Bullying prevention on tap for local schools
More than 700 kids in the Roaring Fork Valley will take part in bullying prevention awareness assemblies this week in their schools, as can parents at a Wednesday night panel discussion in Aspen.Sponsored by the Aspen Center for New Medicine, Bullying Prevention Awareness Week includes 10 assemblies for students in grades four through six in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs schools. This week is the first of three such bullying awareness weeks during the 2002-03 school year.Laura Dixon, the center’s new director of children’s health education, said the center wants to raise awareness in the schools and in the community of the impacts of bullying.”Statistics show that kids identified as bullies in grade school and middle school have a 1-in-4 chance of having a criminal record by the time they’re 30 years old, compared to a 1-in-20 chance for others,” she said. “If we educate the kids now on the long-term harmful effects of bullying when they’re young, it goes a long way to preventing violence in society in later years.”Dixon said she hopes the programs help kids make more “compassionate and empathetic choices” when faced with bullying in school.SuEllen Fried, co-author of “Bullies & Victims ? Helping your child through the schoolyard battlefield,” will be leading the “empowerment assemblies” in the schools this week.”When the students are empowered with information, ideas and group support, many of them choose to act effectively,” she said.According to Fried, bullying includes verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abusive behavior, and she considers it a form of child abuse under the subhead of “peer abuse.””My message is to prevent [bullying] before it happens and/or deal with it effectively once it does happen,” she said. “I engage the students in a dialogue and collect their collective wisdom.”In the past, bullying has been described as akin to teasing in schools. According to Fried’s book, bullying differs from teasing because it includes intent to harm and is longer in intensity and duration than teasing.Bullying is more persistent and considered an abuse of power where the victim is vulnerable, and includes isolation and lack of support for the victim, the book reads. Consequences include behavior change in the victim.”Part of what’s so powerful about SuEllen’s presentation is that she elicits stories from the kids ? not only from the victims, but also from bullies and teachers,” Dixon said. “It helps people identify with how it feels to stand in someone else’s shoes and builds empathy for everyone involved.”The panel for parents will be held Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Aspen District Theater. The panel will feature Fried, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar and Community Matters Executive Director Rick Phillips. Tickets are available by calling the Aspen Youth Center at 925-7091.The other two National Bullying Awareness weeks are scheduled for the weeks of Dec. 9 and April 7. By the end of the school year, more than 5,000 students from Aspen to Glenwood Springs in grades one through eight will have taken part in the assemblies.[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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