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Toledo: Officer specializes in bullying advice

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Officer Alessandra Norden speaks at the Islamic School of Greater Toledo on bully prevention.

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Armed with a computer slide show and a candid lecture, Officer Alessandra Norden visits area schools taking on the problems of bullying and harassment.

Officer Norden, a police officer in Fulton County's village of Fayette, started her bullying prevention program about two years ago. She has spoken at dozens of schools about how teachers, bystanders, and victims should react to bullying.

"Children are very stressed out because of bullies," she said. "If I can prevent the violence, I think we'll all have better lives."

Last week, Officer Norden gave a presentation at the Islamic School of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg Township. The school, which has about 50 students in pre-kindergarten through seventh grade, has experienced increasing problems with bullying as its enrollment continues to grow.

"This is the first time somebody has talked to the students about bullying," said Asfia Sadat, interim principal. "It has to be addressed."

Officer Norden said bullying includes physical abuse and persistent verbal attacks. She said bullies often pick on other students because they are insecure or have been harassed in the past.

She said that in the long run, bullies will not be respected by their peers and their behavior will make them unhappy.

"If you help me correct a problem with a bully, you're actually helping the bully, too," Officer Norden said.

Bystanders should not encourage bullies by laughing at their taunts and they can be influencial in helping to protect a victim by staying near them to dissuade an attack, Officer Norden said.

Victims should not confront their bullies because it only escalates the situation, Officer Norden said, but they should report the bullying to an adult.

"Who is the smarter person? The one who walks away," she said.

Officer Norden stressed that bullying can have serious consequences, such as causing a victim to commit suicide or progressing to a level of violence where the bully ends up in jail.

In addition to discussing traditional types of bullying, Officer Norden urged students to be careful whom they chat with on the Internet and not spread rumors about classmates.

"A rumor can destroy a person's life," she said. "You don't want to do that to someone."

Ms. Sadat said she liked the presentation and thought it was helpful for students.

"The kids had plenty of questions," she said.

Officer Norden said she hopes to continue educating students about bullying at an increasing number of schools. More information about her program is available at www.geocities.com/waverunner_9000/index.html.

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