The Worcester Public Schools has been a leader in moving the needle on bullying for they held their fourth Bullying Conference recently through the efforts of You’inc and the Worcester Public Schools. The Conference was held at North High School for two days. The first day teachers, counselors and other social agency officials in Worcester County were invited to attend and the second day representatives from all of the high schools attended this amazing conference.
One of the organizers of the conference was Robert Pezzella, the districts Safety Liaison, who did an outstanding job in coordinating the event with You’inc’s representative Colleen O’Brien and a former director of Health and Physical Education for the Worcester Public Schools.
I have been a strong supporter of legislation on bullying way back when City Manager Ed Augustus was a state senator and was a supporter of the anti-bullying law when it finally emerged in 2010. Since then I have attended and worked to improve the anti-bullying climate in our city. I can without a doubt say that this conference was the best ever and the most emotional and powerful conference that I have attended
There were many outstanding individuals at the conference including District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. and David Forsberg, President and CEO of You’ inc. and Dr. Sameer Hinduja a Cyber bullying researcher. But the person who brought the “house” down was Kirk Smalley, father to the boy who committed suicide back in 2010. The Smalley’s have been on a crusade on behalf of their son not to let this happen to another individual. Their mission is to share their story and to offer educational awareness to bullying and the real devastation it causes.
The students in the high schools attending the conference were so emotional in listening to Mr. Smalley that boxes and boxes of tissues were passed along row by row. There was such a powerful connection with what the speaker articulated for you could see head bobbing up and down in agreement.
Mr. Smalley, a construction worker from Oklahoma was emotional and forth right about his son losing his life and spoke from the heart about that day and what needs to be done not by the schools but by the students in the schools. He spoke about other students across the country who lost their lives to bullying and affirmed that suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10 to 24 in the United States with car accidents being number one. Another statistic mentioned was that almost one child per hour for the last seven years has ended their life due to a bully. Mr. Smalley also stated that bullying has become an epidemic…”We personally have a list of over 55,000 children who have taken their lives in the last seven years due to being bulled. To break that down… that is 8,000 per year or twenty-two per day.”
Throughout the workshop he reiterated to the students that they are somebody and they can make a difference in the world and that it was time to put a stop to bullying. As he uttered his message he walked around the auditorium and spoke directly to individuals and also passed out bracelets that inscribed the message…” I AM SOMEBODY.”
He urged the students to be someone, again and again and that they had the power to change the world. During his presentation he also asked the students for responses as he acknowledged “ We need to respect ourselves first. We all have to the right to be heard, don’t we? Loud and clear the students responded with a firm, YES!
He spoke about how bullies can intimidate you … with a look, one word, an action, ignoring or excluding someone from a group, and of course with technology 24 hours a day. Then he again declared it’s time to make bullying stop in this world and we can do it together and not let this happen.
He echoed the words of what his mother said when he was growing up.
“There are three types of people in this world… those who wish things happen… those who make in happen … and those who sit around and say what just happened.” He asked the students if they wanted to join the group that makes things happen and the response was a strong yes!
Videos were shown that were made by students, showing that they were the solution, not the problem and showing that they will be the solution. He reminded the students that ending a life is not an option and that together we can make a difference.
He invited everyone to sign a pledge card and then showed pictures of celebrities that also signed on… President Obama and Mrs. Obama, Lady Gaga, Paul Donald Wright ( better known by his professional wresting name – The Big Show, and the star the television show “Arrow”, Stephen Amell. All the photos showed these celebrities wearing the “I Am Somebody” bracelet.
He ended the program urging the students to make it happen at their school. Taking that cue, I filed an agenda item for the next School Committee meeting stating the following:
“To request administration to encourage our schools, with the assistance of our Safety Liaison officer Robert Pezzella to establish a Chapter at their school “Stand for the Silent” (Anti-Bullying movement) and report back to Committee on Governance and Employee Issues on the results in June.” The goal of the Chapter is to commit students to change and to be sure that their peers will no longer suffer at the hands of a bully.
The item will appear at our next meeting on the 17th of March. I believe that we can make it happen if we try and I will do my best to be part of the solution.
After the meeting, I interviewed a few students and they were excited to be at the event. One student stated, “I was so emotional during Mr. Smalley’s presentation and now all I want to do is go back to school and start making a difference in the lives of others.” Well said!
Anyone looking for additional information about the “Stand for the Silent” chapter can click here. In the coming weeks look for another bullying issue and ideas on dealing with the 24 hour epidemic – cyber-bullying.
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