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Published: Wednesday, 10/11/2006

Program focuses on bully behavior

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound giant who takes the pipsqueak's lunch money is rare in today's schools, Perrysburg Junior High Assistant Principal Robin Laird said.

Ms. Laird said bullies still exist - they just come in all shapes and sizes.

Joining a popular movement to cease harassment in schools, Perrysburg Junior High is holding sporadic assemblies this year to educate students on the effects of bullying.

Based on the principles of the Olweus Bullyism Prevention Program, which originated in Norway in the early 1980s, teachers and administrators are helping students to recognize harassment, defend someone who is being picked on, and refrain from causing mental anguish for their peers.

In the school's first anti-bullying assembly on Sept. 26, Keith Limes, teacher and dean of students described being bullied as being exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students.

Having a student get his or her books knocked from his or her hands is no longer a primary concern for teachers, but one of many.

"Kids don't see harassment as being part of bullyism, but it is," said Tom Pryzbylski, a guidance counselor at Perrysburg Junior High. "And parents will hear about some roughhousing between boy students and say, 'That's just boys being boys.' It's not. It can't be that way anymore."

According to the Olweus Bullyism Prevention Group, 160,000 students miss school every day because of bullying, threats, or intimidation.

The group also claims two-thirds of all school shooters interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service say they were teased or bullied as students.

With the recent string of deadly shootings in schools, Ms. Laird said the timing for Perrysburg Junior High to educate its students on the subject of bullyism couldn't be better.

"The kids say they're just kidding about something and it's no big deal, but it is," Ms. Laird said. "They don't perceive the mental aspect as being harassment, and it snowballs into something catastrophic."

Mr. Limes asked seventh and eighth grade teachers to break their students into groups of four and lead them into the gymnasium. The groups were mixed with others from the opposite grades and asked to discuss what happens at nine bully "hot spots," or locations throughout the school where harassment most often takes place.

Sixth graders were paired together and asked to do the same thing.

Students spoke of friends and strangers being picked on inside locker rooms, the cafeteria, and on the bus.

"I realized I don't really see the bullying going on because it happens when there isn't a lot of people around, but it happens," Kendall Tudor, a 14-year-old eighth grader said.

Mr. Limes said the first program was a success.

When the school reconvenes for another anti-bullying seminar on Oct. 31, Mr. Limes said he intends to have the students meet at the hot spots they had discussed and come up with solutions to the problems they face.

Some of the students will go into the next program with a solution already in mind, which was a main goal of Ms. Laird and her colleagues.

"I really try to think about what I'm going to say to somebody now," David Hoops, a 14-year-old eighth grader said. "It might seem funny to you or some of your friends, but you're never sure how the person you're saying it to will take it."



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