The bullying prevention summit, which was sponsored by Wayne County Sheriff Tom Maurer and Wayne County Prosecutor Dan Lutz and supported by the Tri-County Educational Service Center (TCESC), brought students from the Dalton, Green, Hillsdale, Northwestern, Norwayne and Triway school districts together to learn from each other and from a series of speakers involved in bullying prevention efforts.
Among those to speak was the man who has been the driving force behind bringing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to the tri-county area – Wayne County Sheriff Tom Maurer.
Maurer described how the tragic death of a child prompted him to reach out to an old friend - Cyndy Rees of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids – to begin the search for a world-class bullying prevention program that could be brought into area schools to keep students “safe at school and turn the tables around a bit on the bullies that are in our schools.”
The pair found what they were looking for in the Olweus program.
The problem then became how to fund the effort.
The road to implementing the program in the 16 school districts in the three-county area began seven years ago and took Maurer on a path that eventually lead him to Washington, D.C. and appearances before key Congressional subcommittees.
Through the diligent efforts of the TCESC’s Judy Kestner and help from now retired Congressman Ralph Regula, a grant was obtained to implement a pilot program in one building in each of the participating districts.
The Student Ambassadors trained under the Olweus program came together at the summit to celebrate the success of the program to date and build the program going forward.
“This is a monumental step for our school systems…and for the safety of our schools,” said Maurer.
Rees praised Maurer’s vision of bringing a bullying prevention program into the schools and reaching across county borders to implement the program.
“There is no other example in the United States where you have three counties that have come together to try to combat the issue of being bullied or cyber bullied,” said Rees, adding, “this is an example for the nation.”
Rees told the Student Ambassadors that when the idea for bringing a bullying prevention program was originally proposed, the team met with students in Smithville in an effort to determine how prevalent the problem was.
“What we found is that from the football player to what appeared to be the shyest child in the classroom, everyone had some experience in being treated in a way that wasn’t appropriate that made them feel bad,” said Rees.
The results of that kind of bullying can have tragic effects.
“It can have a really negative impact on somebody’s life to the point where it can result in a child committing suicide. If you are a child that has been bullied you can eventually turn to crime because you are reacting to those problems. If you are a child who bullies it is a trajectory to ending up in the courtroom,” said Rees.
“Some bullying appears to be just teasing…but bullying can very quickly get out of hand,” Rees told the students, adding that the Olweus training gives them “tools so you know how to address it - how to handle it - so that you will have a stronger self-worth and greater assets to build your life on.”
“I really value the fact that you are willing and eager to be the leaders to help eliminate bullying in these times,” Rees said.
Published: November 9, 2011