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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2012

STRAIGHT TALK FOR TEENS

Do panelists stand up to bullies?

BY LAUREN FORCELLA
STRAIGHT TALK FOR TEENS

Dear Straight Talk: I saw the movie Bully recently. Having had a taste of being bullied in high school -- and witnessing far worse -- it really affected me. One girl I knew would have spit thrown all over her desk and in her hair. It was horrible. I never spoke up for fear of being the next target. However, one popular kid could have shut that down in a second -- yet none ever did. I'm wondering if the panelists ever come to the defense of bully victims. Or do bullies still rule today's schools? -- Red Bluff, Calif.

Jane, 18: I was bullied throughout middle school and early high school. Unable to ask for help, I became very depressed, sometimes wishing my life was over. While I didn't do alcohol, drugs, or cutting, I was anorexic for almost a year. If someone had helped or spoken up for me, it would have changed my life. Luckily, I gained self-esteem and stopped putting up with it. Now I always speak up against bullying. Remaining silent isn't being neutral; it totally adds to the victim's sorrow. To other teens: Speak out. You just might save a life.

Gregg, 21: I was a bully in middle school. It wasn't until high school that I realized how low my actions were. From then on, I stop bullying when I see it and invite people who are excluded or being bullied into whatever activity my friends and I are doing.

Brandon, 20: At my rural school, bullying was only as bad as the students let it get. Some special-needs kids were bullied, but it stopped quickly when a group of not-popular kids came to their defense. Another time, some bullies were calling girls "sluts" because they were getting boyfriends. My clique of seniors at the top of the popularity chain noted the behavior during a school assembly and it stopped instantly.

Akasha, 18: At my small private school, no one puts up with bullying. However, people still tease and there is minor bullying on occasion. When this happens, my friends and I always stick up for the victim and let the "bully" know that this behavior will not be tolerated -- ever.

Omari, 18: I came to someone's defense once. However, I was an athlete and "popular." Would I have stepped in otherwise? The honest answer is no. I would be too afraid. My high school used the Safe School Ambassadors program. The program trained me and 70 other popular kids to constructively intervene when we saw bullying or exclusion. Because of this, there was almost no bullying on our campus.

Dear Red Bluff: You are correct that a popular teen can shut down bullying in a heartbeat. That's the strategy used by the Safe School Ambassadors program that Omari refers to. This successful anti-bullying program trains the most popular kids from each clique on campus to intervene when they witness bullying or negative exclusion. What I also like is that these magnetic young people take their peace-making skills into the world. Please learn more about the program at www.community-matters.org. -- Lauren

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