UT professor plans discussion aimed at handling bullies


Lisa Pescara-Kovach has learned a lot about bullying through people like Jared High and Corrine Sides - teenagers she's never met.

That's because the two young people, both only 13 years old, shot themselves in the head to escape their pain. They were victims of bullies.

Although deaths like Jared's and Corrine's don't always make headlines, they show that the problem of bullying is still a harsh reality, said Ms. Pescara-Kovach, a professor in the University of Toledo's department of education.

Only when parents, teachers, and school officials work together will other teenagers be spared.

Ms. Pescara-Kovach will talk about how adults can deal with bullying during a presentation from 7 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Washington branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 5560 Harvest Lane. The program is free.

"I want parents to know the types of rejection that exists out there, and I use rejection and bullying synonymously," she said. "Parents think of schoolyard bullying with kicking and punching, but there is rejection from your peers and even cyber bullying."

Ms. Pescara-Kovach said "millions" of students each year are bullied. She said bullying encompasses physical and mental abuse as well as something simpler, like someone refusing to sit next to a student in the library.

And then there's technology.

Students have used text messaging to send threatening and derogatory notes to their peers. There have been cases when Web pages have been built for the sole purpose of degrading a fellow student.

According to statistics compiled by BullyPolice USA, a watchdog organization advocating for bullied children, 90 percent of students felt being bullied created emotional, social, or academic problems. Three out of four students reported being bullied, according to the group.

Anti-bully legislation has been approved in 23 states. In Michigan, the legislature is considering such laws. Legislation has been presented to the Ohio General Assembly, although it has yet to be considered.

Brenda High, founder of BullyPolice USA, said it was seven years ago that her son, Jared, took his own life. She said her organization encourages states to force schools to establish basic rules and procedures on how to deal with both bullies and victims - something she felt could have helped her son.

"Ultimately, we'd like to see an end to bullying. But realistically, we hope to get a law in every state," Mrs. High said.