News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 23, 2013

Girls against bullying

TERRE HAUTE — “I know you think it’s fine until it’s yours or mine. But let’s stop the bullying while we still have time.”

These words of rapper, bully prevention and motivational speaker, L.G. Wise, summed up the message of a Saturday event at the lower level of the Vigo County Public Library.

Wise was one of three speakers at the first “Bully Training Seminar” organized by the nonprofit organization, Girls of Excellence Mentoring (GEM) Program, which works to prevent bullying and to “produce girls of character that become role models in their circles of influence.”

At the start of the seminar, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett proclaimed Nov. 23 as “Girls of Excellence Day,” organizers said.

The three-hour seminar happened just in time for Bullying Awareness Week, which ended Saturday.

In addition to Wise, other speakers at the event included GEM director Tante Robinson and Mercedes McCall, a student who shared her experience with bullying and spoke about Heroes in Action, an anti-bullying program that she started in one of the Vigo County schools.

But what is bullying?

“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. … Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose,” according to stop

bullying.gov.

Robinson said the seminar is an effort to raise awareness about bullying in local schools.

“I know there was a need in the community,” she said. “This is my heart and passion. To bring awareness to bullying, to help stop the epidemic.”

And to “show people tools to deal with it,” she added.

“I’d like people to know that this is something that’s real that children deal with,” Robinson said.

Robinson said 1.6 million children a year miss school because of bullying.

“So we need to do something with the problem,” she said.

But missing school is not the only result of bullying.

During his speech, Wise said that there is zero tolerance for bullying because “somebody’s life is at stake.”

After interviewing school shooters, Wise and his colleagues found that bullying was one of the reasons why those shooters resorted to violence.

“It always came back to being picked on,” he said, and “others not stepping in to help.”

So he urged the attendees to take action.

“You are fighting for someone that’s too weak to fight for themselves,” he told them.

According to stopbully

ing.gov, kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, social and mental health issues. They are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, health issues and decreased academic achievement.

“Don’t hesitate to stand up and open your mouth,” Wise urged the attendees, which included area parents and students.

But with the rise of new technology and social media, kids are now also at risk of cyberbullying.

“Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology,” according to stop bullying.gov. “Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.”

Two middle schoolers shared their experiences at the seminar.

They said other students bullied them through Facebook and text messages.

One of them said there was name calling involved, and the situation even went as far as “telling me to kill myself.”

“I got called 27 times by two girls,” the other one said.

The speakers advised the girls to go to the authorities in their schools and report the problem, find out their student rights and keep documentation and proof as soon as the problem starts.

“You have to fight,” Wise said, “don’t just let it go past.”

“When you do this, people behind you can begin to follow in your footsteps,” he added.

And parents have a responsibility, too.

“As parents, you have to step up for your children,” Robinson said. “Please talk to your children and know what’s going on in their lives.”

One parent, Melissa Woodruff, asked the speakers what to do if a student sees someone being bullied.

Robinson said that student can come up to the person being bullied and tell him or her to “come on, go with me. … I’m your friend today.”

Wise echoed the suggestion. “You become the vehicle to get them out of that situation,” he said.

Woodruff said her daughter, who is starting sixth grade, was bullied this year. She came to the seminar to learn more about bullying and “how I can help make a difference.”

She said she learned at the seminar that “if we all stand up together, we can make a difference.”

“I think that’s important for our kids to know,” that they are not alone, Woodruff added.

Woodruff said she was bullied as child.

“It was scary,” she said. She couldn’t concentrate on her classes and left public school because of it.

“It does affect you all your life,” she said. “I’m not going to let that happen with my daughter.”

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