Community addresses issue of bullying among youth

Published 12:47 pm Monday, April 4, 2011

Edwardsburg Public Schools opened its doors to the community Wednesday, March 23 to address the issue of bullying and violence among youth.

Keynote speaker Victor Fitz, Cass County prosecutor, presented an in-depth and thought provoking look at the issue, drawing on both his personal experience and his experience as a prosecutor.

Fitz emphasized one of the most important things parents can do to address bullying is to stay involved in the lives of their children. Bullying, he said, which is a repeated act of aggression with negative intent toward a person with less power, can have lasting effects on all parties involved.

Some recommendations he put forth included keeping communication open with children, monitoring what they are doing and who they are spending their time with, looking for signs of harassment, such as withdrawing and avoiding school and not over or underreacting.

Also noted, when appropriate it is wise to give children strategies to try to resolve issues themselves such as, avoiding the bully, standing up for themselves, getting a buddy to walk with them or telling an adult at school. This can help empower a child to recognize their own ability to handle problems in their lives.

Depending upon the severity and frequency of the situation, more help may be needed. Fitz recommended when contacting a child’s school it is best to have interactions that create a positive partnership. He stated the more schools and parents work together to resolve the problem the more successful they will be. If necessary, parents can also seek help from a mental health professional.

Addressing the issue of bullying is not new to the district. In 2002, with the help of Marcia McEvoy, a specialist in youth bullying, Edwardsburg Schools moved forward with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. Through implementation of staff in-services, parent meetings and student workshops, leaders in the school developed a district wide policy to address the issue.

The district is one of a few in the area with a behavior specialist at each building to help students deal with such issues directly.

Behavior specialists with support and cooperation of administration and teaching staff, continue to address the issue through class meetings, social skill groups, parent nights, individual work with students and various leadership programs.